Razor bumps suck.
If you use a razor, regardless of who you are or what area you’re shaving, razor bumps are a very real thing, and they are just horrible.
We hate them. You hate them. We all hate them, but they happen.
Razor bumps are one of the significant drawbacks to grooming. They are a red, patchy rash reaction to the way new hair grows back after being shaved that is miserable. They are also something that seem to plague you no matter how carefully you shave.
If that sounds familiar, then the only thing holding you back is knowledge. We're going to drop a truckload on you so that you can defeat those bumps and groom with impunity.
Truckload of knowledge time
One thing we want to make sure you’re reading correctly is that we’re talking about razor BUMPS. These are very different from razor BURN.
Razor bumps are basically ingrown hairs
The bumps occur post-shaving when your hair starts to grow back, but it curls back on itself and actually grows into the skin. This is what causes the bumps. The hair actually gets trapped under your skin and the reaction is a raised, red, and sometimes puss-filled bump. Think of a pimple caused by a trapped hair under your skin.
Razor burn is an actual inflammation of the skin caused by a razor
One type of razor burn is called folliculitis and that is a fancy word for a physical strain on the hair follicles. It is usually a direct result of an old razor, a dirty razor, dry shaving without the proper prep and lubrication, or going against the grain of the hair when you shave.
The physical strain is caused because the razor is not providing a smooth, clean, and sharp shave. This is what we refer to as a sharp shave, so razor burn is often caused by a not-so-sharp shave.
If you’ve ever aggressively attacked a spot on your body or face with a razor or you have to shave an area over and over again, odds are you probably have given yourself a razor burn that way.
There is also this thing called pseudofolliculitis barbae which is a dermatology term that also falls into the razor BUMPS category. When you shave, your hair is cut at the surface of your skin, but depending on the hair and the angle it is cut at, it might grow back all pokey.
For people who have really coarse or thick hair, the new hair growing back can actually be sharp and this affects the surface layer of your skin as well. Pseudofolliculitis barbae is pretty common in people with curly hair. People blessed with curly AND thick hair genes combined unfortunately have to deal with this issue a lot more often than you fair, thin-haired folks.
BUT curly and thick-haired people usually have fantastic beards, so trade-off?
Didn’t know we were about to drop medical terms and Latin too, huh?
We told you, truckload.
Now that you know a little more about the bumps and the bumps vs. a burn, let’s discuss what you can actually do about it.
What can I do about these bumps?
The solution to preventing razor BURN is a mix of good hygiene best practices, good shaving best practices, and making sure your razor is clean and sharp.
When it comes to razor bumps, sometimes they are just related to how thick your hair is and how your body grows back your hair. Regardless of whether your bumps are actually caused mainly by your genetics, they are still annoying and there are things you can do to settle down the issue.
Mother Earth and modern pharmaceuticals create some convenient remedies for razor bumps caused by ingrown hairs:
- Aloe vera
- Coconut oil
- Tea Tree oil
- Witch hazel
- Oatmeal bath
- Hydrocortisone creams
For most of these remedies, all you need to do is apply a thin layer to the affected area, keep it clean, and try and keep it dry. Oatmeal baths can be full bath experiences and you get to soak in the tub or you can create an oatmeal paste and apply it to the bumpy area.
Razor bumps tend to get more irritated if the area is moist or constricted, so ladies, we know a super annoying area is the bikini line. If you can avoid wearing underwear for at least part of the day to let the remedies above do their work and let the skin breathe, that's suggested. Ladies’ underwear can be super tight, and it cuts right into the bikini area in the crook of where the upper thigh meets the groin. That means fabric is touching the irritated area most of the day, trapping sweat and heat, and rubbing like a son of a gun. That only makes things worse.
For men, a lot of razor bumps happen on their neck or at their jawline. Tight shirts and ties can cause the same issues ladies' underwear causes to their bikini area. You have tight-fitting fabric constantly touching an already irritated area that traps heat and sweat.
Nothing creates an infection more than irritated and open skin wounds (which burn and acne-like bumps are), heat, and moisture. That’s the biggest thing to worry about with ingrown hairs. They have the ability to become ingrown hairs that are infected in no time.
All of the remedies above smooth and moisturize the skin and also open up your pores. This allows things like your ingrown hair and newly growing hair to loosen up, soften up, and uncurl to grow out of your skin instead of into your skin.
With both razor burn and razor bumps though, the best treatment is prevention if it’s possible and that starts with hygiene. Even if your hair is naturally thick and curly, hygiene best practices will keep a small set of razor bumps from becoming a bigger issue.
