Having to deal with razor bumps could be quite frustrating especially when you do not know just how to deal with them. So, if you’ve been searching all over the internet for ‘bumps when shaving’, ‘shaving bumps’, ‘razor bumps legs’, ‘are razor bumps itchy’ or ‘razor bumps prevention’, you need not search further. We bring you everything you need to know and more on razor bumps, it’s causes and how to get rid of them.
One of the most common questions I receive from African American men deals with razor bumps. It is estimated that up to 80% of African American men suffer from razor bumps at some point during their lives.
Razor bumps, also called Pseudofollicultis Barbae, can occur in any area that hair is temporarily removed by shaving, waxing or tweezing. These painful bumps and pustules occur when hairs curl back into the skin causing your body to perceive them as “foreignâ€ (like a splinter) and produce an inflammatory response. This inflammation can cause bumps, pus, discoloration and keloidal scars.
As every man cannot wear a full beard as well as James Harden or George Clooney, there are many who desire a more conservative look. For those that “fear the beard,â€ the prospect of razor bumps can be daunting.
Here are a few tips to help put the bumps to rest and keep you smooth, neat and office-ready.
Preventing Razor Bumps:
1. Don’t cut hair too closely. Focus on looking “clean-shaven,â€ not necessarily feeling “silky smooth.â€ If using a razor can be avoided, use electric clippers to trim hair to about a millimeter in length. This is short enough to be considered office appropriate and keeps bumps at bay.
2. Change shaving techniques. If you must use a razor, use a single-edged razor and shave in the direction your hair grows. Remember, “Go with the grain!â€
a. Do not repeatedly shave the same area. Do not stretch or pull skin while shaving.
b. Shave while your hair is wet and use a moisturizing shaving cream or gel. Softening and hydrating the hair allows the razor to cut the hair cleanly with less force causing less irritation and reducing irregularly cut hairs that are prone to becoming ingrown.
c. Shave at least every 3 days to reduce the time hairs have to grow and curl back into the skin.
3. Use proper post-shaving care.
a. Starting 1 day after shaving, use a soft bristle brush, wash cloth or Buf- Puf (ask a female friend about it) to gently massage the face and neck at night to help remove and loosen dead skin and hairs to keep them from curling back into the skin after shaving.
b. Alternatively, use a daily moisturizing product that contains salicylic acid or glycolic acid to gently exfoliate the skin and keep hairs growing in the right direction. I like Tend Skin and Ingrown Eliminating pads by Bliss. They both also contain many moisturizers and soothing agents. Remember to see product instructions regarding how soon the product should be applied after shaving.
Treatments for Razor Bumps
1. Avoid shaving until all bumps have healed. Remove ingrown hairs by gently inserting a toothpick or sterile needle under the hair loop and releasing it. Do not pluck. Using warm compresses can help soothe discomfort and open pores.
2. See a board certified dermatologist. I often prescribe a combination of an antibiotic gel and a topical steroid or retinoid (Tazorac or Retin-A) for moderate cases. Oral antibiotics can be effective in the right patient. Eflornithine cream can also be prescribed to reduce hair growth; however, it takes many weeks to see an effect and must be used indefinitely. Intralesional steroid injections can be used to treat keloidal or hypertrophic scars. In severe cases, laser hair reduction using a Diode or Nd:YAG laser can be curative. I have had great results with both.
Most importantly, be patient and remember that razor bumps are stubborn annoyances that can last for many weeks but in most cases will resolve. With a little preparation and by employing consistent, healthy skin care techniques, you can stop them before they begin.
How to Prevent Razor Burn, Razor Bumps, & Ingrown Hairs
Nothing feels or looks worse after a good shave than an irritated face and neckline. What causes these unsightly issues though and how do we prevent them?
What Causes Shave Irritation?
There are two main layers of skin. The top layer is made up of old, dead skin cells, while the bottom layer is newly formed skin cells. When you shave, you naturally exfoliate the face, removing the dead skin. Razor burn and razor bumps occur when improperly preparing your face for a shave, and thus, irritate the newly formed skin.
Razor Burn: Razor burn occurs when you’ve irritated the skin by shaving. This can happen for many reasons – you’ve irritated skin by too many razor strokes, bacteria from your razor has infected the skin, or you just have sensitive skin.
Ingrown Hairs and razor bumps: Ingrown hair and razor bumps occur when hair doesn’t fully grow beyond the skin’s surface and instead, coils back into the skin, creating bumps, irritation and potentially infection. African American men often have major issues with ingrown hairs since their hair is predominately curly, meaning hair grows right back into the skin.
