It’s officially fall, when cooler weather brings matte lipsticks—and its own class of skin concerns: dryness, dullness, and the dreaded razor burn.
That’s right: Razor burn is not a summer-only skin issue. Sure, it might be more evident in short skirts and bikinis—but when the weather becomes chilly, the friction caused by tight pants and over-the-knee socks means that those angry red bumps are out in full effect.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Consider this your complete guide to how to cure razor burn and prevent it from coming back ever again.
Make sure that it actually is razor burn.
You may think that those itchy red bumps are obviously razor burn—but they might not be. Folliculitis and keratosis pilaris are two skin conditions that can look an awful lot like razor burn but that need very different types of treatment. If the red bumps don’t go away, get worse (or you see more of them), or they reoccur in the same place, see a dermatologist. There’s nothing worse than potentially making a problem worse by treating it incorrectly.
Sharpen your razor.
Old, blunt razors are the biggest cause of razor burn, so if yours has been sitting blades-down in a puddle of shower water for the last three months, it might be the cause of your problems. But it can get really expensive to replace your disposable razors every two weeks, which is why you should sharpen them instead. It’s way easier than you think. After you use your razor, dry it well, and take it to your closet. Grab a pair of jeans, and run the razor down the length of the leg 10 times; then change directions and run it up the denim 10 times. The threads in jeans run diagonally, and running the razor against them sharpens the blades, smooths out any nicks, and removes product buildup. Voilà! If you do this after every use, your razor will last for months—and give you a smooth, bump-free shave every time.
Bonus tip: If you’re using a really cheap, single-blade disposable razor—no shade—you may want to do this before each use, as well as after.
Take your exfoliation game to another level.
You probably already know that if you want to prevent razor burn, you need to exfoliate first—and there’s nothing better to exfoliate with than the Baiden Mitten ($48). Rough without being abrasive, this incredible mitt will get rid of follicle-clogging dead skin you didn’t even know you had, all without irritating even the most sensitive skin. Use it anywhere you shave, before and after taking to the razor, and marvel at the difference it makes.
Bonus tip: Obviously never shave any part of your body when it’s dry—you have to lubricate the skin first! If you don’t have a dedicated shaving gel, hair conditioner works just as well, especially on the legs.
After exfoliating and shaving with your sharp razor, calm your skin to make sure you don’t get any lumpy-bumps. Do not under any circumstances reach for alcohol-based aftershaves—this is a recipe for disaster, or at least a seriously stinging, irritated bikini line. Instead, embrace the soothing power of marshmallow root. A secret from the Old Country (by which we mean Australia in the ’90s), marshmallow-based creams are amazing at calming skin and ensuring you don’t erupt in razor burn. We love Human + Kind Day + Night Cream ($35); it also has avocado oil and chickweed extract, which will also help reduce irritation and redness after shaving.
Come fall, the friction caused by our favorite tight jeans can really make razor burn worse, especially on our legs. No, thank you. To fight this, apply the tiniest amount of Band-Aid Friction Block ($6) to the areas of your legs most prone to red bumps. Though it’s usually used to stop blisters, the Friction Block stick is secretly brilliant for any part of your body prone to friction-related injury: It’s clear, doesn’t stain clothing, doesn’t clog pores, and definitely doesn’t sting.
Bonus tip: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: This trick will help prevent irritation, but it won’t heal razor burn that has already happened.
To cure razor burn…
Alas, only time will do that, but you can speed up recovery with cold compresses that reduce redness, swelling, and inflammation. We especially like soaking cotton washcloths in cold green tea and applying them to any irritated areas. Leave the cloths on your skin for about 10 minutes, then rinse well, and follow up with hydrating moisturizer.
Bonus tip: If your bumps come with a side of—and we apologize for the following description—scabs, drainage, or bleeding, it could be a sign that something more serious than a sub-par shave is at work. See a doctor right away.