Razor bumps are a real nuisance and can cause a lot of people, male or female, significant daily distress. They can strike at any age and they can sometimes make the day to day functioning of life, especially working life, tricky. They can be sore, disfiguring, and upsetting, and we therefore need to know how to alleviate the symptoms and address the root cause.
Definition of razor bumps
Razor bumps (or pseudofolliculitis barbae, to give them their technical term) are a skin condition that develops when the hair that has been shaved, waxed, or plucked becomes trapped and grows back into the skin. In effect, when hair goes in the wrong direction, inside, instead of outside.
This ingrown hair then causes inflammation and this inflammation then appears as a reddish or tan set of bumps along the hairline, jaw line, neckline, or whatever other area has been shaved. In truth, the face is often highly susceptible to razor bumps in men, but they can crop up everywhere there has been some difficult shaving or waxing taking place. The severity of razor bumps ranges from mild, with only a few small bumps, to severe infection, but all conditions can be irritating to a degree.
In severe cases, razor bumps may cause scarring and discoloration, as well as tenderness and pain, so we really need to do all we can to sort them and prevent them from reappearing, as it is often the repeat appearance that leads to the scarring over time, as the skin loses the ability to generate enough healing.
Causes of razor bumps
The cause usually comes from the hair being cut too close to the skin and then curling back into the skin. This is often due to using a dull razor blade, or one that’s too harsh for your skin. Always try to shave with as good and new a blade as possible. Never think a blunt blade is safer. It isn’t.
Additionally, dry shaving can invite these bumps to appear, since dry skin isn’t as pliable and makes it easier for hair to penetrate the skin. Moisturizing the area being shaved is essential.
Lastly, the wrong shaving or depilatory technique can also be the culprit, for example, pressing too hard, going in the wrong direction with the razor, or rushing. Understanding what’s causing your razor bumps is the first step to getting rid of them, so it is wise to monitor your shaving technique carefully.
Usually, symptoms can include redness, inflammation, and itchiness in the area. They are almost always visible and can be felt under the fingertips. Additionally, they can sometimes appear as red dots or patches, or, in highly sensitive cases, as yellow-tipped papules or pustules.
Moisturize skin after shaving
To improve the whole process of shaving, moisturizing your skin after shaving is an important step that is often overlooked. The creams help to protect and hydrate the skin, and this can aid in preventing razor bumps and in-grown hairs.
Change razor frequently
Ideally, you should change your razor every 5 to 10 uses, but you may benefit from even more frequent changes than that. By changing your razor more often, you’ll have less irritation and fewer razor bumps because the blades will be sharper and less dull.
Use a sharp blade
It is very important to use a sharp blade. Do not be afraid of the sharpness; it is actually a help.
A sharp blade provides a smooth, clean shave and reduces the chance of irritating your skin, which means less chances of razor bumps. A sharp blade also helps by reducing the pressure you have to put on the skin as you shave. It is actually the pressure – almost the ripping effect – that a blunt blade requires that is often at the core of the problem.
Choose the right shaving cream
Choosing the right shaving cream is an essential step in tackling razor bumps. If you have sensitive skin, look for a shaving cream that soothes, moisturizes and offers anti-inflammatory properties. For those with an oily complexion, look for a light product that will not clog your pores. And if your skin is normal, consider a shaving cream with natural ingredients such as shea butter and olive oil.
No matter the type of shaving cream you choose, be sure to apply a generous layer on your face before you shave to reduce the risk of razor bumps.Also be sure to let it lie for a few minutes so that it seeps into the skin and gets to the root of the hair follicles.
Shave in the direction of hair growth
One of the most important things to do when it comes to avoiding razor bumps is to always shave in the direction of hair growth. This means you should use slow, steady strokes and shave in the same direction your hair naturally grows. Doing this ensures that you won’t cut the hairs too deeply, reducing the risk of irritation and razor bumps.
How to Get Rid of Razor Bumps
Apply a cold compress
One way to reduce razor bumps is by applying a cold compress. The cold will help reduce inflammation, irritation and the overall pain associated with razor bumps. To use the cold compress, simply place an ice pack or cold and damp cloth on the affected area for up to 10 minutes at a time.
But remember – take frequent breaks. Leaving the cold compress on for too long can actually cause further irritation. The skin does not need or want to be freezing cold. It just needs to be lower than normal for the desired effect to take place.
Use an over-the-counter medication
Fortunately, there are several different types of over-the-counter medications available to help treat razor bumps. These include hydrocortisone creams, anti-inflammatory ointments, and topical retinoids. All of these options can provide fast results and help reduce the amount of irritation caused by razor bumps. If you’re considering using an over-the-counter medication, it’s important to speak to your pharmacist first. They can provide advice on which product is best suited for your skin type and help make sure that you get the most out of your treatment.
