What Is the Best Way to Treat Razor Bumps from Shaving?

Reviewed on 3/23/2021

What are razor bumps?

There are no medicines that specifically cure razor bumps. You can use over-the-counter antibiotic creams to speed up healing, though.
There are no medicines that specifically cure razor bumps. You can use over-the-counter antibiotic creams to speed up healing, though.

Razor bumps are painful raised spots that show up after shaving. They are caused by shaved hairs growing back on themselves. The tip of the hair curls into the surrounding skin and grows underneath the skin instead of outward. They can be painful and cause scars or dark patches on the skin. 

The technical term for razor bumps is pseudofolliculitis barbae. Often it’s confused with razor burn. It’s uncomfortable, but there are ways to treat and prevent razor bumps.

Main symptoms

Razor bumps are swollen, painful spots in any area where you shave off hair. This includes your armpits, face, or legs. They look like pimples and may even have a white head of pus on top of them. They can leave the skin scarred or discolored even after they heal. 

Main causes

Razor bumps are ingrown hairs. When you shave off the hair shaft, the new hair grows out from the follicle. If the hair curls back toward the skin, it can penetrate the surface and start growing into the skin. 

The hair then irritates the surrounding area and leads to swelling and pain. Razor bumps can become infected, which makes them more painful and might require a trip to the doctor.

Who can get them

Anybody who shaves can get razor bumps, but they are most common in people with curly hair. African-American men who shave their beards are especially prone to razor bumps on their chin and neck. They are less common among women, but they can show up if you shave your armpits or bikini line.

Diagnosis for razor bumps from shaving

You can tell if you have razor bumps by looking at your skin. They appear in areas where you have shaved recently and resemble pimples. They might be red or have a white head. 

Sometimes, you can see the hair that is trapped under the skin. 

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Treatments for razor bumps from shaving

If you are prone to razor bumps, they will be a persistent problem for as long as you shave. However, you can take steps to treat them when they pop up. Plus, there are things you can do to prevent them from forming in the future. 

Medications

There are no medicines that specifically cure razor bumps. You can use over-the-counter antibiotic creams to speed up healing, though. Over-the-counter steroid creams with hydrocortisone can reduce the swelling. 

Sometimes, razor bumps can develop a secondary infection caused by bacteria or fungus. If that happens, your doctor or a dermatologist can prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medicine to clear up the problem.

Home care

If you do get razor bumps, it’s important to keep them clean and try not to touch them. Do not shave the area where the bumps are until they have completely healed. Shaving on top of the uneven surface could cause more bumps to form and irritate the ones you already have.

You can use a saltwater solution to soothe the bumps. Add a teaspoon of salt to two cups of warm water. Soak a clean washcloth in the saltwater and apply it to your skin.

If you can see the ingrown hair near the surface of the skin, you can sometimes release it using a needle or tweezers. Be sure to clean the skin well first and sterilize the needle or tweezers using alcohol.

Don’t try to free the hair if you can’t see it easily. You will make the bump worse by piercing the skin. You should also avoid picking or squeezing razor bumps.

Skincare products that contain salicylic acid or glycolic acid may help the bumps heal faster. These acids exfoliate the skin to clear out dead skin cells and let the ingrown hair make its way back to the surface.

Alternative therapies

Some people say using a dry brush on your skin can help with razor bumps. Gently brushing the area can brush off dead skin cells and encourage the hair to come loose from under the skin.

Prevention 

If you are prone to razor bumps, you should try to prevent them when possible. Shaving less frequently — or not at all — is the easiest way to avoid razor bumps. Switching to an electric razor can also be helpful since it won’t cut off the hair as close to the skin, so it is less likely to become ingrown. 

When you do shave, take time before you start to use warm water to soften the hair. Use a thick shaving cream to hold the hair as close to upright as possible. Don’t pull the skin tight as you shave, and always shave in the direction of the hair, not against it. Aftershave creams can help prevent bumps as well.

Complications from razor bumps

Razor bumps themselves aren’t dangerous, but they can get infected, which then becomes a problem. If you notice the bumps getting worse or more painful, you should call your doctor. You might need a prescription to clear up an infection. 

The bumps can cause long-lasting marks on your skin. Some people get keloids, or raised scars, from razor bumps. They can also create dark patches on the skin. However, these may fade over time. If they don’t, you can talk to a dermatologist about treatments for the discoloration.

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References
Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology: “Pseudofolliculitis barbae; current treatment options.”

GilletteVenus: “What Causes Razor Rashes and Bumps and How to Prevent Them.”

Medical News Today: “How to treat razor bumps.”

Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan: “Razor Bumps.”

Skin of Color Society: “Dermatology Education: Pseudofolliculitis barbae.”

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