Razor bumps rate right up there with bacne and varicose veins on “Allure” magazine’s list of most embarrassing beauty problems, and for good reason: Those red bumps make you look like you’re dealing with an unsightly breakout, and they’re itchy and uncomfortable to boot. Luckily, you can learn to spot the danger signals and treat or even prevent razor bumps.
Razor bumps occur when the sharp tip of a hair burrows back into the skin, creating an immune system response that causes a hard, red bump to form. If the bump becomes infected, it can develop a pus-filled head. Razor bump treatments can treat any part of the bump formation process: They may be designed to prevent or remove burrowing hairs, to soothe inflamed and irritated bumps or to prevent infection.
The most effective way to deal with razor bumps is not to get them in the first place, says Manhattan-based cosmetic dermatologist Howard Sobel in “Marie Claire” magazine. Sobel recommends preventing razor burn by always using a moisturizing shaving gel and a sharp razor when you shave and making sure you move your razor in the direction your hair grows.
Once you’ve developed razor bumps, treat them like you would a pimple, recommends the beauty department at “Allure” magazine. Use a salicylic acid gel on your razor bumps once a day to help clear up infection and irritation and reduce redness and swelling. If you need to, you can also apply a little cortisone cream directly to razor bumps to help speed them on their way, says Debra Wattenberg, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, in “O, The Oprah Magazine.”
There are also a few body-specific tricks that can help treat razor burn. If your bumps are around your bikini line, stick with loose cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting pants — they’ll rub against your bumps, making them more irritated, explains Sobel. If you get razor bumps under your arm, shave them at night since sweating and deodorant can increase your chance of getting them, says Wattenberg.
Ingrown hairs don’t usually pose a serious health risk, but if you get them frequently, you might want to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. Over time, ingrown hairs can cause serious infections and permanent scars, notes MayoClinic.com, and you may need a professional’s help to prevent long-term damage.