Your Guide to Getting Rid of and Preventing Red Razor Bumps
A comprehensive how-to guide for smoother days.
Even if you're super careful when you're shaving, it's still possible to end up with razor bumps. Of course, as Murphy's Law dictates, this shaving mishap always happens when you're getting ready to go away for a long weekend or spend the afternoon at the nearest beach.
But, painful, red razor bumps aren't just caused by a case of bad luck (it's a little deeper than that). With the help of Dr. Melanie Palm, a Solana Beach CA-based board certified dermatologist and director of Art of Skin MD, Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, board certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in NYC, and Dr. Orit Markowitz, board certified dermatologist and founder of OptiSkin in NYC, we've created a comprehensive guide on how to get rid of stubborn razor bumps from shaving — fast.
What Causes Razor Bumps?
First things first, it's important to understand what razor bumps are and how they are caused. According to Dr. Markowitz, razor bumps, also known as pseudofolliculitis, are "inflammation of hair follicles and surrounding skin, caused by hairs trapped beneath the skin surface."
It turns out, they are directly related to the texture and growth pattern of the hair on the area of the body you're shaving. "Razor bumps are caused by an inflammatory reaction when terminal (thick, dark, mature) hairs that have previously been shaved try to re-emerge from the skin but become trapped," explains Dr. Palm. "The hair curves back under the skin or continues under the skin's surface and causes red or dark brown raised bumps centered around each hair follicle unit."
Curly hair, hair that grows against the grain, or areas with high skin friction are more prone to razor bumps. Dr. MacGregor adds that sometimes nicks from shaving can further irritate or infect the skin, creating a more wide-spread problem. "Infections of the hair follicles (folliculitis) can also cause bumps or pustules," she tells us.
How to Quickly Get Rid of Stubborn Razor Bumps
On the upside, there are a few possible quick fixes for these pesky razor bumps. Both Dr. Palm and Dr. Markowitz recommend applying an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to the affected area. A salicylic acid cream from your drugstore's acne aisle works, too.
Dr. MacGregor also recommends trying a benzoyl peroxide wash between shaves. She likes the Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser and Mask ("This it can [also] be left on as a mask for five minutes two to three times a week," she says.) She suggests using SkinSmart Antimicrobial Spray daily to remove any bacteria from the area as well.
Dr. Markowitz strictly urges resisting the temptation to pick. Instead, she recommends using a warm compress to open the pore in an attempt to release the trapped hair. If bumps persist or do not go away, it's time to see professional treatment from a trusted derm.
VIDEO: Double Cleansing Is the Foolproof Way to Really Get All of Your Makeup Off
Can You Prevent Razor Bumps?
Aside from permanent hair removal, there's no real way to completely prevent razor bumps. That being said, if you're prone to getting razor bumps, there's a few steps you can take in your skincare routine that will help you get a smoother finish when you're shaving.
In the shower, use a loofah with a cleanser, because the puff can help the trapped hair re-emerge faster. "Use of a gentle exfoliating ingredient such as salicylic acid may reduce the likelihood that skin will trap a re-emerging hair from its follicle," suggests Dr. Palm. When you're shaving, use a fresh razor that has multiple blades, shaving cream, and always work in the direction of hair growth. Dr. Markowitz also advises changing your razor often and never using a dull blade.
Also, despite popular belief, immediately applying your usual lotion and deodorant post-shave won't increase your chances of getting razor bumps. However, these products can make things worse. "A topical such as a deodorant or lotion can be potentially irritating to sensitive skin or occlusive to a hair follicle, so it could worsen the case of razor bumps," says Dr. Palm.
If all else fails and the problem persists, Dr. Markowitz suggests seeking help from your dermatologist, who can either inject anti-inflammatories to treat the bumps or prescribe oral antibiotics. For a more long-term solution, both she and Dr. MacGregor say that laser hair removal is the best permanent solution. "There are several different types of lasers available to treat hair removal and your derm would be able to recommend the best option for you and your skin/hair type," says Dr. Markowitz.