No matter how careful you are with your razor, every shaver experiences painful razor bumps at least once in his lifetime. It’s not always the wrong shaving technique that triggers this problem. Men who have naturally curly hair are most at risk of razor bumps. Probably this is the reason why 45 to 85% African-American men develop bumps on their neck after shaving.
Since I love having a clean-shave, razor burns have been my mortal enemy since the age of 17. I tried many combinations of razors, shaving creams/gels, and after-shave lotions, nothing worked for long. The condition worsened with time and finally, I had to see a dermatologist. He proposed that I should let my beard grow long as it is the safest and most foolproof way to prevent bumps.
Although his words made a lot of sense, it didn’t sound like a long-term fix. Plus, I know many of you have to shave frequently to look presentable in a formal environment like office meetings. So I decided to try out a few home remedies, prep my beard properly before shaving and here I am today, bump and burn-free.
I will share everything I know about treating razor bumps in the following segments. But before that, you should know what you’re dealing with.
Table of Contents
- What Exactly Is a Razor Bump?
- Common Causes of Razor Bumps or PFB
- Key Techniques to Prevent the Occurrence of Razor Bumps
- Best Ways to Prep Your Skin before Shaving to Fight Razor Burns
- Effective Ways to Heal Razor Bumps on Neck
- Most Effective Home Remedies for Treating Razor Bumps on Neck
- The Bottom Line
What Exactly Is a Razor Bump?
Razor Bumps or Pseudofolliculitis Barbae (PFB) occurs in freshly shaved areas of the body. It happens when hair curls back around the skin pores. Your body perceives these curls as foreign objects and triggers an immune response. As a result, you feel an acute itching and inflammation in your neck area, ultimately leading to unsightly bumps.
What makes things even worse is the fact that shaving sharpens the end of these hair strands like a knife. So it does hurt quite a lot. A similar reaction can be observed in the pubic area as well after shaving. This condition is termed as Pseudofolliculitis Pubis.
Apart from rashes and pus-filled pimples, it can also leave your skin scarred if left unattended. According to Christopher Byrne, a certified physician assistant with Advanced Dermatology PC in New York, you must consult a dermatologist if you are experiencing recurring razor bumps.
Razor bumps can also lead to:
- Itchy beard.
- Burning sensation.
Common Causes of Razor Bumps or PFB
The most common reasons involve your shaving product and shaving techniques. But I assume you want specifics. So here it goes- double-edged cartridge razors are possibly your worst enemy.
This kind of razors is best for a quick, efficient and close shave. And to deliver that, the blade has to be extremely close to the skin. It uses the lift and cut technology. One blade lifts up your hair and another shaves it off as close as possible. That’s fine.
The problem is most men make the first pass with the grain and the second pass against the grain. In the second stroke, the blade has to go even closer, right to the tip of hair follicles on your skin.
As a result, the tip starts growing back into the skin a curved manner instead of growing straight. The pointy tip of this ingrown hair starts poking your skin pores, triggering razor bumps.
Solution: If you still want to continue using cartridge razors, make sure to use a single-blade razor that doesn’t use the lift and cut technology. Always shave with the grain and try minimizing the number of passes.
Electric shavers that use foil and rotary shaver heads can also trigger razor bumps. They don’t go much near the shaft. Therefore, people often end up making too many passes to get a clean shave. That’s how it increases the risk of developing razor burns.
Solution: Having said that, electric shavers are a much safer alternative to cartridge razors as they can’t get too close to the skin. For best results, use a shaver with multiple length settings. Opt for the highest setting as it will take a lesser number of passes to complete the shave.
Also, invest in a quality electric shaver pre-shave product. Even better if you trim the beard short before shaving. Avoid multiple strokes on the same area and don’t stretch your skin too much while shaving with the grain. Last but not the least, avoid shaving every day.
Safety razors are also quite a decent option. These do not use the lift and cut technology, you can make passes in three directions- with the grain, against the grain, and across the grain. Just don’t press the blade too hard on your skin and finish the shaving with minimal attempts. It won’t completely exempt you from the risk of razor bumps but the chances will be significantly less. Also, you will get a nice and close shave with it, something not achievable with electric shavers.
- A kind of fungal infection called Tinea barbae that also causes itchy beard.
