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Razor burn and razor bumps are skin conditions triggered by shaving. Razor burn happens right after you shave, while razor bumps happen a few days or weeks later when your hair starts to grow back.
Both razor burn and razor bumps can cause itching, redness, and irritation on your skin. Both of these skin conditions are fairly common.
Though you’re likely eager to get rid of this shaving-related irritation, you may need to try a home remedy or two and give your skin some time to heal.
Razor burn appears within an hour or two after shaving. It can be caused by:
- using an old razor
- shaving too quickly
- shaving in the wrong direction
- shaving over skin that’s dry
Razor burn symptoms include itching, redness, and flaking of the skin where you shaved.
Razor burn goes away on its own. Symptoms can disappear overnight, or it could take two to three days for it to clear up completely. Conditioning your skin, moisturizing, and using a cold compress can help symptoms improve more quickly.
Razor bumps happen when your hair follicles become inflamed from your razor. When your hairs grow back, they become trapped under your skin. Your skin in the area you shaved looks bumpy and red, and can be itchy and painful.
Razor bumps usually go away on their own, but it takes longer than razor burn. Since razor bumps occur as your hair grows back in, they take a little longer to appear, and a little longer to go away. Razor bumps do carry a risk of scarring.
Razor bumps tend to resolve on their own within two or three weeks of shaving. Some people get them with every shave. This causes a cycle of shaving, which leads to razor bumps, then healing. Re-shaving the area triggers the bumps again.
Exfoliating your skin and using an over-the-counter anti-itch cream can help symptoms go away more quickly.
Razor burn and razor bumps can usually be treated at home. If home remedies don’t get rid of your symptoms, there are over-the-counter and prescription options for treatment.
- A cold compress can relieve itching and burning.
- Aloe vera gel can be applied to soothe redness and speed healing.
- Used green tea bags can be applied to the site of irritation to calm the area and reduce redness.
- Witch hazel works as a natural astringent, clearing dead skin cells.
- Emollient creams and lotions can soothe skin that’s been irritated; wait until pores are closed before applying a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free lotion.
- An oatmeal soak can relieve itching.
- Coconut oil is good for skin that appears to be dry and flaky after a shave.
- Hydrocortisone steroid creams available over the counter or by prescription relieve inflammation and itching.
- Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed if you have an allergy to hydrocortisone or if your symptoms don’t respond to it.
- Topical or oral antibiotics may be prescribed if ingrown hairs develop into an infection.
In the most serious cases of razor bumps, an ingrown hair may need to be sterilized and removed in a doctor’s office if it becomes infected.
You can prevent razor burn and razor bumps by changing your shaving habits.
- Always exfoliate before shaving with a loofah or gentle body scrub.
- Expose your skin to steam or warm water for 10 minutes prior to shaving.
- Never dry shave — always use a conditioner, shaving cream, or body oil on your skin before shaving.
- Regularly replace razors; the typical lifespan of a disposable razor is two to three weeks, or about 10 shaves.
- Use sunscreen on skin that’s been freshly shaved, or avoid the sun altogether in the hours after shaving.
- Close your pores after shaving by running cool water over your skin.
- If you are prone to razor bumps, try using an electric trimmer.
If you notice sweet-swelling pus or nonstop bleeding from razor burn or razor bumps, give your doctor a call.
Razor bumps may need to be diagnosed by a professional to rule out a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or other kind of folliculitis.
Pustular psoriasis and molluscum contagiosum are skin conditions that sometimes resemble razor bumps. If the bumps look infected or are not healing properly, seek a doctor’s opinion right away.
If you get razor burn or razor bumps every time you shave, see a dermatologist. You may have skin that is extra sensitive or hair that is prone to folliculitis. A prescription cream to reduce inflammation may be what you need to stop razor bumps.
Razor burn usually clears up within two or three days. Self-care and home remedies can help symptoms clear even earlier.
Razor bumps can take two weeks or more to go away. Razor bumps can be re-triggered every time you shave, making it seem like they never clear up. Exfoliating skin, changing your shaving habits, and using a corticosteroid cream can help razor bumps go away more quickly.
Other rashes and infections can look like razor bumps or razor burn. Reach out to your doctor if your skin doesn’t heal within the expected time frame.