Most people have had the unpleasant experience of razor burn at some point in their lives. Razor burn is skin irritation that occurs while shaving your face, legs, or other body parts to remove unwanted hair. The interaction between the blade, hair, and skin is what causes razor burn.

Razor burn occurs in both men and women, and it can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on how severe it is. People with sensitive skin may be more susceptible to razor burn.

Causes and Risk Factors of Razor Burn

“Razor burn is caused by trauma from your razor blade while shaving,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, an associate professor of dermatology and the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “As the razor blades move over the skin, they can disrupt the outer skin layer, leading to microscopic cracks, loss of hydration, and inflammation.” This translates to the red, itchy rash you may experience.

Not using shaving cream or gel, or other products with emollients, may also lead to razor burn. Emollients layer the skin with a protective film that traps in moisture and prevents inflammation.

Duration of Razor Burn

Razor burn can last anywhere from hours to days depending on how severe it is, says Zeichner. To speed up healing, stop shaving until your symptoms dissipate.

Prevention of Razor Burn

Proper shaving technique can minimize your chances of developing razor burn. Here’s how to get a smooth, irritation-free shave:
  • Moisten skin first The best time to shave is after a warm shower while your skin and hair are soft and moist.
  • Apply shave cream or gel This will create a barrier between the blade and your skin and enhance the glide of the razor.
  • Use single strokes, in the direction of hair growth Do not go over the same area multiple times, and do not go against the grain. You make think that shaving in the opposite direction of hair growth provides a closer shave but it actually leads to irritation.
  • Rinse the razor frequently Clean the razor every two to three strokes to remove debris that builds up between the blades. Do not tap the blades against the sink because this can disrupt the specialized polymer coating that is used on most razor blades.
  • Moisturize Apply a moisturizing aftershave lotion to help hydrate and repair the skin barrier.
Be sure to store your razor in a dry place to prevent bacteria growth. Dermatologists suggest replacing a razor blade after five to seven uses.

Research and Statistics: Who Has Razor Burn?

Although there are no statistics regarding how many people experience razor burn,  Zeichner says it’s “a very common condition that I see on a daily basis in my practice.”

Related Conditions and Causes of Razor Burn

If you have acne, you may be more susceptible to razor burn, and shaving, which can irritate your skin, can also worsen your acne. To minimize irritation, use a razor with a sharp blade or try using an electric razor. Use light strokes to prevent nicks and don’t try to shave off pimples (that too can make your acne worse).

Resources We Love

The American Academy of Dermatology website offers detailed skincare tips for both men and women.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  • Interview with Joshua Zeichner, MD. Mount Sinai Hospital. October 4, 2020.
  • Emollients. National Health Service. September 14, 2020.
  • Hair Removal: How to Shave. American Academy of Dermatology.
  • Razor Bumps. University of Michigan Medicine. October 30, 2019.
  • Gray J, McMichael, AJ. Pseudofolliculitis Barbae: Understanding the Condition and the Role of Facial Grooming. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. June 2016.


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