Skincare & Health

How to Get Rid Of Razor Bumps

You’ve got a big event, or trip coming up and you want your skin to look flawless.

Sound like you?

Everyone wants to look their best when it comes time to hit the beach, and in many cases, that means removing unsightly and unwanted hair.

For the ladies out there, this often involves trimming up those bikini lines to keep them clean.

And if you’re a dude – don’t be ashamed.

It’s okay to grab the trimmer before hitting the beach, either to show off your smooth beach bod or just make that beard immaculate before taking to the waves.

Both men and women now trim or remove unwanted hair from their bodies in greater numbers.

Unfortunately, with shaving and trimming comes the ever-present risk of razor bumps; unattractive and painful red bumps on the skin where hair has been shaved.

Getting rid of razor bumps is a concern for beach-goers everywhere, because not only do they hurt, they provide the complete opposite of what we were shooting for in the first place: beautiful smooth skin!

Let’s take a look at what exactly razor bumps are, then fill you in on how to treat, remove and prevent them.

So, What Are Razor Bumps Anyway?

Razor bumps, also known by their medical name pseudofolliculitis barbae, are similar to ingrown hairs. They are caused by hair follicles curling or turning back on themselves and growing into the skin.

The hair will continue to grow and expand in the skin, and often the skin will regrow over pore where the hair is supposed to grow out of.

Swelling and redness follow.

As you might imagine and can probably attest to yourself..

It’s not too fun.

What could be worse?

Razor bumps itch like crazy and can cause burning sensations. And even worse, if the bumps do develop into full-blown ingrown hairs, you can have much more serious problems on your hands (or face, or bikini area, you get the idea).

If left untreated, ingrown hairs can become a severe health problem. Once the hairs close in on themselves and get swollen, they can fill up with pus and change into pustules which are like blisters.

Then they can pop, which of course is not ideal, and afterward become infected. There’s nothing quite like a skin infection to harsh your beach buzz. Plus, if these bumps pop or are burst by scratching, you can get permanent scars or hyper-pigmentation, which is darkening of the affected skin area.

Why Do Razor Bumps Happen?

When your hair grows back in on itself and pierces the skin, your body treats it like anything else that penetrates it. To your body, the hair is just another invader, so it sends blood and white blood cells to deal with the potentially infectious foreign substance.

This is where all of the swelling and pus comes from.

As far as risk factors, just about everyone with hair is at risk of developing razor bumps. However, some people are more prone than others.

People with coarse and curly hair are at high risk of the hair curling back in on itself. That is why razor bumps are so prevalent in the bikini area; pubic hair is the right combination of coarse and curly in most cases to be prime candidates for those annoying red bumps.

Also, frequent shaving alone is enough to increase your likelihood of suffering. More shaving equals more risk.

Are Razor Bumps Different From Razor Burn?

Short answer: yes. But, they are closely related. Razor burn is characterized by redness and irritation of the skin after shaving. It is caused by excess dryness as well as the shearing of the too much skin along with the hair.

Razor burn can also be the result of harsh reactions to chemicals.

Most of the time, razor burn is caused by dull razors or shaving without properly lubricating the skin. The razor comes into too much contact with the skin, and the redness follows. However, sometimes hard soaps can be the culprit of causing razor burn, as well as plain old sensitive skin.

If you get razor burn frequently, you could be in for some nasty advanced symptoms like bleeding, scabbing and, that’s right, razor bumps.

Shaves that are too frequent or too close weaken and inflame the skin (like a bad sunburn), making it much more likely for hairs to grow back in on themselves and develop into ingrown hairs. We’ll talk about getting rid of razor burn at the same time we talk about remedies for razor bumps because thankfully, they are often the same.

How Long Do Razor Bumps Last?

Razor bumps last for around a week, but only if they are not further irritated. That is caused by you scratching, rubbing or picking at them.

So avoid that of course. In your haste to soothe or remove razor bumps, you will likely end up prolonging your suffering.

Now a week isn’t all that bad, all you have to do is not shave and not scratch or irritate the bumps.

Easy right?

Well, it isn’t always that simple.

What if it’s only Wednesday and your weekend beach date is just a couple short days away? In that case, it’s time to get rid of razor bumps fast. But first, we have to treat them immediately.

