Even if you are very careful when shaving, it is still possible to end up with razor bumps. Of course, as Murphy’s Law dictates, that shaving incident always happens when you’re about to head out 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 bit deeper than that). With the help of Dr. Melanie Palm, Solana Beach CA Board Certified Dermatologist and Director of MD skin artDr. Jennifer MacGregor, Board Certified Dermatologist Union Square Laser Dermatology in New Yorkand Dr. Orit Markowitz, board-certified dermatologist and founder of OptiSkin in New Yorkwe’ve created a comprehensive guide on how to quickly get rid of stubborn razor bumps caused by shaving.
What causes razor bumps?
First, it is important to understand what razor bumps are and how they are caused. According to Dr. Markowitz, razor bumps, also known as pseudofolliculitis, are “an inflammation of the hair follicles and surrounding skin, caused by hair trapped below the surface of the skin.”
It turns out they’re 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 already been shaved try to reappear from the skin but get trapped,” says Dr. Palm. “The hairs curl under the skin or continue below the surface of the skin and cause raised red or dark brown 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 widespread problem. “Infections of the hair follicles (folliculitis) can also cause bumps or pustules,” she tells us.
How to Get Rid of Stubborn Razor Bumps Fast
On the plus side, there are a few possible quick fixes for those pesky razor bumps. Both Dr. Palm and Dr. Markowitz recommend applying an over-the-counter medication hydrocortisone cream to the affected area. A salicylic acid cream from the acne aisle of your pharmacy works too.
Dr. MacGregor also recommends trying a benzoyl peroxide wash between shaves. She loves it Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser and Mask (“This he may [also] be left as a mask for five minutes two to three times a week,” she says.) She suggests using SkinSmart Antimicrobial Spray daily to remove bacteria from the area as well.
Dr. Markowitz strictly urges resisting the temptation to choose. Instead, she recommends using a warm compress to open pores to release trapped hair. If the bumps persist or won’t go away, it’s time to see professional treatment from a trusted derm.
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Can you prevent razor bumps?
Aside from permanent hair removal, there really isn’t a way to completely prevent razor bumps. That being said, if you’re prone to razor bumps, there are a few things you can do in your skincare routine that will help you achieve a smoother finish when you shave.
In the shower, use a loofah with cleanser, as the puff can help trapped hair reappear faster. “Using a gentle exfoliating ingredient such as salicylic acid can reduce the likelihood that the skin will retain a hair that reappears from its follicle,” Dr. Palm suggests. When you shave, use a new multi-blade razor, shaving cream, and always work in the direction of hair growth. Dr. Markowitz also advises changing razors often and never using a dull blade.
Also, despite popular belief, immediately applying your usual lotion and deodorant after shaving will not increase your chances of getting razor bumps. However, these products can make things worse. “A topical such as deodorant or lotion can be potentially irritating to sensitive skin or occlusive to a hair follicle, which could make razor bumps worse,” 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 longer-term solution, she and Dr. MacGregor say laser hair removal is the best permanent solution. “There are several different types of lasers to treat hair removal and your dermis will be able to recommend the best option for you and your skin/hair type,” says Dr. Markowitz.