Take ibuprofen or aspirin
You may not think of this as a viable option, but it is. This is because both ibuprofen and aspirin are anti-inflammatory drugs. They reduce inflammation and swelling, which can help decrease the appearance of razor bumps. So if you’re looking for a quick relief, either of these medications could be a good choice.
As always, make sure to read labels carefully when you are buying non-prescription drugs.
Consider laser treatment
This might sound extreme, but it’s actually quite effective. If done by a dermatologist you can target the ingrown hairs and decrease inflammation. After just a few sessions, you may well begin to see a dramatic improvement in the appearance of your skin.
The additional benefit to laser treatments is that not only do they get rid of razor bumps, they also help prevent them from coming back. Always take advice, though, before considering this relatively drastic approach. This will not be the suitable option for those suffering just the occasional issue.
Apply hydrocortisone cream
You might also want to try applying hydrocortisone cream. Hydrocortisone is an anti-inflammatory drug that helps reduce the swelling and irritation caused by razor bumps. To apply it, gently rub it on the affected area twice daily. You should notice a difference soon after you start the applications.
Use aloe vera gel
Aloe vera is effective as a topical treatment because it has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce redness, itching, and swelling. Plus, it’s moisturizing, making sure that your skin doesn’t dehydrate or become dry. In addition, aloe vera gel is also known for its antiseptic properties, which prevent bacteria from infecting razor bumps.
It may, therefore, be a really decent option for you to try. It covers all the bases!
Avoid using a razor
Though it may sound extreme, if you want to avoid razor bumps, it’s best to avoid using a razor altogether. Waxing and depilatory creams are two examples of alternative methods, and there are many options for such creams in most supermarkets or pharmacies.
Each method has its benefits and drawbacks, so consider giving one a limited try, perhaps on an isolated part of the body. You may find that you prefer these methods over using a razor, especially for parts of the body other than the face.
Keep the area clean
Keeping the area of hair clean is important. Your skin will benefit from your using warm water and a mild cleanser gently to exfoliate and remove any dead skin cells. This will aid in the razor’s movement across your skin, especially in tricky areas of the jaw line for men. Additionally, use an alcohol-free toner after every shave to help reduce razor burn. It is very important it is alcohol-free, as alcohol is an astringent and will make the skin sting and dry.
Be gentle when shaving
It’s important to take your time and not rush through a shave. Try using a lightweight razor and use short, slow strokes over each area of skin. Ideally, make sure to always stretch your skin beforehand in order to get a close shave and avoid irritation or nicks.
Use warm water for shaving
You may have noticed that when you shave with warm water, it feels smoother. This is usually the case for most of us. But using warm water for shaving can also help you get rid of razor bumps. This is because warm water makes the hairs softer and therefore easier to cut.
Rinse your blades with alcohol
One important tip that many people are unaware of is to rinse your blades with alcohol after every shave. This simple trick not only helps you avoid bacteria, but it can also help reduce razor bumps. The alcohol works to sanitize and dry the blade more quickly, which in turn prevents any razor bumps from forming. In addition, this practice also helps to keep the blades sharper for longer, and a sharper blade gives a closer shave, which is less likely to result in razor bumps.
Exfoliate the skin
One of the most effective methods to reduce razor bumps is exfoliating the skin. This process gently removes the dead skin cells and other debris from the surface of the skin. You can use a loofah or soft scrub brush in the shower, though even a facecloth can have a lovely effect on the skin by sloughing off the surface impediments that gather as dead skin cells.
Don’t forget to moisturize afterwards, however, as after an exfoliating cream or scrub, we absolutely need to hydrate the skin again.
Wear soft fabric
Rigid, rough fabric can aggravate and worsen razor bumps, so the best solution is to wear soft, lightweight fabrics that won’t irritate sensitive skin. Cotton is an ideal option for clothing, but you should also look for materials like silk or satin for your bedding.
In addition, wearing materials like cotton and linen can help keep your skin cool, which can prevent sweat and bacteria from forming and further enriching bumps. So if you’re dealing with razor bumps, try changing the fabrics you wear.
Avoid touching affected area
One of the best ways to avoid razor bumps is to avoid touching the affected area. One tip is to wear loose clothing over the area, keeping the fabric away from the skin.
Additionally, try to make sure you don’t apply too much pressure when wiping or patting the area dry after washing. An antiseptic cream may help to soothe the area and protect it further, but make sure you’re gentle when applying it.
Finally, try to keep your hands away as much as possible. Touching the affected spot will not help it heal any faster, and may make it worse, as your hands carry bacteria.
Not only is moisturizing great for the overall health of your skin, but it also helps to keep razor bumps at bay. You can use a light lotion or cream moisturizer after you shave, allowing your skin to stay hydrated. Hydration reduces friction, which is one of the main causes of razor bumps.
Moisturizing regularly also helps keep your skin from becoming too dry and irritated from shaving. This will help to prevent razor bumps from forming in the first place.