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Shaving Cream For Sunburn: Can This DIY Hack Take The Heat? We Investigate

June 15, 2020

At-home sunburn remedies range far and wide: aloe vera plants, oatmeal baths, cool compresses—even shaving cream. But that last one becomes a little dicey; perhaps it's time to unpack the claim before you start stashing the shaving cream next to the sunblock. 

Some swear by the foam in order to wake up to cool, burn-free skin. But does this sunburn hack carry any weight? Here, our investigation. 

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Why are people slathering shaving cream on their sunburns?

Consider it the remedy that took the DIY world by storm: The hack went viral in 2018 after this Facebook user posted before and after photos from slathering shaving cream on her burned back. After noticing her visibly less-inflamed skin, no surprise the post received 5,000 shares in just one day, with plenty of other sunburn-afflicted users reattempting the trick. The key, she explains, is to "take the heat out" of the burn by using a cooling menthol shaving cream. After slathering on the foam (note: not shaving gel), let it sit on your skin for 30 minutes before rinsing, and repeat the process again the next day if you're still feeling the burn. 

Seems easy, no? But before you consider shaving cream your summer savior, we consulted board-certified dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., FAAD, to see if this sunburn hack can truly take the heat. 

Does shaving cream really work?

So, here's the thing: Shaving cream can give you that post-sunburn relief, but it won't necessarily help the healing process. According to Ciraldo, shaving creams don't seep into the skin the same way your favorite moisturizers and lotions do. So if you're facing some skin sensitivity from your burn, shaving cream can act as a protective coating for your skin. "People can get some immediate comfort from this visible coating of shaving cream on the sunburn," she adds. 

Most shaving creams also contain menthol and provides quite the cooling sensation (per the DIY hack above), which can feel lovely, yes, but it probably won't do anything else to jump-start actual healing, says Ciraldo. On the other hand, other shaving creams may contain oatmeal or aloe, which both have their fair share of anti-inflammatory properties. Those products may actually help the sunburn subside (both relieving the itchiness and sensitivity darker skin tones may face, as well as calm any redness on fair-toned individuals), but it's not the shaving cream itself that's doing the job. Theoretically, you could just slather on those anti-inflammatory ingredients right from the source (like say, a cooled aloe vera gel or a temperate colloidal oat bath) and feel the same sense of relief without spraying any foam. 

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The takeaway. 

So can you use shaving cream for a sunburn? Assuming the formula doesn't have any irritating ingredients or harsh fragrance to further inflame the skin, it shouldn't be a problem. Just know that it won't actually help the burn heal; on that note, there are plenty of other aprés-sun rituals you can refer to if shaving cream feels a little, uh, strange. No matter what, avoiding the burn in the first place takes priority—the best way to combat sun damage is through prevention, after all.

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