- Sycosis barbae/ Barber’s Itch, a severe infection in hair follicles caused by bacterial infection. The most common symptom of this is acute inflammation, itchiness, and scarring around the shaved area. It generally makes its first appearance on your upper lip in the form of pus-filled red bumps.
Key Techniques to Prevent the Occurrence of Razor Bumps
- Never use an old and dull blade for shaving. It’s quite obvious that you will have to shave harder, for a longer time when the blade is dull. You can never get a uniform cut on the hair follicles with a blade like that. Also, change your blade from time to time to avoid bacterial infection.
- Shave in every 3 days. It will not allow the follicles enough time to grow in a curved manner.
- Shave with the grain, do not repeatedly shave the same area and don’t pull your skin too hard.
- Try your best to avoid an extremely close shave if your skin is prone to bumps. However, clean shave is a personal choice and you shouldn’t stop doing it just because of razor bumps. You can use an electric clipper to trim your beard extremely short. Your groomed beard will look office-appropriate, gorgeous and it won’t cause bumps either.
- Use a high-quality shaving cream and a soft bristle brush to lather it. Hydrate and soothe your skin with a moisturizer, preferably one that contains glycolic acid and other soothing agents like aloe vera.
Best Ways to Prep Your Skin before Shaving to Fight Razor Burns
Step 1: Hot Shower
A hot shower is essential to open up the skin pores. A lot of dirt remains trapped in your hair follicles and hot water bath washes them away. By hot shower, I don’t mean standing in the shower for like 30 seconds. Take your time, at least 10-15 minutes for best results.
And if you really don’t have time to take a shower, use the washcloth or wash towel method. Soak the cloth in hot water and press it on your neck for 4-5 minutes to open up the pores.
Step 2: Exfoliate
Although this is optional, I’d strongly recommend this for people having extremely bump-prone skin. Exfoliation is a method of removing dead skin cells and exposing the fresh skin underneath. You can do this daily while taking a shower. If you don’t want to use an exfoliating cream or scrub, just use a dry and rough towel to wipe your neck region after showering.
Step 3: Sterilize Your Razor
Sensitive skin or not, this step should not be skipped. An unsterilized blade can be the root of numerous skin and even health problems, razor bumps being just one of them. You can soak the blade in rubbing alcohol/ hydrogen peroxide or rinse it with hot water to kill the germs and bacteria.
Step 4: Lubricate
To reduce the risk of razor bumps and inflammation, apply a generous amount of shaving foam or gel and lather well. You can also go for coconut oil or aloe vera shaving cream if you prefer natural products.
Step 5: Improve Your Technique
As I’ve already mentioned in the article, always shave against the grain, use light strokes, no skin pulling, no repetitive strokes on the same area.
Step 6: Rinse the foam thoroughly with cold water after shaving.
Pat your skin dry with a soft towel and then apply a moisturizer. It will soothe your skin by reducing the blade tension, soften the hair and prevent uncomfortable bumps from popping up. You can also use an after-shave balm as a remedy for both razor burn and bumps.
Effective Ways to Heal Razor Bumps on Neck
Tip 1: Don’t scratch the bumps. I know you will give everything just to scratch a little, the temptation is hard to resist. But do I have to really tell you that it can make things worse? It won’t take long for your bumps to turn into a nasty infection if you keep scratching aggressively.
Tip 2: Try not to shave until the bumps are gone, preferably for 3-4 weeks.
Tip 3: Soothe the affected area with a hot compress, using a wet washcloth soaked in hot water. This will prevent the ingrown hair from curling up further. A cold compress with wet washcloth will also work great.
Tip 3: Use a salicylic acid or glycolic acid enriched moisturizer at night to soothe and nourish the skin. It will also stop the lesions from spreading further, reduce itching and the hot sensation you might be feeling right now.
Tip 4: Apply a mild hydrocortisone cream directly on the bumps before shaving. Hydrocortisone creams are rich in Vitamin-A which reserves powerful skin healing properties. It also acts as a cooling agent.
Tip 5: Consult a dermatologist. You are most likely to be prescribed a combination of antifungal topical creams, topical steroids, and oral antibiotics like erythromycin to improve the appearance of the bumps and prevent ingrown hair growth.
Most Effective Home Remedies for Treating Razor Bumps on Neck
There are a number of effective razor bumps of neck home remedies to alleviate the pain, that too without any side-effects.