How to Prevent Shave Irritation
- Steam open your hair follicles and thoroughly wet your face – Take time in the morning to take a hot shower, which opens up the follicles and softens the hairs. Make sure you never shave without thoroughly wetting your face or beard. Wet hair is dramatically weaker than dry hair, allowing for it to be cut more easily.
- Exfoliate – Using a face scrub for men on the hair areas you’re going to shave will loosen up hairs, allowing for a cleaner shave. Exfoliating (scrubbing) also helps remove the top, dead layer of skin on the face allowing the blade to cut the hair closer at its base.
- Always use a sharp, new blade – Never use a blade more than 4-5 uses and keep it disinfected by pouring some alcohol on it before shaving (make sure to rinse after disinfecting with alcohol). One of the biggest causes of skin irritation is bacteria coming from your blade. We highly suggest using a single blade option as well – like a safety razor.
- Shave with the grain of your hair, gently – Always shave with the grain of your hair and do not press your blade into your skin. Pulling the skin tight to get a “closer shave” causes you to cut the hair underneath the skin, causing the hair to grow into the skin, not out of it.
- Rinse the blade off between strokes- This prevents men’s shaving cream, whiskers, and dead skin cells from building up on the blade and ultimately preventing a close shave.
- Use a natural, non-lathering shave cream – The best shaving cream for men is one that doesn’t lather. The ingredients used to create lather are very irritating to the skin. Picture this: Every time you shave, you’re creating microscope cuts in the skin, to only then let irritating chemicals seep into the skin. This creates the perfect opportunity for irritation to occur. Just say no to foam or lather.
- Use an alcohol free aftershave – The best aftershave lotion for men is one that doesn’t contain alcohol or menthol. Instead, use a men’s aftershave balm that contains natural Alpha Hydroxy Acids such as sugar cane, sugar maple, and orange peel. These natural anti-septics help the skin repair itself without infection or red bumps. While you may think alcohol or menthol will help disinfect the skin and prevent bacteria from causing zits and bumps after a shave, it’s the complete opposite. Alcohol in men’s aftershave lotion will irritate the skin causing not only discomfort, but ugly irritation. All the rinsing, rubbing, and scrapping from shaving drys out the skin which creates an environment for irritation. Make sure your aftershave lotion contains an abundance of aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, and Vitamin E. These powerful natural ingredients restore lost moisture, allowing the skin to repair itself faster.
WHAT ARE RAZOR BUMPS?
CAUSES OF RAZOR BUMPS
Razor bumps are caused by shaving. Sometimes when a hair is cut off at the point where it exits the skin, it can curl back and start growing inwards. These ingrown hairs cause irritation to the hair follicle, which swells into a small red lump that looks a bit like a pimple.
By using proper shaving technique, you can help to reduce shaving bumps and ingrown hairs.
- Wet the skin with hot water to open up the pores before shaving.
- Use a thick lather of shaving cream to protect the skin.
- Always use a sharp razor blade in a high-quality razor.
- Shave in the direction that the hair grows.
- Press a cold, damp cloth against the face after shaving to close the pores back up.
If you already have razor bumps, then it might be a good idea to hold off on shaving for a few days while they heal up. Shaving skin that is already irritated by razor burn is a recipe for pain, and you could even end up with scarring if the damage is never given chance to heal.
TYPES OF RAZOR BUMPS
There are actually two types of razor bumps: extrafollicular and transfollicular. In the former case, the hair turns around and grows inwards without exiting the skin at all. In transfollicular razor bumps, however, the hair exits the skin and reenters it, so you may be able to see a small amount of exposed hair. In this case, you might be able to tease the end of the hair out of the skin with a pair of tweezers, but resist the temptation to pluck the hair out completely: you’ll only end up with deeper ingrown hairs if you do.
WHO GETS RAZOR BUMPS?
Men are more likely to suffer from razor bumps than women. This is both because men shave every day and because the skin on the face is an especially sensitive part of the body. A recent poll conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology found that 78% of men had experienced some form of irritation as a result of shaving, which could include razor bumps, reddened skin, or soreness.
Whereas only 20% of Caucasians experience problems with razor bumps, various sources claim that between 60-80% of black men are affected. This is because the tightly curled facial hair of black men is more prone to curling around and burrowing back into the skin than straighter hair types. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that men with curly facial hair were 50 times more likely to suffer from razor bumps than their straight-haired counterparts.
As black skin is also more susceptible to keloid scarring, which can develop if razor bumps are left untreated, it is especially important for black men to learn how to prevent and treat this common skin condition