Chances are, you aren’t replacing your razor often enough. Going weeks with the same blades doesn’t just risk a smooth face or legs—it could also affect your health.
How often to replace your razor depends on how you use it, says board-certified dermatologist Jeanie Chung Leddon, MD, PhD, co-founder of Boulder Valley Center for Dermatology. Men who shave every day should switch the blades after a few days, and women should replace their razors every three or four days, she says.
Razor blades gets duller with use, meaning you’re more likely to cut yourself or get razor burn, says Jessica Krant, MD, MPH, board-certified dermatologist with the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. “The duller the razor, the harder you have to press to make it do what you want,” she says. “You get more collateral damage and more scraping of the skin.” If your skin is particularly delicate, Dr. Leddon recommends using a single-blade razor. That way, you aren’t scraping the skin with four or five blades with every pass.
Not only can those little cuts be irritating, but they can also let in bacteria, viruses, yeast, and fungus, says Dr. Leddon. “Most of us have bacteria on the skin, but obviously the skin is your natural protective barrier,” she says. “When you have a cut, it allows entry of organisms to go in and cause infection.”
Infections from razors aren’t pretty. When bacteria such as staph infect your hair follicle, folliculitis gives you red bumps that look a bit like razor burn but with a pus-filled yellow head. Bacteria on razors could also cause a big, painful red boil called an abscess, a honey-colored crust on the skin from impetigo, or painful, red skin from cellulitis. If you have an infection like herpes or warts, use a new razor every time to keep it from spreading, says Dr. Leddon.
Storing your razor in your shower is just asking for trouble. (These are other mistakes you’re making in the shower.) “When things are moist, things can grow in that environment more readily,” says Dr. Leddon. Even after your shower, bacteria, fungus, and yeast can flourish in the steamy bathroom—especially if your blades are starting to rust. Rinse off leftover hair and shaving cream after every use, and store your razor in a dry area instead of the shower, recommends Dr. Krant.