How to get rid of razor bumps are a top priority for many who shave regularly. Nothing feels quite as annoying as being greeted with inflamed red patches rather than the smooth and hairless skin you were aiming for. So what gives?
Razor bumps, also known as ingrown hairs, are a result of many things and the good news is that they’re pretty easy to avoid—and treat. “In exploring how to get rid of razor bumps, it’s clear that taking the right steps to avoid them in the first place is just as important as treating them. For guidance on exactly how to do this, we turned to the experts. From smooth shaving to doing targeted treatments for ingrown hairs, see how they lay out every facet of how to get rid of razor bumps.
What are razor bumps?
When it comes to razor-related sensitivity, irritation comes in different forms on the body, whether it’s appearing on the legs, underarms, or bikini line. “Both ingrown hairs and razor burn will appear as red bumps. However, razor burn bumps tend to be smaller in size and often appear in clusters, similar to a rash, whereas an ingrown bump is usually larger, often with a white head, and sometimes with a hair sticking out of it,” Schubert explains.
What causes razor bumps?
According to Elyse Love, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, the causes are twofold. “Ingrown hairs form when a hair becomes trapped underneath the skin as the hair grows outward,” she says. Love adds that this can also happen if the hair grows above the surface of the skin and curls backwards, proceeding to grow into the skin (this is most common in those with curly to kinky hair because the hair does not grow in one direction). The second kind of irritation shaving presents is “several small, possibly itchy flesh colored bumps in the area that was shaved,” Love says. There are many things that can contribute to each of these kinds of irritation—especially in the bikini area. “Hairs often have a curved growth pattern and can get trapped underneath the skin as they begin to grow back, forming bumps,” says Blair Murphy Rose, MD, FAAD, and board-certified dermatologist in New York City and the Hamptons. “Pressure from panties, swimsuits, or other tight clothing also make this area particularly prone to ingrown hair and irritation.”
What causes razor burn?
Razor burn, another type of irritation you get from shaving, occurs when you shave on dry skin, shave hair too fast, shave with a dull razor, or shave against the direction of your hair growth. Love says that it can also present itself as several small—and possibly itchy—flesh-colored bumps, just less pronounced than razor bumps.
How long do razor bumps last?
While this will depend on the person, Love says that razor bumps shouldn’t last more than two weeks. On average, she says they’ll typically resolve within seven to 10 days.
How do you get rid of razor bumps?
“First, stop all attempts to remove hair,” Young says. “Don’t try to pluck, pull, shave, wax, or cut hair in the area where you’ve got ingrowns as it can introduce an infection.” Instead, she suggests going over the inflamed area with a soft washcloth soaked in warm water in slow circular motions to gently exfoliate. “This will remove dead skin cells and allow the follicle to breathe,” she explains.
Love says that you can also treat razor bumps similar to how you treat acne. She recommends using a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide spot treatment to reduce inflammation or follow this up with a targeted treatment designed to eradicate ingrowns, like Oui the People’s Cheat Sheet or Ingrown Eliminator Serum.
What in-office treatments work to get rid of razor bumps?
If the situation isn’t improving, Rose recommends visiting a dermatologist, particularly in the case of a cyst formation, where prescription topical antibiotics are often used to treat ingrown hairs. Love adds that in-office cortisone injections can resolve large razor bumps within 24 to 48 hours.
How do you prevent razor bumps while shaving?
Shaving generally increases the likelihood of ingrown hairs forming. That’s the reality, and if you want to take maximum precaution towards razor bumps, trimming is a safer option. “The hairs are cut less close to the skin and are therefore less likely to curve back down into the skin,” Rose says. That being said, if you are shaving, the first step in best practices is choosing the right razor. Although you might be inclined to think the more blades the better, that’s not always the case—especially in avoiding razor bumps. “The closer the shave is to the skin, the easier it is for hairs to get stuck underneath the epidermis or outermost layer of the skin,” Rose says. In this spirit, old-school safety razors, like Oui the People’s single-blade stainless Sensitive Skin razor, have been on the rise. “Designed to apply just the right amount of pressure, [safety razors] glide across the surface of the skin, gently removing the hair rather than tugging and pulling like multi-blade plastic razors,” explains Karen Young, founder of Oui the People. “The result is a super close, smooth shave without irritated skin and inflamed follicles. Because the hair is removed from the surface of the skin, rather than below it, there is little chance of it getting trapped in the follicle.” If you’re not using a single-blade safety razor, remember: less blade is more. “It’s preferable to stick to one to two-blade-only razors because it allows for a more precise and even shave,” Love says. “It’s more difficult to control the glide of a five- or six-blade razor.”
And no matter your razor of choice, shaving cream is non-negotiable. “It’s essential to minimize the occurrence of irritation and ingrown hairs, as shaving cream allows the razor blade to glide along the skin smoothly without friction, which decreases irritation and allows for even cutting of the hair,” Love explains. Her go-to recommendation to her patients is the eos Shea Butter Shave Cream as it’s made with shea butter and oils to soothe the skin while shaving, and can be rubbed into the skin for an after-shave effect.
Additionally, you must ensure the razor you’re using is still sharp and clean. “A dull blade will drag against the skin and cause nicks, ingrowns, and razor burn,” Laura Schubert, cofounder of the pubic hair and skin company Fur, cautions. “You also want to make sure it’s not clogged with dead skin or hair when you use it.” Another important facet of avoiding shaving irritation is direction, especially when it comes to different areas of the body. “While there are plenty of areas that you can shave against the grain, like legs and armpits, ultimately your pubic skin is much thinner and more delicate, so it’s best to shave in the same direction as your hair naturally grows,” Schubert says.