Good hygiene makes us smile
Hygiene seems like an obvious starting point, but it helps to know why taking care of your skin is useful for treating razor bumps. In general, there are two specific things you should do that are particularly helpful when it comes to irritation and inflammation.
Those things are showering and moisturizing.
Some of you combine that into one step. Others are more meticulous. Regardless, here's why these efforts are curing your bumps or worse, your burn.
A warm shower is helpful in a few ways.
First, showering is just a basic good habit, ya filthy animal. You get stinky and a shower is where the water and soap action happens. Clean thyself. Clean thyself, often.
Second though, the warm water helps relax the skin and open the pores. This makes it easier for the hair to break through the skin's surface without setting you on fire. Or rather, setting pieces of you on fire. Like your face or groin area.
While you're in the shower, you should exfoliate (knowledge link - boom!). Exfoliation is something a lot of women know about and practice regularly, but MEN, listen and take note. You can exfoliate too and you SHOULD.
Exfoliation is an extra layer of skincare treatment and it actually stimulates your skin, removes dead skin cells that build up (ugh!), expands on opening your pores, and makes it easy for hair to grow. That's a good thing when your hair growing in the wrong way is what causes all these annoying bumps we’ve been talking about.
Exfoliation also supports your skin being more balanced pH-wise and less oily which is also super positive.
There are specific exfoliation skincare products that usually include ingredients like sand, sugar, or mineral bits that create a granular scrub. This scrub is then applied to the skin just like a body wash and buffs and exfoliates (or abrades) the skin’s surface.
You can exfoliate your entire body, including your face. You can read more through the link above, but it’s suggested that adults (both men and women) exfoliate at least once, if not twice, a week as part of your shower routine.
Now, onto moisturizing.
Moisturizing is good for a couple of different reasons as well.
Yes, you’re getting a lecture.
First and foremost, it softens the skin, so the hair doesn't have to fight so hard. That reduces irritation.
Secondly, moisturizing makes skin healthier and more resilient. Even when hair growth is annoying, moisturized skin will simply handle the discomfort better.
Another tip? Shave better
Oh, it's that easy, is it?
Well, yes. It is.
You can do a multitude of things to improve your shaving performance, and all of them are designed to reduce irritation on the hair follicles and avoid sharpening those little hairs, so they don't turn into barbae.
So, what does it mean to shave better?
At MANSCAPED™, we love bullet point lists, so here we go:
- Don't shave so closely. Yeah, yeah, you want a perfectly smooth shave. We get it. But if that shave is leading to razor bumps, how much smoothness and sexiness are you really getting? You can still have a nice shave, but when you leave the hair above the surface of the skin, you're not irritating those follicles. And, your hair won't be poking you because it doesn't have to break back through the surface. In fact, an excellent trimmer might be a better tool for you than your razor. It's something to think about, especially if this is a recurring issue.
- If you absolutely must shave, then do it well. Go with the grain (see the discussion we just had about the trade-off of a perfectly smooth shave). Make sure you don't skimp on shaving lubrication. In fact, if you have lube with aloe in it, it can treat the irritation even as it happens.
- We’re going to say it again and keep saying it, keep your blades sharp and clean! Nothing is going to set your skin ablaze faster than a dull, poorly maintained razor.
To simplify it even further:
- Lathering up with shaving gel (don’t skimp)
- Exfoliate your skin before shaving
- Don’t go against the grain
- Rinse your shaving blade regularly
- Avoid old razors
- Stay moisturized between shaves
- Consider not shaving daily, as shaving can cause both razor burn and bumps/ingrown hairs
For some of you, we want to be honest that razor bumps might be a constant issue you’re plagued with. Even though remedies and good hygiene techniques will help calm down the issue, if your hair is prone to grow back ingrown or you have hair that is subject to irritation after shaving, you also might want to think about permanent solutions.
We have a whole other article on alternative hair removal to shaving including waxing and even laser hair removal.
At the end of the day though, as long as you're grooming deliberately and keeping things clean, there are parts of your body that don't need to be bare. Own your body hair, maintain it, and control it, but you can rock the hairy look if it’s well-groomed.
Grooming is the key to happiness
We’re giving you the key.
Now, open the door.
Let's put all of this into practice.
When you have a healthy grooming routine, you get all of life's benefits of being adequately groomed, and you get to skip the razor burn.
We’ve given you a few remedies to help combat the situation if it flares up and a few alternatives. Every person’s body hair is different, so try a few things out, see what works and what doesn’t, and adjust.