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How to treat and prevent razor bumps

Make these uncomfortable red bumps a thing of the past with this expert advice.

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Curology Team
Nov 28, 2022 · 8 min read

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Prevent Razor Burn
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Razor bumps—no one likes them, but many people who shave gets them! These uncomfortable red bumps pop up after shaving and result from ingrown hairs. Razor bumps often happen on the face, bikini line, and legs, but they can pop up anywhere on your body you shave, and sometimes they refuse to budge. 

Here we’ll explain how to prevent razor bumps, starting with what they are and how they happen. We’ll also share tips for keeping your skin smooth and clear.

What are razor bumps? 

Razor bumps are the dry, red, angry bumps that appear on your skin after shaving. They are essentially irritated hair follicles and may involve the area around the follicles. A more “intense” form of razor bumps is pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), a chronic inflammatory disorder of the skin characterized by papules, pustules, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).¹

Razor bumps and razor burn are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually different conditions. Razor burn, also called razor rash, can cause itchy rashes, tenderness, and redness. On the other hand, razor bumps are ingrown hairs caused by cut hair strands that have curled back into the skin and are growing under the surface. These ingrown hairs present as red bumps similar to pimples that are often itchy, inflamed, and painful. 

What causes razor bumps? 

Razor bumps are caused by, you guessed it, shaving. Your hair may curl inward after shaving and become trapped by the new skin that forms over the top. This trapped hair becomes a red bump, and while common and preventable, it’s very frustrating. 

When it comes to PFB, this occurs more frequently in individuals with tight curly hair,² but here are a few additional factors that up your risk of developing both razor bumps and pseudofolliculitis barbae.

  • Shaving dry, unmoisturized skin (which is why you should always use shaving cream!)

  • Shaving too harshly or quickly

  • Using a dull or clogged razor

  • Shaving in the wrong direction, against the hair growth 

After shaving legs irritation razor

How to identify razor bumps 

Still not sure if you’re experiencing bumps or burn? Both can result in redness, tenderness, rash and itchiness. However, razor burn typically occurs immediately or within hours of shaving and may subside with time. Razor bumps happen when shaved hair grows back as an ingrown hair. As mentioned earlier, while papules and pustules occur rarely, they are sometimes seen in more severe cases of razor bumps.

Young woman shaving her legs

How to get rid of razor bumps

Do razor bumps go away? They do, but unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. It can take a while for them to stop popping up after you shave. That said, taking preventative measures before, during, and after shaving can help lessen their likelihood and speed up their departure. Wondering what helps razor bumps go away? Here’s what you can do:

  • Use a warm compress: Apply a warm towel or washcloth to your razor bumps for several minutes. A compress will encourage the ingrown hairs to break through the skin's surface, speeding up the healing process. 

  • Keep skin well moisturized: When it comes to razor bumps, itching is an unfortunate side effect. Keeping your skin moisturized will help you stay hands-off, and less scratching means better healing. 

  • Try a skincare brush: Use a skincare brush, such as a dry brush or even a soft toothbrush, to gently brush your skin. Brushing can help remove dirt and debris from your pores and guide your hairs out to help prevent them from becoming trapped. Be very careful not to brush too hard. 

  • Use acids: Use a product containing salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), or glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). These ingredients help slough off dead skin, reduce inflammation, and unclog pores, which may help treat razor bumps. Look for these ingredients in cleansers, toners, lotions, and peels.

  • Talk with your dermatology or healthcare provider: Schedule an appointment to discuss using prescription medication to help prevent and treat your razor bumps. Your provider may prescribe a prescription retinoid such as tretinoin, adapalene, or tazarotene.

  • Avoid shaving: Not shaving³ is the only surefire way to stop razor bumps in their tracks. 

How to prevent razor bumps 

Now that you know how to treat them, let’s discuss how to not get razor bumps. Aside from simply not shaving, which isn’t always practical, there are several things you can work into your shaving routine to help minimize these painful bumps. Here are a few ways to help prevent razor bumps from forming: 

  • Exfoliate first: Use a gentle scrub to remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin before you shave.  

  • Moisturize before: Moisturizing is another important step to take before you shave. Soak the area you plan on shaving in warm water for a few minutes beforehand in the shower or bath, and use a moisturizing shaving cream or shaving gel.⁴

  • Always use a sharp blade: Use a sharp razor blade⁵ every time you shave to help protect your skin. If you can feel your razor blade tugging or pulling at your skin or hair, it’s time to change it. It’s recommended to replace your disposable razor after five to seven shaves. If you use an electric razor, be sure to clean it after every few shaves.

  • Shave in the direction your hair grows: Contrary to what many of us were taught growing up, shaving against the grain is not the way to go. This is especially important for sensitive skin, as shaving in the direction of your hair growth also helps avoid irritation. Use short, steady strokes and avoid going over the same area more than twice.

  • Use products with active ingredients: Products containing AHAs and BHAs, like salicylic and glycolic acids, retinoids, and benzoyl peroxide, will help keep your pores clear, reducing the likelihood of developing razor bumps.

  • Moisturize afterward: Apply a hydrating oil or lotion after you shave. Look for formulas that do not contain alcohol, as this ingredient can lead to irritated skin. 

  • Try a new tool: If you’re having trouble eradicating your razor bumps, try using an electric shaver instead of a razor.

Curology cleanser custom formula and moisturizer

Curology’s experts are here to help 

If you’re experiencing razor burn, Curology’s moisturizing products are generally safe for sensitive skin and a great way to hydrate your skin after shaving! 

Curology offers convenient, customized skincare that’s designed to meet your unique skin’s needs regarding acne, signs of aging, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea. We help take the guesswork out of your skincare routine by working with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide custom treatment options.

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Signing up is easy. Just answer a few questions and snap a few selfies to help us get to know your skin. If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our in-house, licensed dermatology providers who will provide expert guidance throughout your skincare journey. 

Best of all, your first month of Curology is free—just pay $4.95 (plus tax)* to cover shipping and handling. You’ll receive your personalized prescription formula at no extra cost along with any of our other recommended products to complement your skincare routine.

FAQs

What are razor bumps?

Razor bumps are the dry, red, angry bumps that appear on your skin after shaving. They are essentially irritated hair follicles and may involve the area around the follicles.

What causes razor bumps?

  • Shaving dry, unmoisturized skin (which is why you should always use shaving cream!)

  • Shaving too harshly or quickly

  • Using a dull or clogged razor

  • Shaving in the wrong direction, against the hair growth 

How to identify razor bumps?

Still not sure if you’re experiencing bumps or burn? Both can result in redness, tenderness, rash and itchiness. However, razor burn typically occurs immediately or within hours of shaving and may subside with time.

How to get rid of razor bumps?

  • Use a warm compress

  • Keep skin well moisturized

  • Try a skincare brush

  • Use acids

  • Talk with your dermatology or healthcare provider

  • Avoid shaving 

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Ogunbiyi, A., Pseudofolliculitis barbae; current treatment options. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. (2019).

  2. Ogunbiyi, A., Pseudofolliculitis barbae; current treatment options. Ibid.

  3. Schleehauf, B., 6 razor bump prevention tips from dermatologist. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (n.d.).

  4. Schleehauf, B., 6 razor bump prevention tips from dermatologist. Ibid.

  5. Ludmann, P., Razor bump remedies for men with darker skin tones. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (n.d.).

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. Trial is 30 days.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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