How can you prevent razor burn and razor bumps?

This post was updated in August 2020

If you have sensitive skin and shave, you have probably wondered at one time or another how to get rid of razor bumps, also called pseudofolliculitis barbae. Some people are more susceptible to developing razor bumps and burns, like those with coarse or curly hair.

If you’re experiencing skin irritation or have pimples that appear after shaving for the first time, your first step should be to reach out to a dermatologist for diagnosis.

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What Is a Razor Bump?

Razor bumps, also known as ingrown hairs, are irritated bumps on the skin. They develop after shaving, waxing, plucking, and other hair removal techniques. Hairs curl back on themselves and grow into the skin.

In addition to causing skin irritation, razor bumps can lead to pimples and/or scarring.

What can cause razor bumps?

Your skin and hair type can make razor bumps more likely: They occur more often in people with curly hairs.

But how you shave also can play a role. Other causes of razor bumps include:

  • Using an old razor
  • Using a dull razor
  • Shaving dry skin
  • Shaving against the direction your hair grows

How to Prevent Razor Bumps

Other than having a genetic predisposition to razor bumps, there are other factors that make an outbreak more likely.

If your hair shaft or follicle is dry, you’re more likely to pull and tug the hair during shaving. This pulling can break the hair under the skin, which can cause irritation and lead to razor bumps. Learn what you can do to prevent this condition, and what razor bump treatment you can try if it happens to you.

Clean the area

One of the best ways of preventing razor bumps is to wash the area with warm water and soap using a gentle scrub or shaving brush. This will remove oils and dirt that can clog pores, allowing the razor to gain proper contact with the skin to avoid tugging. Keeping your skin clean can also help you avoid getting a skin infection like folliculitis.

Skin care

Paying attention to your skin can help you prevent razor bumps.

  • Exfoliate your skin before shaving, using a brush, scrub, or chemicals to get rid of dead skin
  • Wet your skin before shaving to soften your hair and make it easier to shave
  • Apply a shaving cream or gel
  • Moisturize the area after shaving

Keeping the skin hydrated before, during, and after will make shaving an effortless process so that you can avoid the discomfort of razor bumps.

Razor maintenance and shaving technique

  • Store your razor in a dry place; damp conditions can cause your razor to rust, leading to other skin infections.
  • Make sure to replace razors frequently; a dull razor may cause the dragging and tugging that causes razor bumps.
  • Use a shaving brush to raise hair for better contact.
  • Use a sharp razor.
  • Shave in the direction of hair growth.
  • Use short, quick strokes while shaving.
  • Rinse your blade frequently while shaving.
  • Shave often, because longer hairs can re-enter the skin’s surface.

The final touch

Rinse the area with cold water to soothe the skin. Apply a balm that is fragrance-free. Don’t use any products that contain alcohol, as they can irritate the skin.

Razor bumps can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks before going away.

Treating Razor Bumps

While the occurrence of red bumps after shaving can be uncomfortable, treating razor bumps isn’t usually an expensive or complicated process.

  • Don't shave:  Stopping hair removal is the best method for treating and/or preventing razor bumps. However, this may not be possible or preferable for people.
  • Moisturize your skin:  Using a moisturizer after shaving can either prevent razor bumps from forming or soothe any that appear.
  • Try home remedies:  Tea tree oil, a natural astringent, can help with the healing process by drying out the bumps without hurting surrounding skin. Aloe vera can help to soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.
  • Use a cool compress:  Though a warm compress prior to shaving can help to reduce the need for razor bumps treatment, a cool compress can be used for treating razor bumps when they occur. Chilled cucumbers applied to the skin can also reduce swelling.
  • Use topical steroids:  If the skin becomes itchy, hydrocortisone can also provide some relief.

With these tips, you won’t have to worry about dealing with uncomfortable razor bumps. For more information on preventing razor bumps, or other skin conditions, contact the UPMC Department of Dermatology.

About Dermatology

The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is a comprehensive dermatologic laser facility, offering a full range of cosmetic services and procedures. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Find a dermatology provider near you.