What are Razor Bumps?
For starters, they’re an eyesore. Specifically, they’re caused by the hair growing back. How? After the hair has been shaved, it immediately starts growing back. If the hair curls back into the skin instead of straight out the follicle it may lead to an inflammation. It can cause raised red bumps on the skin, itchiness, and those bumps can often look like pimples if they become infected. Not a good look for a grown man.
There are all sorts of ways to describe this annoying side effect of shaving. Razor bumps. Barber's Itch, Shave Bumps. The medical term is Pseudofolliculitis Barbae. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Let’s just go with PFB for now. PFB can happen on any part of the body where hair is removed. It’s most common on the face. It’s essentially a particular type of ingrown hair and it’s especially problematic for those with naturally coarse and curly hair. Obviously, PFB can be annoying and unpleasant, but if left untreated over time it can cause unsightly and even permanent scarring.
The best way to treat razor bumps is to prevent them from occurring. (We’ll get into that later) But first, let’s discuss how to deal with these nasty nuisances effectively if you do get them.
(It’s important to note that razor bumps may not be caused by PFB: there is also a condition called Folliculitis Barbae, caused by a bacterial or a viral infection. If you have any concerns regarding ingrown hairs, we suggest you consult a medical professional. Which we are not. Way too much school.)
Razor Bumps vs Razor Burn: What's the Difference?
The terms “razor bumps” and “razor burn” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.
Razor bumps are caused by hair interacting with the skin.
Razor burn is often caused by over-shaving (or under-preparing) an area, which leaves the skin red and feeling hot, like a rash.
What Causes Razor Bumps?
There are a number of factors that can cause razor bumps. One is genetic: if you have thick, curly hair you are about 50% more likely to experience a problem.
Other factors are all related to the shave itself. One of the main culprit’s? Not properly preparing the skin and hair to be shaved.
Another cause is the blade itself. Today’s multi-blade cartridge razor use a principle called hysteresis, otherwise known as the “lift and cut technology.” The first blade is designed to tug on the hair, while the other blade, or many other blades, cut it. As the razor passes, the hair then retracts back under the skin line. Curly hair, or blockages of the follicle, may not allow the hair to exit the skin properly, causing a bump.
Applying too much pressure on a razor, or over-stretching the skin during a shave, can also cause a hair to retract back into the skin.
Razor Bump PreventionThe best way to treat razor bumps is to not get them in the first place. But is that possible? Yes, it is. Here’s how.
Start with a hot shower to soften your skin and hair. Or at least rinse with generous amounts of warm water. Doing so will not only help remove pore-clogging dirt and debris, but it also makes the hair 25% more elastic and easier to cut.
You also want to use a good shave product (shameless Cremo Shaving Cream plug here) to provide the most ideal surface for the blade to glide over smoothly. Read the directions, use sparingly, and be sure to let the shave cream settle in on the skin for a minute or so before starting to shave.
Try not to use a shave product out of a pressurized can. The propellent can often create small pockets of air which may dry out the skin.
And think twice about using a pre-shave oil. While it can be good to lubricate the skin, the oil is sometimes too heavy, which can clog pores and pave the way for razor bumps.
Some people find it beneficial to use an exfoliation product about once a week. Which is fine. Just be careful. Over exfoliating can actually irritate the skin, so polish carefully fellas!
Use the Proper Razor with A Fresh Blade
As mentioned earlier, the modern multi-blade razor cartridge may actually be the source of irritation. Less is truly more. So avoid “the razor blade wars” and use a cartridge with fewer blades. Better yet, consider using a razor with a single blade. There are several models available and it’s easy to find a high-quality, classic double edge safety razor. Yeah, like the one your grandpa probably used. Now that’s how to shave like a gentleman.
And be sure to change the blade after every three to five shaves.
Practice Great Shaving Techniques
No matter what razor you use, the way you use it can dramatically impact how your skin looks and feels after every shave.
First and most important, understand how your hair grows. Hair on the face often grows in several directions in different areas. To see how yours grows, lightly rub the tips of your fingers along your face from different directions. You will find that it feels “smoother” from one direction and “rougher” from other directions. The direction that feels the smoothest is referred to as the “grain” of the beard. Do yourself a favor and make a sketch of your face with arrows showing the “grain” on each part.
Always shave with the grain of your beard. If you feel you need a closer shave, quickly rinse with warm water, re-lather, then shave across the grain.
If you are plagued with razor bumps, NEVER shave against the grain.
While we’re on the subject of putting the blade to skin, do not press down on the razor or over-stretch the skin as you’re shaving. Ideally, you want to make the skin just taught enough to flatten the skin for a nice, even cut.
Also, make the effort to shave efficiently. Do your best to not repeat the exact same stroke over the exact same spot again and again. It’s pretty simple – if there isn’t any lather in an area, don’t shave there!