If shaving is your style, it’s time to get serious about soothing the inevitable razor burn. No matter how much body hair you choose to remove (if any at all), nobody enjoys those itchy red bumps or ingrown hairs that appear after the act. Luckily, a solution is already sitting in your kitchen. So whether it's on your legs, armpits, or bikini area, razor burn will find some relief in these home remedies.
Preventing discomfort starts with a proper hair removal routine. "When patients come in with razor burn, razor bumps, or folliculitis, I usually start by asking them to go over their shaving routine, step by step," says dermatologist Marie Hayag, MD. She recommends always exfoliating with a washcloth or sugar scrub before shaving, using a sharp razor, and letting your gel or cream sit on the skin for about 10 minutes beforehand. "After shaving, wash the area with an antiseptic/antibacterial cleanser or soap and rinse with cold water."
Meet the Expert
- Marie Hayag, MD, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York.
- Candace Marino is a celebrity esthetician, also known as The LA Facialist.
"Several factors can cause razor burn," says esthetician Candace Marino. "Shaving without a lubricant, shaving in the wrong direction, using an old or clogged razor, using dull blades, shaving too quickly." Hayag notes that razor burn and other forms of post-hair removal discomfort crop up more easily "in 'tricky' areas with thicker hairs," such as the bikini line or underarms.
Keep scrolling to discover the best expert-approved home remedies for soothing your skin after shaving.
Try a Hot Bath + Epsom Salts
A salt-based exfoliator is great for warding off ingrown hairs before they start for those with oilier or acne-prone skin. For ingrown hair on the body, like the legs or bikini area, soak in the tub with two cups of Epsom salt. "Taking a warm bath may open up the pores and relieve swelling and skin irritation," says Hayag.
Use Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is said to comprise anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that work to soothe itchy, irritated skin. Black tea bags are also great for razor burns as they contain tannic acid, which helps to alleviate irritated skin. Though Hayag notes that more research about the topical application of ACV needs to be done, there may be certain benefits. "After shaving, there can be micro-cuts and irritation to the skin from which can be benefited by acetic acid, which is found in ACV. In addition, it also contains citric acid, which is an alpha hydroxy acid. This may increase cell turnover and help unclog ingrown hairs."
Apple cider vinegar is fermented apple juice formed when yeast mixes with the sugar of the juice. It contains acetic acid, which has antibacterial and keratolytic properties, and it also contains malic acid, a gentle chemical exfoliant.
Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water, and dab a cotton ball in the solution. Apply the vinegar to the affected area, and let it dry naturally. While the vinegar is drying on the skin, dip a black tea bag into hot water for a few minutes. Remove the tea bag from the hot water and place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Then, massage it into the affected area for a few minutes. Repeat several times a day for quick relief. People with sensitive skin should avoid this method.
Soften Skin with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a great skin softener, and honey is known for its antibacterial properties. By combining both with an exfoliating substance, such as sugar, you can successfully scrape off excess dead skin cells without irritating your skin. "Because coconut oil is solid in cooler climates, it melts into the skin as a person applies it, which may feel soothing," adds Hayag.
Mix four tablespoons of coconut oil with one tablespoon of honey, two tablespoons of brown sugar, and two tablespoons of white sugar. Apply the scrub to the affected area and let sit for 10 minutes. Wash the scrub off with warm water.
Calm Inflammation with Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil contains antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, while olive oil has a rich fatty acid content that helps smooth the skin. Hayag recommends performing a patch test to make sure the tea tree oil doesn't cause further irritation.
Mix one tablespoon of olive oil with five drops of tea tree oil. Using a cotton ball, apply the mixture to the affected area. Let sit for 15 minutes and wash off with warm water.
Take an Oatmeal Bath
"Oatmeal baths are a traditional remedy for soothing the skin and relieving itchiness," says Hayag. "The starch and beta-glucan in oatmeal are protective and moisturizing. Oatmeal also contains phenols that have an anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effect.” You can soak in an oatmeal bath or mix with plain yogurt and honey to create a paste. The probiotics in yogurt may help restore the skin's protective barrier and increase hydration.
Mix equal portions of ground oatmeal and plain yogurt in a bowl. Next, add one teaspoon of honey to the mixture. Apply the paste to the affected area and let dry for about 30 minutes. Wash the paste off with warm water. Repeat twice a day for three days.
Cool Off with Cucumber and Milk
Not only do cucumbers have a cooling effect, but they also contain vitamin C, which aids in skin restoration. Milk works to soothe the skin, thanks to its fat and protein content. "The combination of cucumber and milk may be able to provide moisture and a cooling effect to alleviate irritated skin from razor burn," says Hayag.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body, including the skin, but we cannot produce it on our own. For the skin, it helps to boost collagen, lighten discoloration, and fight free radicals.
Peel one cucumber, add it to 1/4 cup of milk, and mix in a blender. Place the purée in the refrigerator for 10 minutes and then apply it to the affected area. Let sit for 10 minutes, and then wash the area with warm water.
Try This Strawberry Mixture
Strawberries may have anti-inflammatory properties that can help treat razor bumps, and the fats in the sour cream will help to coat and soothe the skin. "There still needs to be further research on whether it can be anti-inflammatory when applied topically. However, strawberries contain seeds that may be able to act as a physical exfoliant to combat razor burns," says Hayag, who notes that more research is necessary to confirm whether this is fully effective as a razor burn treatment.
If you want to try it out, mash a few strawberries with a small amount of sour cream, and mix properly. Apply the paste to the affected area, and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Wash the paste off with cold water, and pat dry.
For the Less DIY-Inclined, Try an Over-the-Counter Gel
Try a soothing gel to target ingrown hairs, razor bumps, razor burn, and redness. Hayag recommends Weleda Calendula Diaper Rash Cream or Shea Moisture Tea Tree Oil & Shea Butter After Shave Elixir ($7), which contains antimicrobial tea tree oil and witch hazel and soothing aloe and shea butter.
Shea butter is a plant lipid that comes from African shea tree nuts and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. It's commonly used to help moisturize, nourish, and soothe the skin.
"Razor burn can cause a lot of redness and irritation that can lead to hyperpigmentation or scarring. In severe cases, it is best to seek professional help. However, when mild inflammation is present you can use an OTC steroid cream to reduce inflammation," Hayag adds.