Nicks and cuts aren't the only pain that comes along with shaving. Many also deal with constant irritation in the form of redness, bumps and all-around discomfort. The reasons for the added pain are varied but some people are definitely more susceptible than others. If that's you, it turns out that you have a few options besides going hairy. We found some simple remedies to relieve shaving pain and a few recommendations for preventing it altogether.
All things bumpy
Irritation can be caused by any number of things including dull razor blades, sensitive skin or applying too much pressure when shaving. Ingrown hairs are also a common source of shaving woes. They're common because freshly cut hair has sharp ends that can easily penetrate the skin and grow back into it. The result: red, inflamed pustules that can be very painful.
Relief in a bottle
For fast relief, experts recommend an over-the-counter treatment that contains aspirin (listed as acetylsalicylic acid). Tend Skin Liquid is a popular option that soothes irritated skin and reduces redness and inflammation. The salicylic acid from the aspirin also exfoliates skin, which may help to release ingrown hair. The drawback is that Tend Skin contains a lot of alcohol that can be severely drying and cause further irritation. Still, hundreds of reviewers at MakeupAlley.com and Drugstore.com rave about the formula, saying that it offers instant relief although it stings a bit when it's first applied. Paula's Choice Redness Relief works in the same manner but without the alcohol.
Lac-Hydrin lotions also offer gentle exfoliation (the main ingredient is lactic acid) to help encourage the release of ingrown hairs. Another option is an over-the-counter cortisone cream for relief from itching and redness.
A home remedy is likely to be just as effective, though. Naomi Torres, About.com's Hair Removal guide, explains that you can save money by making your own aspirin mask which relies on the same active ingredient found in store bought formulas. (See her article How to Make an Aspirin Mask for step-by-step instructions.) She also explains how to make homemade salt and sugar scrubs for further exfoliation. We recommend you try just one method at a time, however -- too much exfoliation can cause further irritation.
Extract if you dare
Of course, you can always physically remove the ingrown hair with a pair of tweezers and/or a needle. Experts at Discovery Health warn that this could cause further damage to skin, especially if you're too aggressive. If you choose to go this route, be sure to take your time, start with clean skin and use sterilized tools. A magnifying glass may also be useful.
In order to prevent ingrown hairs and other forms of shaving irritation, experts say you should change your blades regularly, moisturize before and after shaving and consider switching to a different type of razor. It may take some experimentation to find one that works best for you but three-blade systems are generally the most effective and cost efficient. See our report on razors for specific product recommendations.
If all else fails, consider switching hair removal methods. Waxing and sugaring may reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs (especially when performed by a skilled technician) but the best methods are those that remove hair at the root like laser hair removal and electrolysis.
Of course, you could always just forgo shaving altogether.