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How do I avoid pesky razor bumps when shaving?

Anyone that shaves their face, scalp, or neck regularly has probably experienced razor bumps at some point. They can cause irritation, discomfort, and even lead to skin infections if not properly cared for. Razor bumps can also range in severity from an occasional nuisance to a severe and scarring disorder. Want to avoid razor bumps? We'll tell you how.

A photo of a man shaving his beard

The medical terms we use to describe these lesions include pseudofolliculitis barbae, when bumps occur on the face or neck, or acne keloidalis nuchae, when they affect the occipital scalp and nape of the neck.

Let’s explore some tips to prevent these unwelcome irritants.

Don’t Go For Baby Smooth

The most important thing to know about razor bumps is that they are caused by shaving, and only modification of the shaving technique can prevent them. There is no magical cream, lotion, gel or soap that can eliminate their formation, so if you have the option of growing out your hair, that will eliminate the cause of the razor bumps.

Hair that is cut too short, especially facial hair with tighter curls, will tend to get caught on the side of the hair follicle as it grows, piercing the protective layer of skin and inducing an immune reaction designed to destroy foreign bodies within the skin. A “baby smooth” shave is too close and is likely to lead to more bumps. Your best bet? A slight stubble will ensure fewer ingrown hairs.

Tips to Avoid Razor Bumps

  • Shave when the hair is soft after showering or washing your skin, and use a shaving gel beforehand - this will limit the number of passes needed to shave the hairs and decrease the likelihood of pulling rather than cutting the hairs.

  • Use a sharp, clean razor and replace it frequently - this will also limit the number of passes needed to shave an area and prevent pulling hairs.

  • Shave in the direction your hair grows - shaving “against the grain” results in hairs that are cut shorter.

  • Use a safety razor - these have a guard fitted over the blade to prevent shaving too close to the skin.

  • Use an electric razor, particularly “foil type” razors that have a protective guard over the cutting blades - these make it more difficult to cut the hair too close to the skin.

  • Inspect your skin daily for the appearance of ingrown hairs and release them with a plastic toothpick.

  • Have your barber use the electric shears, and not a straight razor, on your neck.

  • Avoid aftershave - most have a high alcohol content and can dry and irritate the skin even further.

  • Apply a mild moisturizer after shaving, preferably a combination product that includes sunscreen,

  • Do NOT pick or squeeze razor bumps - this can lead to infection or scarring.

And if nothing works? See your doctor if bumps become frequent or persistent - Steroid injections can often quickly shrink bumps and there are topical anti-inflammatory medications that may speed recovery as well.

Happy shaving!



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