Smooth, hair-free skin is a desire shared by many, but for some, the battle against pesky razor bumps can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. Razor bumps, scientifically known as pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), often rear their unsightly heads after shaving, leaving us wondering how to bid them farewell for good. Whether you're an experienced shaver or just starting your grooming routine, don't worry!
Whether on your face or your bikini line, razor bumps can be a well-sensitive subject. Ingrown hairs are not only visually unappealing but can also be uncomfortable and painful! Thankfully, you don't have to wait for those razor bumps to disappear on their own. Keep reading to learn what causes those little red bumps to develop in the first place and how to heal them - seemingly overnight!
What Are Razor Bumps?
Razor bumps, also known as pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB) or shaving bumps, are common skin conditions after shaving. They are characterized by small, inflamed, and often itchy bumps that develop on the skin, typically in areas that have been recently shaved.
Razor bumps can vary in appearance but are often red, raised, and resemble small pimples or blemishes. They may be surrounded by areas of redness and inflammation in areas where shaving occurs, such as the face (especially the beard area and neck), legs, underarms, and bikini line.
What Causes Razor Bumps?
Razor bumps are primarily caused by the following factors:
Hair Curling: One of the primary causes of razor bumps is hair that naturally tends to curl back into the skin after being cut. This occurrence can be more common in individuals with tightly curled or coarse hair.
Close Shaving: Shaving too closely to the skin can increase the risk of hair becoming trapped below the skin's surface. This is especially common with traditional razor blades, which can cut the hair at a sharp angle.
Dull Blades: Using a dull or old razor blade can result in uneven cuts and cause hair to be pulled or tugged during shaving. This can lead to hair regrowing at an angle or curling back into the skin.
Shaving Against the Grain: Shaving against the direction of hair growth can lead to the hair being cut too short, increasing the likelihood of it becoming ingrown.
Lack of Lubrication: Shaving without adequate lubrication, such as using a dry razor or skipping shaving cream or gel, can increase friction and irritation, contributing to the development of razor bumps.
Sensitive Skin: People with sensitive skin are more susceptible to developing razor bumps. Sensitive skin can become easily irritated, leading to inflammation and the formation of bumps.
Frequent Shaving: Repeated shaving in the same area before the skin has healed can increase the likelihood of razor bumps.
Tight Clothing: Wearing tight clothing that rubs against freshly shaved skin can exacerbate irritation and contribute to the development of razor bumps.
Improper Post-Shave Care: Failing to properly care for the skin after shaving, such as using alcohol-based aftershave products or harsh chemicals, can further irritate the skin and worsen razor bumps.
Ingrown Hairs: When hair does not emerge from the follicle properly and instead curls back into the skin, it can become trapped, leading to inflammation, redness, and the formation of raised painful bumps.
Friction and Pressure: Friction from tight-fitting collars or helmets can exacerbate razor bumps, particularly in areas like the neck or face.
How To Get Rid Of Razor Bumps
The ingrown hairs and skin irritation of razor bumps will eventually resolve on its own, but it's helpful to know how to speed up the process. Razor bumps are both uncomfortable and unsightly! As soon as you find yourself with razor bumps, follow the steps below to help soothe them and hurry them on the road to healing.
As soon as you suspect razor bumps forming, splash cold water on the area. The cool temperature will help to shrink the pores and soothe inflamed skin. If you'd like to keep the cold sensation in place longer, use a cold compress instead.
Applying a warm compress is a simple yet effective method to alleviate razor bumps. The warmth helps dilate blood vessels, reduce inflammation, and promote circulation. To use this technique, soak a clean washcloth in warm water, wring it out, and gently press it onto the affected area for about 5-10 minutes. This can be done before or after exfoliating.
Exfoliation plays a crucial role in preventing and treating razor bumps. Regularly exfoliating the affected area is beneficial as it assists in removing dead skin cells, unclogging hair follicles, and preventing hairs from getting trapped beneath the skin's surface. Use a mild exfoliating scrub, a loofah, or a soft washcloth and gently rub the area in a circular motion.
