What are razor bumps?
Razor bumps, also known as pseudofolliculitis barbae, are small irritated bumps that develop after shaving. Some people refer them as shaving pimples because an infected razor bump can look a lot like a bad case of acne, especially if you have a cluster of razor bumps in the same area—you may even hear people call them shaving bumps. They develop when strands of hair curl back on themselves and grow into the skin. Razor bumps can cause skin irritation such as rashes and pimples. They also may cause scarring. Men and women with curly hair and/or dark skin are more susceptible to razor bumps than people with straight hair because of the way razor bumps form. Ironically, today’s razors that promise the closest shaves are the ones that are more likely to cause razor bumps in people prone to the condition.
What causes razor bumps?
Razor bumps are most often caused by a freshly shaven hair that has been cut at an angle, thus rendering it more “sharp,” that curls back against the skin, penetrating the skin and causing the body react by treating it like an infection causing painful swelling and the tell-tale red bumps. When it becomes a bigger problem, it’s known as Barber’s Rash, which is actually caused by Staph bacteria commonly found in the nose. Like acne, razor bumps can be uncomfortable and unpleasant thus making people self conscious about their appearances. There are many ways you can treat and prevent razor bumps. Using a blunt razor can also contribute to razor bumps as well as shaving too often. A dirty razor blade that introduces bacteria into the skin also can be the culprit for razor bumps.
There are several ways you can prevent razor bumps from appearing on your skin. It is recommended to shave every other day. If this isn’t an option, try an electric razor. Use a loofah sponge to lightly scrub the area 3 or 4 hours after shaving. This may be enough to encourage the new hair to break through the skin. Allow your skin to get warm before shaving. The heat from the razor opens your pores allowing you shave with less irritation.
It also helps to use a sharp razor. Dull razors pull and tear the hair and often, the skin. Shave only in the direction of the natural hair growth. You won’t have the closest shave but you will reduce razor bumps. Hold loose skin slightly taut when shaving to prevent skin burn. The razor easily nicks skin on the neck, groin area and armpits. After shaving, irritated skin inflames and blocks the new hair growth.
You can also significantly reduce razor bumps by using an alternate method of hair removal. A depilatory cream applied once a week will replace one or two shaving sessions. Waxing the unshaven area removes the entire hair follicle, allowing for slower grow-back and few razor bumps. Laser hair treatment destroys the hair in the follicle, leaving your skin hair-free and smooth. Apply an astringent such as witch hazel after shaving to reduce localized infections and razor bumps.
Irritated skin can benefit from moisture. The act of shaving and using some shaving soaps can dry the skin further. Aloe Vera gel is an effective lubricant for many forms of skin irritation. You can obtain Aloe Vera gel by squeezing the fleshy part of a fresh Aloe Vera stem. Aloe gel is also sold at many pharmacies, but it may contain other ingredients including perfumes or dyes, which may further irritate the razor bumps.
You can use various household chemicals natural astringents, or drying agents, which can speed the healing of razor bumps. Some astringents can be too drying; use these in combination with a mild facial lotion or aloe gel. Examples of skin-calming astringents include apple cider vinegar and witch hazel. Don’t use rubbing alcohol on razor bumps; however, you can use it to kill any potential bacteria on razor blades. When razor bumps occur, it is advisable to wipe razor blades with alcohol or replace them entirely to prevent the skin from becoming infected, resulting in a condition called folliculitis.
As soon as razor bumps develop on the skin, treatment revolves around soothing irritation and reducing inflammation. Minor flare-ups often respond favorably to a warm compress. The heat from the compress reduces the swelling and opens the pores, which can help free the hair from the opening of the affected follicle. In more moderate, severe or chronic cases of razor bumps, medical intervention is sometimes needed. Topical ointments available by prescription can reduce inflammation and free the hair from the follicle. Tretinoin is one of the more common ointments, but a doctor may prescribe adapalene or hydrocortisone.