Various treatments can help remove or manage razor bumps. These include using salicylic acid, gently brushing the skin, applying a warm washcloth, and more. Preventive measures may also help.
Razor bumps are ingrown hairs that develop after shaving or using other hair removal techniques. The medical term for razor bumps is pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB).
Ingrown hairs develop when hair starts to grow back into the skin rather than up and out. After shaving, waxing, or plucking, the hair may curl and turn inward. As the new skin cells grow over the hair, it can become trapped and cause a bump to form.
Razor bumps can develop anywhere a person shaves or removes hair, including the face, head, legs, armpits, and pubic area.
Read on to learn more about treating and preventing razor bumps.
Nothing can make razor bumps go away instantly, but various strategies can help remove or manage them.
A person may choose to stop shaving for a time to allow razor bumps to gradually disappear.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), new razor bumps may continue to appear for a while after stopping shaving as new hairs emerge. However, the bumps should disappear after around 3 months.
Use salicylic acid
Various products contain salicylic acid, such as:
Try glycolic acid
Like salicylic acid, glycolic acid helps the skin peel by removing old cells from the surface of the skin. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid.
It speeds up the skin’s natural sloughing process, which is why a glycolic acid product can help remove razor bumps and give the skin a smoother appearance.
A glycolic acid chemical peel may help manage razor bumps.
Try face scrubs
Sometimes, a mechanical or physical scrub can remove dead skin cells that plug the pores and keep hairs trapped inside. These types of skin care scrub may contain sugar, salt, ground fruit pits, or tiny beads.
Scrubs may remove debris and free ingrown hairs by physically sloughing off dead skin cells.
Gently brush the skin
A soft brush can help remove dead skin cells and debris that clog the pores and guide hairs out of the pores to stop them from becoming trapped.
Brushing can also help train the hair to grow in a single direction, making ingrown hairs less likely.
A person may use a skin care brush, a soft bristle face brush, or a soft toothbrush.
Use a warm washcloth
Applying a warm, wet washcloth to the skin can help soften the skin and draw the ingrown hair out, especially when a person combines it with another option, such as brushing.
Other options include steaming the area in a hot shower or sauna.
Consider medical treatment
A doctor or pharmacist may recommend over-the-counter (OTC) creams, serums, and cleansers containing steroids to reduce inflammation and manage infection. A mild retinoid can also help prevent razor bumps and acne.
If OTC methods do not help, a doctor may prescribe medication. This could be a stronger retinoid, such as tretinoin (Retin-A).
Try another hair removal technique
Shaving is the hair removal method most likely to lead to razor bumps, so one option is to try a different technique.
Hair removal creams, or depilatories, dissolve the hair and reduce the risk of razor bumps. However, they contain chemicals that can irritate the skin. A person should not use these products if their skin is already inflamed or sensitive.
Laser hair removal is a longer-term option, but it can be expensive. A person may need several treatment sessions with a dermatologist, but the hair tends to grow back finer and lighter than before.
Taking various steps before shaving may help reduce the risk of razor bumps.
- Cleanse the skin with a noncomedogenic product. These can help clear pores and remove excess skin cells from the surface. Noncomedogenic products do not tend to clog pores.
- Shave only when the skin is very wet, either during or immediately after a shower. Alternatively, place a warm, wet towel on the area for 5 minutes before shaving.
- Use a moisturizing shaving cream or gel and leave for 1–2 minutes before shaving.
- Ensure the shaving cream is wet when starting to shave, or else rinse the skin and apply more liberally.
- Avoid skin care products that contain irritating ingredients, such as artificial fragrances, which could make inflammation worse.
Modifying the shaving technique may also help prevent razor bumps. It may be beneficial to do the following:
- Avoid a close shave. Instead, leave the hair 0.5–3 millimeters long.
- Use a single-blade razor or an electric razor with a variable setting to allow for a longer cut.
- Shave slowly, following the direction of hair growth.
- Avoid pulling the skin tight while shaving.
- Avoid repeating strokes in one area or holding the razor too close to the skin.
It is also important to take care of the skin after shaving. The following steps may help:
- Rinse off all traces of shaving cream with warm water to reduce the risk of irritation.
- Place a cool compress on the skin for 5 minutes.
- Apply an aftershave formulated to prevent razor bumps.
- Clean and dry the razor and store it in a dry place.
- Change the blade on a single-use razor every 5–7 shaves.
If none of these measures help or if symptoms are severe, it is best to contact a doctor for advice.
View the slideshow below for images of razor bumps.
Razor bumps can develop when a person removes hair from the face, armpits, or around the pubic area.
Shaving cuts the hair, leaving a sharp, pointed end. The hair can reenter the skin by curling back around and penetrating the skin’s surface or by retracting under the skin.
Hair that reenters a follicle can trigger an immune reaction, leading to inflammation.
Razor bumps most commonly occur in people with naturally curly or coarse hair.
After shaving — especially if it is a close shave — the sharp tips of curved hair can pierce and grow back into the skin, leading to inflammation.
Research suggests that males of African descent are more susceptible to razor bumps than other people.
In addition, razor bumps commonly affect the groin area of females from all populations.
Activities that increase the risk include:
- shaving close to the skin
- shaving under the jawline or on the face and neck
- plucking hair in the armpits, in the pubic area, or on the legs
Individual factors can also make razor bumps more likely, such as having:
- skin folds or scar tissue in areas where people remove hair, as they enable hair of any type to reenter the skin
- tightly curling hair
- hair that grows in different directions
- coarse hair
- a specific genetic feature involving keratin in the hair follicle
A doctor can usually diagnose razor burn by looking at a person’s skin and asking about symptoms.
They may carry out a test called dermoscopy to see the hairs under the skin. This can help rule out other possible causes of lesions, such as acne and tinea barbae.
Razor bumps are different from razor burn.
Razor burn is a type of skin irritation due to the friction of the razor. It tends to cause areas irritation immediately after shaving.
Razor burn can develop if:
- a person does not properly lubricate their skin before shaving
- they use a dull razor
- their skin is sensitive to friction
Razor bumps, on the other hand, develop when hairs grow back into the skin. They can appear several days after hair removal.
Razor bumps can lead to:
- acne-like eruptions on the skin
- skin papules that may be red or the same color as a person’s skin
- itching and tenderness
- in some cases, bleeding when shaving
Sometimes, an infection can develop, which is known as folliculitis barbae.
Other complications that can arise include:
- changes in skin color following inflammation
- scarring, including keloid scarring
Symptoms may be more severe in people with eczema or dermatitis.
Here are some frequently asked questions about razor bumps.
How to get rid of razor bumps fast?
The most effective way to get rid of razor bumps is to stop shaving. The bumps will not disappear at once, but new bumps will stop forming as the hair grows.
A doctor may also recommend a cortisone cream to reduce inflammation.
How to get rid of razor bumps in a private area?
Some methods of treating razor bumps on the face,
How long do razor bumps take to go away?
If a person stops shaving, new bumps may continue to appear for a while, but they should resolve completely after around 3 months.
Various treatments can help a person manage razor bumps. These include stopping shaving, using salicylic acid, brushing the skin, applying face scrubs, and more. Changing the shaving technique may also help prevent further razor bumps from forming.
If home remedies do not work, it is advisable to seek guidance from a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist, to discuss other options. They may recommend prescription skin creams and other treatments.