If you’ve recently shaved your vulva or labia — the exterior skin in the genital area — and have an unexplained itchiness, you might be dealing with razor burn. Razor burn will usually appear as a red rash. You may also develop one or more red bumps. The bumps may feel as though they’re “burning” and be tender to the touch.
These symptoms can occur anywhere that you shave — your entire bikini area, on your labia, and even in the crease of your thigh. You may have symptoms in one area of skin and not the rest, even if you shaved the entire area at the same time.
In some cases, these symptoms can also be a sign of sexually transmitted disease (STD). Keep reading for more on how to correctly diagnose razor burn, how to ease your symptoms, and how to prevent razor burn from coming back.
- Am I experiencing other symptoms, like body aches or fever?
- Does the bump have a smooth or jagged edge?
- Is the sore open or closed?
The first thing to look out for is pain — are the bumps tender to the touch? Slightly painful or sensitive bumps are usually caused by razor burn or ingrown hairs. But if you’re experiencing other symptoms — like body aches, fever, and headache — these bumps may be the result of genital herpes.
You’ll also want to determine whether the bumps are smooth or jagged. If you have a smooth, painless bump emerging from your skin, chances are it’s a simple skin tag. But if the bump is jagged, or rough like a cauliflower, it could be a genital wart.
Next, look to see if the bumps are open or closed. Razor bumps, pimples, and rashes usually cause bumps that remain closed. Bumps resulting from herpes will develop into an open sore and scab over after a few days.
If you suspect that your bumps may be the result of something other than razor burn, see your doctor. They can assess your symptoms and advise you on any next steps.
Treating razor burn is usually as easy as waiting out your symptoms. Unless you’re experiencing extreme discomfort, leave the area alone and let the issue resolve on its own. You should avoid shaving the affected area for a few weeks to prevent further irritation.
But if you’re dealing with extreme pain or itchiness, you may want to consider your options for treatment. Oftentimes, you can use the things you have at home to find relief.
If you need relief fast, reach for a cool compress or apply a spot treatment. But if you have some time to kill, soaking in the bathtub may help you find long-term relief.
Cool compress. A cool compress can help soothe irritated skin and reduce redness. Wrap a couple of ice cubes in a paper towel and apply it to the affected area for 5 to 10 minutes, several times a day.
Warm compress. A warm compress can help kill bacteria and reduce swelling. Wet a cloth or paper towel and warm it in the microwave for about 45 seconds. It should be warm, but still comfortable to the touch. Hold this to the affected area for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. Reheat and reapply as needed.
Honey. Raw honey has long been known for its antibacterial properties. It can also help reduce swelling and irritation. Apply a thin layer of honey to the irritated area, and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before washing it off with lukewarm water.
Cotton and other loose fabrics. If you’re wearing skinny jeans or other tight bottoms, change into something more comfortable. Cotton breathes better than most fabrics, reducing sweat and other irritation. Looser bottoms can also help the area breathe and reduce friction.
Oatmeal bath. Colloidal oatmeal has been used to soothe itching and relieve irritation for centuries. That’s because it contains phenols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe, cleanse, and moisturize the skin. To reap these benefits, soak in a colloidal oatmeal bath once daily for at least 15 minutes.
If home remedies aren’t doing the trick, you may want to hit up your kitchen cabinet or corner store. Although more research is needed, these natural remedies are said to help ease irritation.
Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the irritation that comes with razor burn. It also contains acetic acid, which can help prevent infection. To use it, wet a cotton ball with the vinegar and place on the irritated area a few times a day.
Aloe vera. Aloe vera is a traditional remedy for soothing irritated skin. Apply a fresh cut of aloe vera or aloe vera gel to the affected area as needed. If you use a gel, make sure it’s free of fragrance and artificial coloring.
Witch hazel. Witch hazel is a natural antiseptic with anti-inflammatory properties. To use it, wet a cotton ball with the astringent and place on the irritated area a few times a day.
Tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial agent with anti-inflammatory properties. To use it, wet a cotton ball with the oil and place on the irritated area a few times a day.
Over-the-counter medications can also help with razor burn. They usually come in the form of topical creams. Look for one that contains hydrocortisone, which works to reduce swelling and calm skin redness.
You shouldn’t shave the affected area again until your symptoms have cleared.
Once the area has healed, there are a number of steps you can take to make sure you don’t experience another episode of razor burn.
To get a razor burn-free shave:
- Trim the area. This prevents hairs from snagging and getting caught in the razor. Use a sterilized pair of baby scissors to cut hair down to a quarter-inch.
- Get in the shower. The hot steam will soften the hair follicles and make for a softer, smoother shave.
- Exfoliate. This helps remove dead skin cells, bringing ingrown hairs to the surface. You can use a body brush to exfoliate in the shower, or add a salicylic acid-based exfoliant to your routine.
- Lather up. Wash with a fragrance-free antibacterial wash so that if you accidentally cut yourself, you’re already working to prevent an infection and irritation.
- Use a shaving product. Use a shaving cream with soothing ingredients, like aloe vera, to help prevent both irritation.
- Shave in the right direction. Shaving with the grain, or in the direction of hair growth, can help prevent razor burn. To get an even closer chave, pull skin taut with one hand while shaving with the other. Work in small sections, using short strokes, and shave slowly.
- Pat dry. After you get out of the shower, pat the area dry. Pulling and tugging the skin can lead to irritation.
- Moisturize. This can help create a protective barrier and prevent the area from drying out. You can use something as simple as Aquaphor, or opt for special rash-reducing creams.
You’ll also want to rinse and replace your razor regularly. This will help prevent the blades from getting dull and irritating your skin when you shave.
Razor burn is a common condition, but it can be stressful if you aren’t sure about what’s going on down below. Pay close attention to your symptoms, and check in with your doctor if you’re experiencing anything unusual. Razor burn usually clears up in a few days, so if your symptoms persist, have your doctor take a look.