6 Reasons Why You're Getting Razor Burn (and How to Stop it)

Dr. Patrick Carroll, MD
Medically reviewed by Patrick Carroll, MD Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 2/24/2020

Do you ever want to go completely shaven but don’t because of razor burn? If so, you’re not alone. Razor burn is something that affects many men for years on end. 

Sometimes it’s the texture of your hair that’s causing those unwanted bumps. In other cases, guys get razor burn from poor shaving techniques. Either way, having irritated, bumpy skin is not only unflattering; it’s also uncomfortable.

Here are some reasons why your razor is irritating your skin, as well as various ways to prevent it from happening in the future.

Reason: You’re shaving with a dull razor

Even if you use the best razor on the market, the act of shaving can still put unwanted stress on your skin. But when you throw a dull razor into the mix, you end up giving your skin the harshest treatment possible. 

That’s because dull razors don’t shave nearly as effectively as they should. What you would normally achieve in one gentle stroke now requires three or four strokes, and that adds excessive stress on your face. 

Have you ever shaved with a dull or cheap razor and felt like your face was just a little sore? It’s because taking those extra strokes caused micro-abrasions in your skin. Over time, these tiny abrasions can become irritated or infected, causing your skin to develop razor burn in the form of rashes and bumps.

Solution: Change your blade or upgrade your razor game. Ideally, you don’t want to ever shave with one of those dollar store disposable razors. But if you have to, then never use it more than once.

You should also pay attention to how effective your razor is working while you shave. If you find yourself going over the same area in hopes of getting those stubborn hairs, your razor is probably past its expiration date.

Reason: Your razor is dirty

Regardless of which part of your body you’re shaving, hygiene should be your topmost priority. And shaving with a dirty razor is about unhygienic as you can get. Every time you drag that razor blade across your face, you’re transmitting bacteria from the blade to your skin. If you happen to nick yourself, those bacteria can get into the cut and cause further irritation or infections.

Solution: You’re going to want to keep your razor clean as possible. That means after every use, make sure you’re running it under hot water until all the skin cells, hairs and shaving cream are removed from the blades. From there, take a clean wash towel, soak it in rubbing alcohol and sterilize the blade(s). Let it dry overnight in an upright razor stand, and then store it in a cool dry place (generally outside the bathroom). 

Reason: You’re shaving dirty skin

Your skin carries all of the oil, dirt and grime that you’ve accumulated throughout the day. If you don’t wash your face before you shave, you’re placing your skin at risk of becoming infected. 

Moreover, all of this buildup can actually cause unnecessary friction, making it harder for the razor to work effectively.

Solution: Wash your face before you shave and never try to shave on dry skin.

Reason: Your hair texture is causing it

Do you have curly, coarse hair? If so, your hair texture could be part of the reason you experience razor burn. 

Sometimes, curly hair doesn’t grow completely outward like straight hair does. Instead, it loops back and grows inside the skin, never fully breaking the surface. This causes ingrown hairs to form, which explains all the bumps that you may experience after shaving.

Solution: In clinical trials, topical ointments containing glycolic acid were seen to be effective at removing bumps and rashes caused by ingrown hairs, and there are a number of over-the-counter products designed for treating razor burn that contain this substance. 

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology also recommends using glycolic acid lotion eight percent for the treatment of razor bumps. Prescription antibiotic gels or oral antibiotics can also be used. 

But what about preventing it from happening in the future?

There are a number of different products on the market that are designed to prevent this from happening. A pre-shaving solution is a good start. Apply a hot washcloth to your face for a few minutes, use a pre-shave solution and then shave normally. Don’t forget to use shaving cream after you use the solution. If that doesn’t work, you may want to consider switching to an electric razor.

Reason: You have dry skin

Taking a razor to dry skin will only exacerbate the dryness symptoms that you’re already experiencing. This can leave you with an itchy, red-colored patch of skin that’s uncomfortable as it is unflattering.

Solution: Buy moisturizer for your face (or body, depending on what you’re shaving) and apply it regularly. Even when you take shaving out of the equation, dry skin is something that you want to avoid.

Reason: You’re shaving against the grain

Did you ever finish shaving only to feel like your entire face was on fire? If so, you probably shaved against the grain. In other words, you were pulling your razor in the direction opposite of how the hair grows. Shaving against the grain creates unnecessary friction and stress as each swipe of the razor roughly pulls your hair, leaving you with a sensitive, red patch of irritated skin.

Solution: Take your time and shave gently in the direction your hair grows.

Getting a Comfortable Shave Every Time

The best way to reduce razor burn is to take your time and not rush through the process. Of course, it stands to reason. You are, after all, dragging a sharp metal object across your skin. 

You may also want to look into some of the premium razors sold at men’s stores and specialty shops. While the initial cost of these razors can be a tad on the pricy side, they’re known to give a better shave provided you change the blades frequently.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.