A razor bump results from an ingrown hair in an area that has been shaved. Ingrown hairs can occur in any hair follicle, but the shaving of hair can easily result in the stub regrowing into the skin and becoming infected. To prevent ingrown hair and razor bumps, skin should be carefully prepared before shaving, including softening the hair with warm water and shaving cream, and the hair should be shaved in its natural direction. A razor bump can be treated with a salicylic acid cream or topical antibiotics.
Ingrown hair is what happens when a hair grows into the skin around it rather than straight out from the follicle. This can be from the hair breaking off too short and curling down as it grows back. It can stem from a blockage of the hair follicle, forcing the hair to grow around the blockage. Most ingrown hairs itch and sometimes include a rash.
While an ingrown hair can appear anywhere on the body, it does happen most often in areas where hair is removed. When the hair is broken off close to the skin, it gives the hair an easy opportunity to grow back at an angle. This trapped hair can become infected, resulting in a pimple-like growth often called razor bumps. As shaving irritates the skin, any ingrown hairs are more likely to become infected.
Several precautions can be taken to avoid ingrown hair and razor bumps. Exfoliating the skin with a washcloth or loofah before shaving will get rid of dead skin cells that can clog the razor and get deposited elsewhere on the skin. Soaking the area to be shaved in warm water for at least five minutes and using a shaving cream will soften the hair and make it easier to remove cleanly. Shaving in the direction the hair grows will help keep the hair from being forced back into the surrounding skin.
If ingrown hair and razor bumps appear, a warm washcloth can soothe the area, and a medication with salicylic acid, like a pimple cream, will help reduce the inflammation. For severe infections, a doctor’s prescription for an antibiotic cream may be necessary. A topical steroid cream can also help with swelling. Laser hair removal is one answer to avoiding razor bumps because it kills the hair completely, but it requires multiple, costly treatments that can be painful and have risks of side effects.