When I think about the best natural skin to fight skin problems, aloe vera is the first thing that pops up in my mind. It can soothe skin, cool off the hot sensation, provide instant relief from itching and fade the redness. I personally love aloe vera for its incredible cooling effect. Plus, aloe vera in the form of gel and juice is easily available to buy.
Tea Tree Oil and Black Tea
Natural astringent liquids like tea, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil can provide instant and long-lasting relief from razor burns, rashes and itchiness.
Fresh brewed, cold black tea has unbelievable antiseptic properties. The high tannic acid content in tea can significantly reduce inflammation. Tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar are also powerful antiseptics and can clear off the germs and bacteria from your skin pores.
Essential Oil with Carrier Oil
Lavender oil, coconut oil, olive oil, lemongrass oil, chamomile oil, avocado oil are some of the best essential oils for skin. These oils can lessen all the possible symptoms of razor burns, while also deeply nourishing your skin. However, essential oils are quite abrasive in nature. That’s why you should always mix them with an organic carrier oil to avoid burning sensation.
Oatmeals are rich in antioxidants which help to fight off inflammation, redness and several other skin conditions. For maximum skin benefits, use colloidal oatmeal in a bathtub full of lukewarm water. Colloidal oatmeal compounds are full of avenanthramides which is known to reduce itching.
My mother constantly insisted on applying lemon juice on my skin when I was a kid. Never understood her fascination for lemon, but thanks to the internet and my first-hand experience with its healing effects, now I understand. The acidic content of lemon prevents the breeding of harmful bacteria on your skin pores.
Just soak a cotton ball in freshly squeezed lemon juice and dab on the affected area. Let it dry and then wash it off with warm water. You can also do this before shaving.
Yes, it does much more than just curing headache. It is packed with anti-inflammatory properties. All you have to do is make an aspirin paste mixing 2-3 tablets a teaspoon of water. Apply it on the bumps, let it dry and rinse with water. For quick results, repeat this twice a day.
Baking soda/sodium bicarbonate is a popular home remedy for numerous skin conditions. For this remedy, you can either make a paste or take a baking soda bath. To make a paste, add 1 tablespoon of baking soda in one cup water. Use a cotton pad to dab the paste on your skin, let it sit and wash it off afterward.
Salt and Sugar
Who knew you can reduce the pain of razor bumps using the most basic kitchen ingredients? Well, looks like you can. Salt can reduce swelling and irritation. Just mix some salt in a cup of warm water, soak a cotton ball and press it on the affected area. Do it every day until the lesions fade.
Sugar scrub also works pretty well, thanks to its exfoliating properties. By removing the dead skin cells, you will allow the hair follicles to grow freely, instead of curling up. To make the scrub, mix ½ cup sugar with ¼ cup of any essential oil of your choice along with 6-10 drops of tea tree oil. Scrub gently in a circular motion. Once done, apply a gentle moisturizer.
Baby powders go very easy on the skin. A gentle massage on the affected region with baby powder can bring you instant relief from the burning sensation and itchiness.
Just like baby powder, sprinkle a generous amount of corn starch on the bumps to reduce the soreness, inflammation, and redness of the razor bumps.
Honey is packed with great antibacterial properties. If the bumps have already taken an ugly turn by causing infection, applying some 100% organic honey can improve the condition. Wash the honey properly with cold water once it dries.
Cucumber is loaded with skin-friendly Vit-E and Potassium. Plus, it has excellent hydration properties. Raw milk, on the other hand, is an exceptional skin cleanser and toner. To get the benefit of both, prepare a face mask by combining ½ cup cucumber puree with ⅓ cup of cold raw milk. Apply it on your neck (or even the entire face), let it sit for a few minutes and then wash it off.
The Bottom Line
There are hundreds of skin care lotions and shaving care products specially formulated to prevent razor burns, reduce inflammation and the growth of ingrown hair. If you are not a fan of home remedies, you can simply choose a mild, medicated over the counter lotion to get relief.
Improving shaving techniques and using the right blade will also help you fight razor bumps like a champ. My takeaway from all these is that razor bumps are easily avoidable. And even if it can’t be avoided, there are numerous way to treat it.
However, I’d strictly advise against self-treatment if the bumps have spread widely or if they keep occurring every time you shave. In such cases, visiting a skin-care specialist is a must. Hope I could help.