How to Get a Close Shave Without Irritation

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You like being smooth and stubble-free, but redness and razor burn can be a high price to pay for “bare-able” skin. Luckily, there are easy ways to treat that irritation — and to avoid it altogether by thinking ahead and employing some smart strategies. Here, experts share their insider tips to help you avoid redness and irritation every time.

Here are 7 tips to avoid redness and irritation:

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Assess the condition of your skin: Avoid shaving areas afflicted by red, irritated bumps from a previous session. “You’ll cut the tops off the bumps and irritate them even more,” says Jessica Wu, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California Medical School. Leaving them alone will help you avoid a cycle of pain, especially for tender areas such as the underarms.

Give it time: Give your skin and hair some time to soften in the shower with the help of heat and moisture. Ample lather from shaving cream will also help hydrate your skin and lubricate the area, which minimizes trauma from the razor, says Mona Gohara, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University.

Make as few passes as possible: You might often have been advised to shave in the direction of hair growth, but this doesn’t actually help you get a close shave. You can go against the direction of growth, but try to make as few passes with your razor as possible.

Treat any irritated skin: If you notice irritation anywhere, apply a gel or lotion that contains aloe vera or calendula, which can help calm the skin. You can also use an over-the-counter cortisone cream to treat redness and irritation. If conditions are particularly bad, you might find immediate relief by putting cool washcloth compresses over the area, says Dr. Wu.

Prevent ingrown hairs with benzoyl peroxide: If you’re prone to ingrown hairs, use a product that contains benzoyl peroxide, which can help skin stay clear. “It has antiseptic properties and prevents hair follicles from becoming inflamed,” says Doris Day, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Medical School.

Don’t pick at ingrown hairs or scabs from nicks and bumps: “People think ingrown hairs have to come out, but when you squeeze you’ll only traumatize the hair follicle,” Dr. Day says. Instead, apply a small dab of over-the-counter cortisone cream to the inflamed area every day for a couple of days — but not longer than two weeks, as cortisone creams will thin the skin over time, Dr. Gohara says. In time, your body will expel the ingrown hair naturally. If the skin remains irritated, or the cortisone doesn’t treat it, see a dermatologist.

Consider laser hair removal: If you’re the right candidate (i.e., you have dark-colored hair, light skin and no suntan), laser hair removal could be a great investment. Even people with darker skin tones who have been told that the procedure might produce dark spots should weigh the benefits and look for skilled providers. “You just have to make sure that the provider has performed laser hair removal on dark-skinned people before,” Dr. Gohara says. “If you’re in the right hands, they can properly remove the hair without discoloration.”

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