How to Treat Razor Bumps

As soon as you feel that irritation on your shaved area, razor burn, and razor bumps might be headed your way. It is crucial that you take action soon to reduce the number, size, severity and duration of those pesky bumps. Here are a few things you can do right away:

Ways To Treat Razor Bumps
  • Cold Compress: If you feel that irritation coming on, you can wet a washcloth with cold water and apply it directly to the affected area that you shaved. The cooling action will help reduce the swelling and irritation of the skin and prevent pores from closing up and blocking the hairs off from freedom. It also feels pretty good, too!
  • Pat Dry The Skin: If you step out of the shower after shaving and see the redness starting, you have to dry the skin quickly, but don’t just attack it with your towel. Gently and slowly pat dry your skin with as soft a towel as you can muster. Rub drying vigorously will further irritate the skin and cause the swelling that leads to bumps. Getting your skin dry the right way helps get you ready for the next step.
  • Moisturize ASAP: This is pretty good advice for shaving in general. You should always moisturize sensitive areas immediately after shaving. Use a skin moisturizer that has glycerin or emollients, a special kind of moisturizer. Keeping your skin fresh and moist will make sure razor burn and bumps stay at a minimum.
  • Aftershave: Guys may know about this one already, but it’s not just for them. Ladies can take advantage just as well as the fellas; it’s not gender specific! Aftershave is designed specifically to prevent and treat both razor burn and razor bumps immediately after shaving. It may sting a bit and make you smell like a hunk, but that’s a small price to pay to cut down on unsightly bumps and burns.
  • Baby Powder: If you don’t mind the smell, or if you’re looking for a suitable alternative to aftershave (guys) – baby powder is an acceptable substitute. It will dry out your skin and prevent that dreaded irritation that leads to so many problems. It may not be as effective as an aftershave for some, but it feels and smells great.

How To Get Rid of Razor Bumps Once You Have Them

So despite your best efforts to stop razor bumps in their tracks, the cropped up and are now ruining your bikini line or jawline.

Don’t fret.

There are methods of taking these little annoyances out without having to wait it out for a week. But first, let’s go over what you definitely should not do.

It’s important that above all else, you don’t exacerbate the problem as that could lead to longer recovery times or more health complications.

What Not to Do When You Get Razor Bumps

First, let’s reiterate the obvious…

Do not pick, scratch, rub or rub areas of skin that are affected by razor burn or bumps.

Doing so can make the irritation worse, resulting in more ingrown hair and pustules. You also might burst the pustules open with your scratching causing that scarring and hyper-pigmentation we talked about earlier. You don’t want to be left permanently disfigured because you couldn’t resist scratching some bikini bumps.

Talk about having scars without a cool story.

Preventing the bursting of these bumps goes beyond just not scratching, though. Don’t think that lancing the bumps with needles or picking at them with tweezers or nail clippers is any safer. There is no way to do this safely, and you still may end up with scars or dark spots on your skin.

Additionally, using dirty tools implements to break your skin can cause severe infections. A skin infection will make the pain and swelling worse and may even land you in the hospital!

Also, it should go without saying but let’s say it anyway, don’t continue to shave after developing razor bumps! It will increase the number of your bumps and the severity of existing ones.

Not to mention, the blades of a shaver or trimmer can rupture those bumps, causing the problems discussed above. Additionally, as you may have guessed, your razor and trimmer are not the cleanest of tools and are more likely to carry bacteria on them that I’ll get into an open wound like a burst bump.

Eliminating Razor Bumps With Health and Beauty Products

Ok, now with the bad stuff out of the way, let’s check out some over the counter products that can help you with those bumps. There are a lot of affordable creams and ointments you can get at your local drugstore, just be careful when deciding on one. Check the ingredients of each product to make sure you aren’t allergic or will have a reaction to them. If you aren’t sure and are worried that they might adversely affect your skin, give them a little test run. You don’t want to have a bad reaction on top of the already compromised skin.

What To Use For Your Razor Bumps
  • Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera Gel has countless uses on a beach goer’s skin. The moisturizing effects will reduce the redness and swelling of razor bumps, making them much less noticeable while you’re strutting your stuff. With reduced irritation and increased moisture, you lower the chances of a bump turning into a pus-filled pustule. You can even find aloe Vera gels that are infused with menthol to numb and cool your affected skin if the pain is getting out of hand. Less pain means less scratching so it might be worth it just for that.
  • Chemical Exfoliants: These may sound harsh, but they are safe ways of opening up your skin and getting it the air and water it needs to be healthy. You may be turned off by names like salicylic acid and glycolic acid, but they are much better than cutting open your skin to open up rose pores.
  • Hydrocortisone Cream:  Over the counter hydrocortisone cream is technically a steroid, but is safe for general use. It reduces itching and swelling; a powerful double whammy of decreased noticeably and desire to scratch. However, those who are allergic or may be allergic, those with diabetes and Cushing’s syndrome, as well as women are pregnant or are breastfeeding should avoid this product until they can ask their doctor if it is safe for them to use.
  • Aspirin: If you can’t use hydrocortisone or just would prefer not to use it, you can try simple, over the counter aspirin instead. Put a couple of aspirins in one teaspoon of warm water. Wait for a bit until it turns into a paste-like substance, then rub the paste on the affected skin. Leave it on there for about 10 minutes, and then wash it off with room temperature water. Doing this twice daily will cut down on the comfort and help the skin heal faster.