Moisturizing should always happen as part of your shaving routine, but it's particularly important if you notice razor bumps. Any hydrating balm will work. Some are suited more for the bikini line, some more for razor bumps that develop after shaving facial hair.
A low-strength hydrocortisone cream can be purchased over the counter, allowing you to relax irritated skin without needing a prescription. After applying a moisturizer to the skin's surface, add a thin layer of the cortisone cream.
Over-the-counter products containing salicylic or glycolic acid can effectively treat razor bumps. These ingredients possess exfoliating properties that aid in removing dead skin cells, thereby facilitating the release of trapped hairs. Apply the product as directed on the affected areas, usually once a day.
The intent of aftershave products is specifically to provide razor burn relief! Razor burn isn't the same as razor bumps, but they're similar enough for this remedy to help. Aftershave products are available as both serums and balms.
If you'd like to avoid some of the chemicals in other razor bump remedies, aloe vera is a good choice. Combine aloe vera with a couple of drops of tea tree oil for an all-natural treatment for razor bumps that will soothe sensitive skin and pull inflammation out of the ingrown hairs.
Tea Tree Oil
A diluted tea tree oil solution can serve as a natural remedy for razor bumps. Combine a few drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut or jojoba oil, and apply it to the affected area. Tea tree oil's antibacterial properties can aid in preventing infection in open or irritated razor bumps.
Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can effectively reduce inflammation and itching commonly associated with razor bumps. It's a mild topical corticosteroid that can provide relief when used as directed.
Witch hazel, known for its astringent properties, can assist in reducing inflammation and soothing irritated skin. Applying witch hazel to the affected area with a cotton ball can provide relief and help alleviate skin discomfort.
Some individuals find relief from razor bumps through chemical peels performed by a dermatologist. Chemical peels can aid in skin exfoliation, enhancing texture and reducing the visibility of razor bumps.
How To Prevent Razor Bumps From Occurring
Knowing how to prevent razor bumps from occurring in the first place is even more advantageous than knowing how to get rid of them once they develop! The tips below will help you prevent razor burn before it sets in.
Use Warm Water
Warm water softens the skin and opens the hair follicles, helping you to remove dead skin cells and get a close shave easily without doing any damage to the skin itself.
Use A Sharp Razor
A sharp, clean razor blade is critical to preventing shaving bumps. It's advised to use a fresh blade each time you shave, but expert advice and realistic practice are sometimes different! At the very least, change out your razor blade when you notice your body hair requiring multiple passes to shave well or if the hair starts to get caught in the blade.
Use Shaving Gel
Using a shaving gel or moisturizing shaving cream will help you to get a close shave on the first pass, preventing razor bumps from forming.
Shave With The Grain
We are typically told to shave against the direction of hair growth to get a smooth shave, but this is more likely to result in razor bumps. You can achieve an equally close shave by shaving slowly in the direction that your hair grows. It may require a second pass, but if you use shaving gel (and you should!), there won't be a problem.
Adjust Shaving Frequency
If you're prone to razor bumps, consider shaving less frequently to give your skin more time to recover between sessions, whether you use a traditional or electric razor.
Avoid Picking or Scratching
Regardless of the shaving method you choose, resist the urge to pick or scratch razor bumps, as this can lead to infection and scarring.
What NOT To Do With Razor Bumps
When razor bumps occur, many people turn to treatment options that actually do more harm than good. Avoid doing the following things to encourage the razor bumps to heal quickly and prevent further irritation!
A razor bump is a trapped hair follicle - not acne. Treating razor bumps as a zit and attempting to pop them will open the skin barrier up to infection and can lead to scarring. You shouldn't be popping actual acne anyway!
Trying to tweeze the trapped hairs out of the razor bumps might result in the ingrown hair being freed, but it also introduces unwanted bacteria into the micro-injury. This can lead to a potential infection, and then you'll have a larger problem on your hands than razor bumps!
Moisturizing aftershaves will help heal your razor bumps fast, but pay attention to the ingredients in the aftershave! Some aftershaves are more astringent and will irritate sensitive skin. Instead, if you'd like to use an exfoliating aftershave, look for one with salicylic acid and glycolic acid.