Razor bumps or ingrown hairs are an unsightly but generally harmless condition caused by shaving. This condition is extremely common and most people who shave will experience the discomfort of a razor bump at some point, although there are ways to minimize the occurrence of ingrown hairs and speed their healing.
Razor bumps are more likely to occur after an extremely close shave. The act of shaving sharpens the end of the hair, making it more likely to pierce the skin and become ingrown as the hair grows longer. Curly hair is more likely to result in razor bumps than straight hair, as it grows out and then curls back towards the skin rather than growing directly out of the skin. Once the hair pierces the skin and begins to grow, the body fights the hair as if it were an infection. This results in a pimple, known as a razor bump.
The medical term for razor bumps is psuedofolliculitis barbe which is a condition involving ingrown hairs in the beard area after shaving. However, this condition can affect any part of the body which has been recently shaved and occurs in both men and women, although it is more common among African American men. Razor bumps can evolve into other conditions such as Folliculitis, Barber's Itch, and Tinea Barbae. Folliculitis is caused when hair follicles damaged by shaving or friction from clothing are infected with the bacteria Staphylococcus. Barber's itch is Folliculitis which has affected the beard area of the face and is aggravated by continued shaving. Tinea barbae is caused when irritated hair follicles are infected with a fungus.
Razor bumps may appear as one single bump, or many bumps on a recently shaved area of skin. They appear as reddened papules topped with pustules, more commonly known as white-headed pimples. Razor bumps may be accompanied by a rash and reddened, irritated skin.
Unless an infection occurs, this condition will resolve itself if the hair is allowed to grow out naturally. In order to speed up the healing process, a sterile needle may be used to release the end of the hair from the razor bump. However, the hair should not be plucked as it may become ingrown again as it grows back. Warm compresses applied to the skin can help relieve irritation and soothe any discomfort while waiting for the hair to grow out. If shaving is unavoidable at the time, a close shave should be avoided to prevent more irritation and infection. Using single-blade razors or electric shavers will help prevent a close shave.
Besides avoiding shaving, razor bumps can be prevented by using a clean razor for each shave. Shaving should be done in one direction with short, even strokes to minimize irritation of the skin. A popular home remedy claims that applying stick deodorant to freshly shaved skin will help reduce the appearance and irritation of razor bumps.
If home treatments do not relieve symptoms, or if the razor bumps appear to be spreading, one should contact a medical professional to determine the cause of the irritation. The razor bumps may have become infected with either a fungus or Staph infection and will require lab tests in order to determine the proper course of treatment to stop the infection.