By Kaitlyn McNab, she/her
You want to know how to treat razor bumps, right? Let’s get right down to it.
WHAT ARE RAZOR BUMPS?
Razor bumps, scientifically known as pseudofolliculitis barbae, is a fairly common condition that presents with painful, inflammatory bumps in the shaved areas of the face. It is typically caused by ingrown hairs—but not in the way ingrown hairs are usually understood.
“Not in the sense that the hair has grown underneath the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elyse Love. “Ingrown hairs in the sense that, in curly-haired individuals, the hair, once it comes up through the surface, can actually curl onto itself and grow back into the bearded area [in the face specifically] into the skin. Which is why it's called pseudofolliculitis instead of folliculitis.” Folliculitis, on the other hand, is more of a blanket term for the many forms of inflammation or infection of the hair follicle.
Razor bumps can have different levels of severity, and along with ingrown hairs, can develop on any area of the body that is shaved, but pseudofolliculitis barbae specifically occurs on the bearded area of the face.
WHO CAN RAZOR BUMPS AFFECT?
It’s not skin type that necessarily determines one’s proclivity for razor bumps, but rather, hair type.
“Razor bumps can technically affect anyone, but it is more common in those who have curlier hair, just because that [type of] hair has a tendency to grow back into the skin, or curl back onto itself and into the skin,” says Dr. Love. Razor bumps are more prevalent in those with tighter, curlier, and coarser hair textures. For this reason, razor bumps may present more often in those with Afro-textured hair.
“People with acne can get inflammatory acne within the bearded area, and shaving can definitely worsen the inflammatory acne because you're making small nicks in the skin,” Dr. Love adds. “But it isn't necessarily making you more prone to ingrown hairs.”
HOW CAN I TREAT RAZOR BUMPS?
“The most important thing when treating razor bumps is actually to [try and] prevent them, [using] proper hair removal techniques. In general, it works best to not remove the hair below the surface of the skin,” Dr. Love suggests. “I tell people to avoid things like waxing. Shaving can be okay, but you want to use a single blade razor, first prep the skin with shaving cream, and then you want to shave in the direction that the hair grows. Using an electric razor is actually even better than shaving, just because it prevents that super close cut of the [hair and] skin.”
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Though it may seem counterintuitive, Dr. Love says that it’s better to shave more often to prevent razor bumps, as PFB is a condition of hair regrowth, not of hair removal.
“If you can prevent that stage where the hair gets long enough to where it can curl back onto the surface, then you can kind of decrease the incidence of PFB,” Dr. Love explains.
Dr. Love notes that for those who are prone to razor bumps, using anti-inflammatory ingredients (like maqui, green tea, licorice root, or pentapeptides) directly after shaving can be extremely helpful for prevention, as well as exfoliating on days in-between shaving. Exfoliants that prevent clogged pores are most beneficial, because clogged pores interfere with the regrowth of hair.
Try treating your skin to a deep cleanse with the Superclay Purify + Clear Power Mask, a supercharged triple-clay mask that actively clears pores while absorbing excess oil that can trigger breakouts, without stripping the skin’s moisture barrier. For daily maintenance, try Youth To The People’s Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant, a gentle leave-on exfoliant that clears pores, smoothes texture, and supports your skin’s protective barrier.
There is no surefire way to avoid razor bumps, but there are hair removal methods that can lessen their frequency of appearance.
“Not shaving is one option, and then shaving more frequently is another option,” Dr. Love says. “Laser hair removal or electrolysis is a third option.” According to Dr. Love, the best way to treat razor bumps is always with a preventative approach.
Written by Kaitlyn McNab for Youth To The People