Razor
Featured Photo by Helen Barth on Unsplash

Stop me if this sounds familiar: You’re in the shower and ready to shave your legs, but you’ve fully forgotten to replace your razor (again). Then, out of the corner of your eye, you spy your partner’s razor gleaming at you—newer, cleaner, way sharper than yours usually is. Your gut tells you it’s probably a bad idea to use it, but it’ll just be this one time! So you grab it and get to work.

If you’ve done this, either once or several times (guilty!), it’s totally understandable. When you’re living with someone or staying at a partner’s place frequently, it’s easy to justify “borrowing” all kinds of hygiene products, especially if you’re in a rush. But you really shouldn’t share razors with your partner—or anyone else, for that matter. “Sharing razors is a major no-no from a dermatologist’s perspective,” Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, a Boston-based dermatologist and the CEO of Vibrant Dermatology and Skin Bar, tells SELF.

Shaving, even when you’re doing it gently, creates what Dr. Ip calls “mild trauma” to the skin. Minor scratches and tiny nicks caused by the razor’s blades can serve as an entry point for potentially harmful bacteria, fungi, or viruses, which can ultimately trigger an infection. A razor can be a surprisingly fertile environment for all sorts of germs. Think about it: Many razors have multiple blades (and thus more surface area for organisms to live on), a lot of people don’t replace their blades as often as they should, and razors are usually stored in a bathroom, which has humid conditions that many bugs thrive in.

Obviously, “it isn’t ideal to get someone else’s bacteria or viruses into your skin,” Dr. Ip says. When it comes to common skin infections, bacteria can cause issues like cellulitis, certain viruses can lead to warts, and fungi tend to spread athlete’s foot and yeast infections, per the US National Library of Medicine. If that sounds pretty gross and kind of unsettling, take a breather: The most common side effect of using another person’s razor is folliculitis, which is characterized by inflammation of the hair follicles that can look like small, reddened or inflamed pimples, set off itchy or tender skin, or cause a bumpy texture; it can be triggered by a pathogen that enters the skin (most commonly staph bacteria) or the friction of shaving itself.

“Bacterial folliculitis is more likely if you have been sharing a razor,” Dr. Ip says. So if you’re wondering why the spot you shaved now feels rough or looks more inflamed than usual, this might be a potential cause. If you experience mild irritation—say, reddened skin, a bumpy texture, and itchiness—you can try a drugstore treatment to soothe the area first, like an over the counter antibiotic ointment or a 1% hydrocortisone cream. You can also consider a protective ointment like Vaseline ($4, Amazon) or CeraVe’s Healing Ointment ($11, Ulta) to reduce inflammation and keep the skin protected as it calms down; both of these options work for just about anyone, even those who have sensitive skin. Dr. Ip also recommends Shea Moisture’s Restoring Cream ($11, Amazon), which contains antimicrobial tea tree oil and azelaic acid. (Just note that some people find these ingredients to be irritating, so if you’re concerned about that, test out a small amount of product on an unaffected area of skin to ensure you don’t react negatively to it.)

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If your symptoms aren’t going away after 48 hours, or you have potential signs of a full-blown infection—like a rash that’s getting worse, major swelling, pain, unbearable itching, or skin that feels warm to the touch—it’s best to reach out to your primary care doctor or head straight to the dermatologist’s office, if you have access to one. Some fungal infections, like ringworm, can potentially require weeks of treatment, so the sooner you can get the appropriate meds, the better. “Blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis and even HIV can, rarely, be contracted from sharing [unsterilized] razors as well,” Dr. Ip explains.

So, in general, you’ll want to try avoiding situations where you’re in the shower, ready to shave, and totally razorless. (It’s also worth it to invest in a highly-recommended razor—some of the options on SELF’s list of the best razors are cost-effective and easy to use.)

Then, it’s up to you to take care of your razor: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends replacing a razor blade after five to seven shaves to keep irritation to a minimum. Depending on how often you shave and how dense your hair is, you might want to sign up for a subscription service, like the kind offered by Billie, so you can get new razors or blades delivered as often as you need them. (You can also do what my irritated husband did after I used his razor one too many times and just buy another version of the same razor. It works for us both!)

All this to say, we get it: Buying and replacing razor heads or blades can be annoying and more expensive than you’d like. Even though it feels deeply tempting to use your partner’s razor—it’s literally right there—Dr. Ip stresses that it’s not worth it: “The risk of more serious infections far outweighs the inconvenience.”

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