Natural Remedies For Getting Rid of Razor Bumps

So maybe you’re the type that likes to go all natural with your remedies, or perhaps you just have a lot of organic stuff lying around, and you don’t want to go all the way to the drugstore and drop some cash on expensive meds. Either way, go you! Fortunately, there are several natural compounds that are known to remove both razor burn and razor bumps.

Keep in mind, however, that the effectiveness of these treatments may vary from person to person, so keep experimenting and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Natural Razor Bump Remedies
  • Witch Hazel: In addition to having an awesome sounding name, witch hazel is a powerful antibacterial and astringent. The extract of the witch hazel plant has dozens if not hundreds of uses, and treating razor bumps is one of them. Be warned, though, witch hazel extract is potent stuff so you may have to dilute it, especially if you have sensitive skin. It will reduce your skin irritation if taken in the right potency, but make it worse if it is not.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Another natural anti-inflammatory and anti-itching remedy, apple cider vinegar is a bit less potent than witch hazel extract. Its acidity also helps to prevent skin infections. Use a cotton ball or cotton swab to apply it two or three times a day.
  • Black Tea: This one sounds a bit hokey, but there is science behind it, and it can help you. Black tea has tannic acid in it, which is an astringent similar to witch hazel, although much less potent. If you have a lot of black tea bags lying around, this might be for you; you can even use bags that have made tea already! Moisten a black tea bag with warm water. Warm, not hot, you’re not boiling it for tea! Let the bag cool, or put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes so it gets cold and you can give yourself that cooling sensation. Rub the cool tea bag over the razor burned or bumpy area for two to three minutes. You can do this just about whenever you want because the compounds at work here are not strong enough to be a danger.
  • Honey: Good old fashioned honey is a natural antibacterial product that reduces your chance of infection. It will also help your skin get moisturized, which is the fast track for healing those bumps. You can apply it to the affected area for about 15 minutes at a time, just resist the urge (or someone else’s) desire to lick it off until it has done its job.
  • Baking Soda: This simple remedy may not help with moisturizing or healing, but it will reduce the inflammation and itching which is just as important. Mix three parts water and one part baking soda, slather it on gently with your fingers or cotton swabs, then rinse it off after about 10 minutes and pat dry.

Remember, everyone’s skin is different, so try things out and experiment a bit to find out which one works best for you. If your symptoms get worse after using one of these remedies or you have a reaction on your skin, stop using it immediately and see a doctor. Also, if your razor bumps fail to get any better after three days with self-treatment, it may be a good idea to see a dermatologist.

How to Prevent Razor Bumps

The best way to get rid of razor bumps is not to get them in the first place. Preventing razor bumps and razor burn is surprisingly easy, but you have to remember to do it, be diligently practice proper shaving technique every time you go under the razor. Here are a few habits you should take up to make sure your bouts with irritation and ingrown hairs are few and far between.

Your Razor

Poor quality or worn out razors are some of the leading causes of razor burn and subsequently razor bumps. In a misguided attempt to save some money, we sometimes keep razors past their lifespan or skimp on quality. If you’re looking to impress at the beach or just feel good about your body without itching, it’s time to take shaving seriously and get the right tool for the job. It’s time to get a new razor if:

  • It starts to catch in your hairs
  • There are noticeable rust, nicks or other deformities
  • It is older than five weeks (if you use it often)
  • It takes several passes to get all the hair in a given area

If you must use a razor, make sure it’s nice and sharp. Granted there are a lot of expensive blades out there, but there are affordable ones too. If you can’t find one in your budget, it may be time to switch hair removal methods, which we will talk about a bit later.

Shaving Technique

How you shave is just as important as what you shave with. There are a surprising number of dos and don’ts when it comes to shaving and preventing razor bumps. You could be putting yourself at risk just by being sloppy or clumsy. Check out this list of habits you should make and ones to break.

