If you experience bumps on your head and neck after getting a haircut, you might automatically assume you’re dealing with ingrown hairs or razor burn. While these are both possibilities, there are other possible causes, including acne, folliculitis, and eczema.
Rashes can sometimes develop after a haircut, and these may contain bumps. The exact cause can vary. Symptoms may also include itchiness, burning, or infections. Assess your symptoms and talk to a doctor about the following possible causes of bumps on your head after your haircut.
Bumps on your head are commonly associated with haircuts using clippers or razors rather than scissors. Widespread areas of small bumps with a red rash are known as razor burn.
As the name suggests, razor burn can feel like a burning sensation, which gradually goes away as inflammation decreases. Razor burn is more common with shaving facial and body hair, but it can occur during haircuts with razors that are dull or unclean.
Tinea barbae (barber’s itch)
Razor burn is sometimes confused with a separate condition known as barber’s itch. This is a fungal condition that affects the neck and face when your hair is shaved in these areas.
Barber’s itch is characterized by large bumps that are red that may or may not be itchy. The bumps tend to also crust over and develop acne pustules.
Folliculitis (barber’s rash)
If you develop red, itchy, or pus-filled, pimple-like bumps after your haircut, you may have an inflammation of the hair follicles known as folliculitis. Also called a barber’s rash, this rash is most often caused by an infection from Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
Unlike ingrown hairs, you may still have hair growth breaking through the surface of these types of bumps.
If you also experience bumps on your face after shaving, you may have a related condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae (also called razor bumps).
Once healed, barber’s rash bumps may scar and harden. These are called acne keloidalis nuchae. During a haircut, these bumps may bleed, making hyperpigmentation and enlargement worse in the long-term.
It’s also possible that a haircut may reveal inflammatory acne lesions you might not have noticed were there before. Pustules, papules, and nodules may be red and pus-filled, while also painful to the touch.
Eczema (seborrheic dermatitis)
If you have a history of eczema, it’s possible that scalp rashes you experience after a haircut may be attributed to seborrheic dermatitis (eczema of the scalp).
These bumps tend to be flatter and may scab over, but they aren’t pus-filled. You’ll also notice that the patches are itchy and greasy, with flakes that appear white, yellow, or red in color.
It’s possible that getting a haircut can aggravate seborrheic dermatitis because of the tools and chemicals being used on already-sensitive skin. You may also be prone to infections if you scratch at your scalp and cause the rashes to bleed.
Depending on the underlying cause, you may be able to treat these bumps on your head and the back of the neck at home. Other cases might require medications from a doctor.
Home remedies may include:
- warm compresses to alleviate swelling and pain
- hydrocortisone cream for itchiness
- aloe vera gel or oil to help soothe razor burn
- dandruff shampoos for seborrheic dermatitis
- shampoo with salicylic acid for seborrheic dermatitis and inflammatory acne
If your head rash is attributed to something else, a doctor may recommend one of the following:
Preventing head and neck rashes after a haircut may include:
- running your scalp under cool water to help soothe inflammation
- washing the areas with antibacterial soap
- applying a soothing oil or moisturizer to your scalp and hair
- using warm compresses for any nicks or bleeding bumps
The following tips may also help prevent bumps on your head during a haircut:
- Use clippers in the direction of hair growth.
- Avoid pulling your skin taut during hair removal.
- Use only clean clippers and blades to help prevent bacterial and fungal infections.
- Don’t use old or dull tools that can cause burns or ingrown hairs.
- Hold off on getting a haircut until any active infections or pus-filled lesions have healed.
Any bumps that worsen should be looked at by a doctor. Even if haircut bumps aren’t itchy or painful, recurring rashes may require a medical evaluation to rule out any inflammatory conditions.
You should also see a doctor if you’re experiencing signs of an infection, including oozing, swelling, and fever.
Severe cases of acne keloidalis nuchae may require laser therapy or surgical removal. See a dermatologist if these lesions continue to bleed or grow, and if they are bothersome.
Bumps on your head and neck aren’t uncommon after getting a haircut, but it’s important that you determine the cause so you know when to seek medical attention. Mild causes, such as razor burn, may resolve on their own within a few days.
See a doctor if you experience recurring bumps when you get your hair cut, or if your current rash is particularly painful or itchy.