Razor burn is the result of irritated hair follicles, which produce the rolling hills of inflamed skin you are observing on your neck and elsewhere. It’s like acne, if acne was accompanied by a light searing sensation.

But beyond the pain, razor burn is embarrassing, if only because it broadcasts to colleagues and love interests and bank tellers who are also love interests that you don’t know how to shave properly. This is frustrating at best and wildly shame-inducing at worst.

Your best defense is a close shave — the closest shave you can possibly obtain without slicing open your jugular. Here’s what to do:

Heat the hairy zone

Start by massaging your unwanted hair with a towel soaked in warm water. It makes the hair a little softer and easier to shear. Massage in your shaving cream. Just make an effort to lather your preferred substance over the area to get the blood flowing.

Use a sharp razor

Maybe this is a given, but it’s worth emphasizing: a sharp razor allows you to be gentle. You should never press a razor into your skin, unless you’re a murderous 19th-century barber. Pretend your face is a sheet of silk, and treat it accordingly.

Exfoliate

This is an essential step, particularly for men of color. There’s a good chance your facial hair is coarse and curly and prone to grow back in, leading to ingrown hairs and more razor burn. Switch to a sharp, single-blade razor and follow the above steps diligently.

And you might want to throw in an exfoliant afterwards, to clear away any dead skin that might obstruct the growth of new hairs.

Follow with tea tree oil

Please, please, don’t use aftershave. The added fragrance will smell lovely, but it will aggravate your pores. Instead, use a basic antiseptic like tea tree oil to purify and tone your fresh skin.

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