Shaving causes skin irritation
August 6, 2012 9:04 AM   Subscribe

How to avoid skin irritation from shaving? Best creme for women?

Every time I've shaved my pubic area for the last few years, I've ended up with a terrible rash. Little red itchy bumps everywhere. I've tried different razors, cremes, gels, etc. and nothing has helped. It seems like it's gotten much worse as I used to be able to use anything. Does skin get more sensitive with age? I'm in my early 30's if it matters. I've tried the Bikini Zone and Coochy Creme stuff with no luck. Help me wear a bathing suit, please! Not really up to the cost commitment of waxing.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I like the Schick Intuition. It's SO much easier to shave without having to deal with separate shaving cream and lather.

They are spendy, but you can like them on Facebook and get a coupon. Look for deals on them at CVS and Kroger. I buy a years supply.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:17 AM on August 6, 2012

Do you get a rash IMMEDIATELY, or with a little time? If it's not immediate, it sounds like you could benefit from Tend Skin (expensive but incredible stuff). If it IS a more or less immediate rash, then it's possible you really ARE that sensitive. One of the few shave creams that did NOT irritate my boyfriend's der-uber-sensitive skin was this stuff from Trader Joe's.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:19 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Use a gentle scrubby (not astringent) exfoliator on any area you plan to shave, before shaving. Make sure to rinse it off completely so you don't get tiny pebbles in your razor.
posted by elizardbits at 9:21 AM on August 6, 2012

Man here. Ignore my username for a mo. No, skin doesn't tend to get more sensitive with age. Some guidance:

- Make sure your razor is sharp: the more passes, the more the irritation
- Don't shave against the growth of the hair [this is the most important thing]
- Don't use too many emollients etc; you don't need them
- Get your skin wet and warm so it is supple
- Then use a decent sensitive skin shaving cream, or better still a good quality shaving oil like this so you can see where you are shaving*
- A block of alum will close up your skin and help prevent ingrown hairs; it will sting a little, but not like a styptic pencil.
- Rinse
- Then use a scent free moisturiser, rather than a body cream.

* Note: the guidance for these oils is always ridiculously small amounts. Use what you need, not what they say.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:35 AM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding shave with the grain, not against it. You won't get quite as close a shave but your skin won't freak the fuck out, either.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:41 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do NOT put alum on your genitalia!!! That stuff should never come in contact with mucous membranes. Gentlemen, this is one of the reasons y'all might think twice in giving advice in threads about vulva-shaving.

Seconding Tend-Skin. Also, if your vulva is super-irritated, consider using a medical emollient like A and D Ointment rather than a conventional shaving cream.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:57 AM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Apologies - I read this as bikini line shaving, not the full monty.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:02 AM on August 6, 2012

Vulval skin also does get more sensitive with age for many people.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:20 AM on August 6, 2012

I do find that a pre-shave oil works wonders--apply, then do some other stuff in the shower while the steam helps your hair soften up, but not too long, say enough time to wash your hair and slop in some conditioner. Follow that with a good shave cream (or, I actually just use hair conditioner, it's great), and use a fresh blade every time, always going with the grain on the bikini line.

The best part about being in my 30s, if you ask me, is that if I wear less-revealing bathing suit bottoms nobody thinks I'm weird or old-ladyish, they think I'm age-appropriate. So I don't have to do as much work down there to be bathing suit ready and it is a huge relief (YMMV, I am also out of the dating scene and not worried about any other pubic grooming standards that might be in fashion right now).
posted by padraigin at 10:46 AM on August 6, 2012

Exfoliating is the key for me. I use a gentle face scrub on the area prior to shaving, and starting maybe 24 hours later put salicylic acid on the area daily (yes, the acne medicine, it helps gently exfoliate using a chemical process instead of the mechanical process of scrubbing).

It sounds like this is kind of a new problem for you, which makes me wonder if you might have some kind of bacteria thing going on. Reusable razor handles with the disposable heads tend to get pretty gnarly after sitting in the humid shower for years. It might be worth replacing, if that's what you're using. You might also try a really thin layer of antibiotic ointment on your skin after shaving (e.g. neosporin, bacitracin) to see if it helps. Sometimes the bacteria on your skin only cause problems when they can sorta get into your skin, via little nicks from shaving. Be careful with ointment though, as it might stain your clothes. If it was me, I'd shave before bed, apply the ointment, and go commando overnight. Maybe even try it just on one side, so you can get a good comparison to see if it's making a difference.
posted by vytae at 11:22 AM on August 6, 2012

Oh, and both the salicylic acid and antibiotic ointment should only be used on the normal skin areas, like the bikini line. Not on the mucous membranes of the vulva!
posted by vytae at 11:23 AM on August 6, 2012

I tried Tend Skin and found it to be somewhat helpful, but not amazing. I've started using a hydrating lotion with high (12%) lactic acid content which has seemed to help quite a bit.
posted by forkisbetter at 11:29 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Use an electric razor. It doesn't get as close of a shave; this is a GOOD thing! The way that it was explained to me is this:

Pubes are curly. When you cut them, they don't taper off gently like they naturally would, but instead are sharp. When you cut them very close to the skin, they continue to grow, curling the whole time. But because they are so close to the skin, and so sharp, they curl back IN to the skin, causing ingrown hairs and irritation. Whereas, if it's not as close of a shave, the hair is free to do its curvy growth thing outside of the skin and you're less prone to ingrowns.

Your skin may or may not have grown more sensitive generally, but it sounds like you've been using a variety of depilatory products and shave creams. You may have developed an intolerance to those products specifically. I find that depilatory creams are quite sensitizing after a while.

The other thing you might want to look into is making sure that you only use non-comedogenic products, including soaps and moisturizers, in the area. You can get zits on your bits! Also, consider switching to a non-scented, sensitive skin wash (I like spectro gel) in that area.

Don't put anything on immediately after shaving! Wait at least fifteen minutes before applying any moisturizers! This gives your skin a chance to heal from the abrasion of the razor. Otherwise, you're basically smearing chemicals into an open wound.

You also might find that getting the area baby-powder dry before putting cream on it helps.
posted by windykites at 11:31 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wax! And use exfoliating gloves in the shower.
posted by nerdfish at 12:47 PM on August 6, 2012

I know you said you tried different razors, but I find a big difference when I use single blade razors, rather than all these crazy multi-blade ones. Bonus is that these are usually the cheapest - in fact, I'm not sure if I've seen branded ones or if they are only available in generic at my supermarket.
posted by AnnaRat at 2:27 AM on August 7, 2012

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