  • Shave “with the grain” of your hair, i.e., in the direction it is growing. It may seem counter-intuitive and make your shaves last longer, but it goes a long way towards halting inflammation.
  • Wet the skin of your hair. Shave in the shower whenever possible with warm water. Save it for the end of your routine when your skin is warmest and wettest. And, make sure you use a gentle soap to cleanse the area beforehand.
  • Use thick shaving creams or gels. Never shave without applying one. For sensitive bikini line areas, you can use over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. They are great preventers of irritation and inflammation.
  • Rinse the blade with each pass. Patience and diligence are key here. A blade crowded with hair and cream is not as effective. It will snag and pull on hairs, making them more likely to protest by becoming razor bumps.
  • Rinse off shaved area with cold water. I know I just told you to start with warm water, but if you can swing it, end your shave with a blast of cool water to rinse off the affected area. It’s the same principle as the cold compress we talked about before.
  • Moisturize when finished. We spoke about this before, but it bears repeating. Shaving, no matter how careful, is damaging to your skin, so repair it immediately with a moisturizing cream. Heliocare has some great options to help you with that.
  • Leave some time between shaves. Excessive shaving leads to razor burn, and you know what comes next. At the very most, try and shave only every other day. Also, let the hair grow a little before shaving. The shorter they are when shaved, the more likely they are to get irritated and inflamed.
  • Speed through a shave. Slow and steady will win this race against razor burn. Shave to fast and not only will you miss spots and have to go back and shave again, but you will likely take off more layers of skin than you need to.
  • Pull the hair taught when shaving. Pulling on a hair will sometimes cause it to coil into a spring shape after being let go. Don’t yank your hairs to try and get a better cut; they might retreat back into your skin.
  • Shave dry. Never ever shave without a cream or gel, and don’t even entertain the thought of shaving without water. You’ll do more harm than good and end up wasting more time on subsequent shaves, treatment of razor bumps and explaining to your friends why you can’t take your jeans off at the beach.
  • Press down on the razor while shaving. Pushing down on the razor against your skin trying to get closer will result in an uneven shave and irritated skin. Let the blade glide and again, take your time.
  • Vigorously exfoliate. When you exfoliate with a scrub or loofah or something, don’t go to town like you are sanding an unfinished woodworking project. It should come as no surprise that this kind of irritation is something you don’t need. Take it easy, or consider exfoliating one day, then shaving the next to space out traumatic attacks on your skin.

Alternative Hair Removal

In the long run, if you are still experiencing pretty bad razor bumps, it may be time to find a new way to remove that pesky hair. There are a lot of options out there these days, but it’s important to realize the risks involved when it comes to preventing bumps and burns. Some options to consider include:

Alternative Razor Bump Treatments
  • Waxing: Sure it’s no picnic getting your hair ripped out via wax strip, but you are much less likely to develop bumps or burns as a result. Shocking, but true. Also, you can go much longer between hair removals. Of course, the main drawbacks are the pain involved as well as the cost of seeing professional regularly. There are home waxing kits but, well, some things are best left to the experts.
  • Laser Hair Removal and Electrolysis: At the expensive end of the spectrum we have the ominous sounding laser removal and electrolysis. These are permanent or semi-permanent solutions to hair removal that do not result in razor bumps or razor burn. They have their own set of side effects, not the least of which is a lighter wallet. Research accordingly.
  • Depilatory Creams: These creams use chemicals to basically melt the hair off of your body. It isn’t quite as bad as it sounds, but its close. The upside is that you won’t get stubble or bumps from using this method. The downside is that the harsh chemicals in the creams have been known to irritate skin much worse than simple razor burn.
  • Electric Shavers and Women’s Bikini Trimmers: These are by far the safest and cheapest alternative to foam and razor shaving. However, their main weakness is their effectiveness. Even the best bikini trimmer or electric shaver can’t get as close as a razor shave, but consider what you get in return. Electric shaver and trimmer blades last much longer than razors, and you a far less likely to develop irritation of the skin after shaving. The result? A bit less close of a shave but much reduced instances of bumps.

Get Out There and Get Bare

Worrying about your unsightly bumps can stop you from having a good time at the beach when you should be unwinding and getting that tan you promised yourself you were going to get.

You shouldn’t have to sit under a blanket all day or keep your shirt on just because your skin isn’t being cooperative.

Take the extra time to remove your hair the safe and responsible way, and practice good habits to keep your skin from turning the dreaded red and bumpy. That way you won’t waste a minute of fun in the sun, or just outside in general.

When you do get razor bumps, and you probably will at some point because we all do, go in with a positive mindset. There are a lot of remedies out there for you, and even though some may not be effective for you, you should keep trying until you get it right. Just make sure you aren’t sacrificing your health in an attempt at your moment of bronze glory. Take it easy on the harsher razor bump treatments, and see a doctor if you don’t get better or have any adverse or unforeseen reaction to any remedies you try.