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Time for a summer shave? Here's how to avoid razor burn, according to dermatologists

Keep itchy skin and painful bumps from crashing the party with these expert tips.

Midsection of African American young woman wrapped in white towel sitting on floor against blue background
Razor burn is annoying, sure — but it doesn't have to be inevitable. (Getty)

Summer means longer days, warmer temps, slathering on sunscreen and, for many people, lots more shaving. While shaving is a quick, effective, wallet-friendly way to remove body hair, it can also leave you with irritating, unsightly razor burn — the last thing you want when you're living your best life floating around the pool. To deal with this annoying issue head-on, we reached out to three dermatologists to get the 411 on razor burn — and plenty of tips on how to avoid it.

Let's start with the basics as bathing suit season gets underway. If you've ever shaved too quickly or have sensitive skin, you're probably all too familiar with razor burn. It comes from "tiny cracks on the top layer of the skin, caused by the razor’s movement," Green says. "This can lead to inflammation and irritation, often appearing as a red skin rash accompanied by pain, stinging, itchiness and tenderness."

The irritation occasionally leads to "shaving bumps, where physical papules occur due to inflamed or infected hair follicles," adds Song.

If you've never experienced razor burn, you have a great shaving routine (give us the deets, please) — or you're very lucky. Ugonabo confirms that everyone can get razor burn. However, experts agree that you'll be more susceptible if you have sensitive skin.

Yep — it's possible to skip razor burn entirely. And prevention starts before you even pick up your razor.

"The best way to avoid razor burn is to prepare the skin for shaving properly," Green says. "Exfoliating the skin will remove dead skin cells and debris from the surface to allow for the razor to glide on the skin smoothly."

If exfoliation isn't part of your current routine, start with something that's not overly abrasive. "Some gentle exfoliators that can be applied to the skin include AHA/BHA body lotion containing glycolic or lactic acid, as well as body retinol lotion," Song says. "These exfoliants can help reduce dead skin-cell accumulation and prevent ingrown hair that can contribute to irritations."

After your skin is exfoliated, using a shaving gel or cream is crucial, experts advise. "Shaving cream is important because it helps add a protective layer ... reducing friction and irritation from the blade," Ugonabo says. That means not only less razor burn, but fewer painful nicks, she adds.

And yes, it matters what kind of razor you use. For instance, don't try to be thrifty by using an old razor for too long. "It's essential to use a clean, sharp razor that's not clogged with dead skin cells, hair or soap," Green cautions. "Dull razors can pull at the skin, causing unnecessary irritation. Razors with a moisturizing pad above the blades are typically best for avoiding razor burn, as they add additional lubrication to the skin."

Once you've exfoliated, applied shaving gel or cream and have a fresh, moisturizing razor in hand, you're ready to go. Song and Ugonabo say that shaving in the direction our hair grows in can further limit the risk of irritation.

After you've shaved, don't forget to moisturize! This step helps soothe and rehydrate the skin, Green says. Just be sure to skip scented lotions or products with alcohol if you have sensitive skin. Song recommends an aloe vera-based aftershave gel.

Location, location, location. Different parts of your body need a different game plan, experts say. For instance, Song notes that our underarms and bikini lines are more sensitive, so you may want to exfoliate those areas less frequently or with a gentler product than you use on your legs.

And while we're all about flaunting your curves, Ungonabo says they can make it trickier to get a smooth shave. For your bikini area and other curvy spots, "a razor with a pivoting head can be very helpful as it allows you to better pivot and adjust to these curves," she adds.

Exfoliators like this pretty pink helper can gently scrub away dry patches and dead skin cells on your legs (or less sensitive areas) to help your razor glide effortlessly. This scrub is a Yahoo editor favorite because of how effective it is and how many scents there are — pick from over 15 fragrances.

$10 at Ulta Beauty
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This lotion contains 2% BHA — that's beta hydroxy acid — to exfoliate and moisturize your skin. The formula also contains salicylic acid to soften skin and clear away dead skin cells.

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These disposable triple-blade razors aim to give you a close, smooth shave with pivoting heads — great for curvy spots — and moisturizing strips.

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$14 at Target$20 at Walgreens

Prefer a reusable razor? This one comes with six pivoting, triple-blade replacement heads. You'll still get lubricating strips too.

$20 at Amazon

This dermatologist-tested, dye- and fragrance-free shave gel is formulated not to irritate sensitive skin.

$8 at Walgreens
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$5 at Walmart$5 at Amazon

Want a little luxury? This whipped shaving cream is packed with gentle, sensitive-skin-friendly ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter and aloe vera.

$9 at CVS Pharmacy
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$9 at Walgreens$9 at Amazon

Post-shave moisture is just what the doctor ordered. This body lotion is full of aloe vera and cucumber extract to hydrate and soothe your skin. It's also lightweight and fast-absorbing — no need to wait around until it dries.

$7 at Target
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If you do get razor burn, a gentle after-shave solution can help reduce bumps, redness and ingrown hairs. Tend Skin is a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon, and it also happens to be a personal favorite. I use a small amount after shaving and bid goodbye to any irritation in a matter of hours. (You can also use it if you prefer waxing, laser hair removal or electrolysis instead of shaving.)

$19 at Amazon