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Last updated August 25, 2017, originally published November 21, 2015
By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Sometimes, you just have to have that clean-shaved look. So you
Razor burns are the downside of a that clean-shaved look. Many men
suffer from razor burn or razor acne. Ignoring the problem and
continuing to shave over the bumps can cause infection and scarring.
About 38% of men have sensitive skin , a 2001 study from Amersham
Hospital, Amersham, UK, found.
Razor burns are not acne. The version of acne which causes outbreaks
in teens is called “acne vulgaris”. Acne vulgaris ranges from mild Grade
I or II can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications. More
serious grades of acne vulgaris are grades III and IV --- conglobate
acne --- can involve severe lesions, inflammation and scarring.
Treatment of the severe forms of acne often include tetracyclines and,
in the case of women, birth control pills. Birth control pills are used
because they lower the amount of androgens in a woman’s body.
Androgens are simply hormones that produce masculine features --
hair on the face, chest , deep voice, increased muscle mass. Androgens
also increase the levels of inflammation in skin pores and set the stage
in many cases for the later development of acne.
Which brings us to the razor burn. Razor burn is different from acne,
yes, but it shares with acne the trait of having inflamed skin follicles,
which can become infected and cause scarring.
Razor burns also occur more often in men than women, even though
women do sometimes shave the backs of their necks to neaten the
Can Acne Treatments Help Razor Burns?
Some razor burns can be improved with mild, over-the-counter acne
treatments. Before you use any treatments that involve taking meds
though, you will need to consult with your doctor.
But, and it’s a huge “but” these treatments will not typically banish
razor burn forever for one simple reason --- you’re going to shave
Razor burns can be caused by the physical action of yanking your hair
follicle from your skin. The resulting inflammation is called folliculitis.
Depending on how deep the inflammation occurs, these inflamed hair
follicles can resemble acne bumps or look like tiny grains of rice or sand
under your skin.
Razor Burns Are Skin Inflammation
The skin on your neck, like all skin, exists as a barrier between the
external world of toxins, injury and bacteria and the internal world of
your organs, bones and blood.
When this barrier is interfered with at any place on your body, the
“inflammation response” is triggered. This response begins when the
body becomes aware that the skin has been penetrated.
Immediately, biochemical compounds that exist between the cells of
your body are released, much like an ambulance is dispatched when an
accident occurs. Large, white blood cells called monocytes and
macrophages rush to the scene. These two “first responders” activate
cytokines, which are a part of your immune system. The cytokines then
issue a siren call summoning up troops in the immune system --
neutrophils, mast cells and more macrophages. These three types of
soldiers launch a communication system that reports back on the
seriousness of the invasion/infection and coordinates the healing
All this from a razor burn? Yes, all this from a razor burn. The degree of
the inflammatory response depends on how serious your skin barrier is
inflamed. Although several studies have found that the level of
inflammation caused by acne and other skin conditions can be
measured by a test measuring the amount of “C-reactive protein” in
your blood, a large 2014 study of all other relevant existing studies
from Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, in Shiraz, Iran, disagreed.
This study found that even in the most severe cases of acne vulgaris,
the amount of inflammation in your blood does not vary that much
from normal, uninfected people. Thus, even though we can see with
our eyes that acne causes skin inflammation or that razor burns cause
skin inflammation, the inflammation is minor stuff as far as your blood
If you have already tried shaving with as opposed to against the grain
of your hair pattern, and still have razor burn, you will need to change
your grooming routines. To heal razor burns, we have gathered
scientific studies to discover the most reliable natural remedies for
Top 7 Natural Remedies for Razor Burn
1. Heal Razor Burns with Witch Hazel
Witch hazel, technically known as “Northamerican Virginian Witch Hazel
(Hamamelis virginiana)” has been used for hundreds of years as a
natural remedy for skin inflammatory conditions. The active compound
in witch hazel has been found effective in treating red scalp syndrome,
where the scalp gets red and unable to tolerate normal washing
because of sensitivity, according to a 2014 study from the Center for
Dermatology and Hair Diseases, Wallisellen in Zurich, Switzerland.
2. German Chamomile Can Reduce Skin Inflammation from Razor Burn
The common daisy-like chamomile plant is one of the oldest natural
remedies in history. Scientists have found that extracts of the German
chamomile plant (matricia flower) can soothe skin inflammations of
various types. In fact, an ointment containing chamomile flower
extract was more effective than 0.1% hydrocortisone (anti-
inflammatory synthetic drug) in treating chemically-induced toxic
dermatitis, according to a 2013 study from Poznan University of Medical
Sciences in Poland.
As the study noted, the range of skin inflammatory conditions which
chamomile extract can help include “skin inflammations and irritations,
bacterial skin diseases, nappy rash and cradle cap, eczema, wounds
(infected and poorly healing), abscesses, frostbite, and insect bites.”
You can prepare a soothing compress from chamomile tea bags, which
have been boiled for 2 minutes then removed and left to cool.
3. Aloe Vera Reduces Skin Irritations
Gel from the succulent leaves of the Aloe vera plant can reduce skin
inflammations, numerous studies have found. Aloe’s active ingredients
are glycoproteins, sterols (lupeol, β-sitosterol) ,carbohydrates
(mannose-6-phosphate, acemannan – acetylated-1,4 polymer of
mannose), and enzymes (bradykinase).
A 1999 monograph from the World Health Organization singled out
aloe vera as a traditional medicine plant effective for a range of skin
inflammatory conditions including red rash and burns.
Aloe vera reduces the time a burn wound has to heal by 8.79 days,
according to a 2007 study from Naresuan University, Phitsanulok,
Thailand. The Thailand study was a review of 4 other studies involving
a total of 371 patients.
How should you use aloe vera to reduce razor burns? The very best
use is to squeeze the aloe directly from the plant. If you can’t find the
aloe plant itself, use the purest aloe product you can find.
After washing your neck with a mild soap and warm water, open the
pores again with a warm towel compress. Then, with the pores open,
apply aloe thickly on your neck. Leave it for at least half an hour. This is
a facial you’ll want to apply once a week for mild razor burns, more
often as a part of your night time grooming for more severe razor
4. Use a Clay Mask to Clean Pores and Reduce Razor Burn
The smoother the top of the skin from which the hair follicle exudes,
the less likely cutting the hair with a razor will cause razor burn.
Weekly, you should use a clay mask to remove any excess oil from the
pores of your neck.
5. Oatmeal Mask to Soothe Razor Burn Irritations
Oatmeal preparations can help to soothe skin sensitivity caused by
regular shaving. Moreover, oatmeal rarely causes allergic reactions. In
a study of 2,291 people by Johnson & Johnson Santé Beauté France, in
Issy les Moulineaux, France, only 1% developed an allergic reaction to
oatmeal. This commercially-financed (and therefore suspect) study
result was confirmed in university studies.
6. Prep Your Neck with a Warm Towel Before Shaving
Again, cut down on the chances of skin irritation by properly prepping
your neck for shaving. Apply a clean, wet, warm cloth for two minutes
7. Finally, Change Your Razor Often
Infections from shaving can lead to skin irritations. Any introduction of
bacteria --from a dirty cloth, soap bar, your hands and of course your
razor -- can cause an infection.
8. Close Your Pores After Shaving
Use witch hazel followed by cold water as an aftershave to close your
pores. Closed pores are less vulnerable to bacteria and therefore less
likely to develop infections.
Herbs can be useful in reducing the irritation of razor burn. Rosemary
oil and thyme oil are effective in reducing skin irritations, according to a
2014 study from University of Kashmir in India.]
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