If you’re not into shaving your legs, your bikini line, your armpits or whatever else people might want to shave, then cool. That’s totally your prerogative. But if you do choose to shave, you’re probably familiar with the trauma that is Shaving Rash (aka razor burn). I’m talking about those little red bumps (ingrown hairs are a whole other matter), which are pretty much the closest thing to hell on earth and pop up minutes after you’ve finally managed to achieve a silky smooth bod - the worst offender being the bikini line. So. Annoying.
And then, when it’s time to actually put some clothes on, there’s the chafing. Oh god, the chafing; if they weren’t sore enough before, they sure as hell are now. I know you all know what I’m on about. Turns out it actually has a proper, medical term as well: pseudofolliculitis barbae (‘persistent irritation caused by shaving’). There's even a Reddit thread asking 'strippers' for their tips on how to get a smooth 'area'. So now we’re all clear on what it actually is, let’s talk about how to avoid it because, ladies, this simply can’t go on.
How do you properly prevent shaving rash?
Prep the area
It’s worth exfoliating the area before you start to remove the build-up of dead skin cells, make it easier to shave, and in the long term, avoid getting ingrown hairs. Use an exfoliating cloth like this one by Sulux, £7.99 or a Boots Body Polish Sponge, £1.50. Next you should soften the hair follices in that area to make shaving a load easier than going in cold-turkey. Do this by placing a warm flannel or cloth on the area for 2-3 minutes. 'This causes the skin to expand so that it is 60% easier to cut, but don’t stay in the bath or shower for too long because this over-hydrates your skin, meaning you can’t get such a close shave,’ explains Venus Beauty Therapist Nathalie Eleni.
What tools do I need to stop shaving rash?
Rusty razors that have been hanging around your bathroom for months are not the one. Chuck them because a sharp blade is key to a good shave. Keep in mind that blades tend to blunt after about 5 uses and if you’re having to go over the area multiple times, it’s time to call it a day. There’s quite a lot of conflicting information about the right type to use, but it might be that if you’re prone to shaving rash or burn, a single blade razor could be your best bet. This is because triple or quadruple blades cut hair below the skin, which is more likely to cause irritation. It’s a case of trial and error, though - if your multi-blade razor is doing the job for you, stick with it, but if not, it might be worth downgrading to a disposable one but remember to change it on the reg. Dry shaving or using water is also a no-go because they’ll be more friction so make sure you use a shaving foam. Try using a men’s one because they’re made for the face so they tend to be more gentle like the NIVEA MEN Sensitive Shaving Foam, £1.99. Plus, they’re cheaper. Double win. If you're not into that idea, just make sure the foam or gel you buy is for sensitive skin, like Gillette's Satincare Sensitive Shaving Gel, £2.70.
What direction should I shave?
In the direction of the hair growth, guys! I know, I know, you’ve heard this thousands of times before. I’m totally guilty of thinking, ‘you know what, I’m not going to shave in the direction of my hair growth. Take that world and HELLO close shave’ only to have shaving rash/burn emerge 30 seconds later. This is because going against the growth bends the hair back so it causes irritation. Sure, it might not give the same close shave but try going over the area again and you should be good to go. Still not convinced? Go for the backwards shave, go on, but keep the pressure light and don’t press down on the skin too hard. I always hold the skin taught, too, but lots of people say this has the same affect as the multi-blade razors - a shave that’s too close. Again, go with whatever works for you. I reckon holding it taught but going in the direction of hair growth, is a good compromise.
Okay so you’re nearly there. If you’ve ended up with small cuts, press a cotton pad with cold water on the area because it’ll help stop the blood flow by constricting the capillaries. Christ, do those tiny cuts bleed. Using an antibacterial like witch hazel or tea tree on them is a good shout to help prevent infection. If you've got this far and you're still sporting those annoying bumps (I'm so sorry, I've failed) then there's some things you can do to take down the redness and bumps. Nathalie champions coconut oil after shaving because of the soothing and healing natural oils. Aloe vera is great for calming skin too, so try something like Vaseline’s Essential Moisture Aloe Fresh Light Feeling Lotion, £3.49. 'Applying some good quality Manuka or raw honey will help calm the area and take down any inflammation. Leave it on the area for 20minutes and then remove it with luke-warm water', Nathalie advises. Lots of people swear by using a baking soda because of it's anti-inflammatory properties; mix it with some water to form a paste, put it on the bumps using a cotton pad, leave it to dry for a few minutes then rinse off and they should look less angry. The witch hazel or tea tree oil I mentioned before will help calm it too.