What Are Razor Bumps & How to Treat Them | Pinebelt Derm, MS (2023)

Have you ever shaved your skin and expected it to feel soft and smooth, but instead got hit with bumps, and then ingrown hair? If you have, then you know the pain of razor bumps, also called pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), shaving bumps, barber’s itch, or folliculitis barbae traumatica.

While razor bumps can be incredibly inconvenient and just plain annoying, that’s not all they are. If your razor bumps are left untreated, they can cause permanent damage to your skin. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available that you can try.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about pseudofolliculitis barbae, and how to prevent or treat them.

What Is Pseudofolliculitis Barbae?

Pseudofolliculitis barbae is a chronic irritation or inflammation of the hair follicles and the surrounding skin. This can be caused by two reasons—the hairs penetrate the skin before leaving the hair follicle, or leave the follicle and then curve back into the skin.

Instead of growing straight out from the follicle, the hair grows at an angle. This causes it to meet resistance from dead skin cells at the pore opening, which causes it to curl back inside, causing painful and inflamed bumps.

PFB appears similar to folliculitis (inflammation of hair follicles due to inflammation) but is not caused by infection. Typically, it is seen on the face and neck of men who shave, but it can affect men and women of all ethnicities in any body part. Areas of the body with thick, coarse hair and areas that are often subject to hair removal methods like shaving, waxing, and tweezing are more likely to experience razor bumps.

Pseudofolliculitis barbae is most commonly due to shaving—particularly close shaving since the hair can easily retract beneath the surface of the skin. It is most common around the beard and neck, hence the term “barbae” (barba is the Latin word for beard). It can also occur in areas where there are skin folds or scars.

Since it can be caused by several factors, there is no particular cure. However, it can be prevented, managed, and treated in many ways.

The Link between Pseudofolliculitis Barbae and Dark Skin

Although anyone can get razor bumps, it is more common in individuals with tightly curled or coiled hair since curly hair is much more likely to turn back on itself and become ingrown.

Studies show that 45% to 95% of African American men will experience pseudofolliculitis barbae at some point in their lives. Hispanic, Asian, and Middle Eastern people also present higher chances of experiencing PFB, especially for those with hirsutism and who regularly shave their pubic area.

Symptoms of Pseudofolliculitis Barbae

The most common symptom of pseudofolliculitis barbae, or razor bumps, is in the name itself—bumps on the skin. These bumps are usually red, irritated, and can resemble acne. It can also present as ingrown hairs associated with small flesh-colored or red follicular papules.

Other symptoms include:

(Video) How to Treat and Avoid Razor Bumps

● Itching.

● Pain.


● Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin).

● Scarring (including keloid scarring).

In some cases, pseudofolliculitis barbae can result in folliculitis, if the hair follicles get too irritated or inflamed. It can also be further aggravated if the individual suffers from any coexisting eczema or dermatitis.

Where Can You Get Pseudofolliculitis Barbae?

You can get pseudofolliculitis barbae anywhere that you shave, wax, tweeze, or even chemically depilate hair (in some cases). However, PFB occurs much more commonly from shaving.

Razor bumps are usually present in the following areas:

● Face (particularly the skin under the jawline, neck, and lower cheeks).

● Underarms.

● Legs.

● Groin.

(Video) How to Stop Ingrown Hair & Razor Bumps from Waxing & Shaving | Treatments & Products | Black Skin

How to Prevent Razor Bumps

The most effective method would be to let the hair grow, but that’s not always possible. However, there are steps you can take to prevent or minimize your chances of getting razor bumps:

● Moisten your skin with a warm, wet washcloth before you shave to help open the pores and soften the hair.

● Use a non-irritating shaving gel or cream.

● Always shave in the direction of hair growth, not against.

● Avoid shaving too close to the skin.

● Use an electric razor.

● Don’t stretch the skin while shaving.

● Avoid shaving over the same area multiple times.

● Don’t press the razor too hard into the skin.

● Replace your razor frequently.

● Try not to shave daily. Instead, shave every other day or less.

● Use a moisturizing cream regularly, and exfoliate to keep your follicle openings clear.

(Video) 5 Tips To Deal With Ingrown Hairs At Home | SELF

How to Treat Razor Bumps

Pseudofolliculitis barbae is a chronic condition, but some treatments can help reduce its effects. While preventive measures are the best way, with appropriate grooming techniques and different treatment options, PFB can be managed.

Since PFB is caused by the inflammatory response of the body to a foreign object (ingrown hair), the first step should be aimed at that. In other words, people with PFB should stop shaving the affected area for a minimum of 4 weeks to allow the ingrown hairs to break through the epidermal cover and reach the surface. Additionally, most PFB papules and pustules were found to disappear after one month of continuous hair growth.

At-Home Treatment

Some natural remedies can be useful when it comes to managing the symptoms and spread of pseudofolliculitis barbae. These include:

  1. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is known to soothe burns and heal wounds thanks to its antibacterial properties. It is also moisturizing and anti-inflammatory, allowing it to reduce itchiness, swelling, and redness.

2. Tea Tree Oil

Similar to aloe vera, tea tree oil also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is commonly used to treat skin conditions like eczema, itchy skin, inflammation, acne, psoriasis, and more.

However, remember to dilute the tea tree oil instead of directly applying it to the skin. Direct application can sometimes result in irritation or an allergic rash, so dilute the oil with a carrier oil first.

3. Exfoliation

Exfoliating the affected area can help you remove any dead skin cells that may be clogging up pores. Both store-bought exfoliators and homemade exfoliators can be used for this purpose. Gently rub the exfoliator over the affected area in a circular motion for a few minutes before rinsing.

4. Chemical Depilatories

Chemical depilatories don’t cause as many issues as when compared to manual razors, and so can be a preferable choice for those who prefer a closer shave. Chemical depilatories can be quite strong depending on the brand and the type, so ensure to read the product instructions carefully to avoid any irritation or burns.

Medical Treatment

Some pharmacological drugs or lotions can help minimize the symptoms of PFB.

(Video) GOODBYE RAZOR BUMPS/ The Perfect Shave/ Episode #50 #shaving #mensgrooming #razorbumps #skincare

  1. Antibiotics

Although the initial development of PFB doesn’t involve bacteria, continued irritation and inflammation can lead to a secondary infection. In this case, prescribed antibiotics or antibacterial lotions can be used to treat the affected area.

2. Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are a common treatment for skin irritation and inflammation—both characteristic of PFB. Most steroid treatments for PFB include a topical steroid cream that is applied daily.

3. Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide has antibacterial effects and also helps reduce inflammation and hyperkeratosis (thickening of the skin’s outer layer). It is used both alone and in combination with topical corticosteroids or retinoids to reduce PFB.

Surgical Treatment

Surgical options for PFB can be an effective option for some people. These include:

  1. Chemical Peels

Chemical peels with a high concentration of glycolic or salicylic acid can be beneficial in the treatment of PFB. Both of these agents are highly effective exfoliants and can help the hair grow straighter, reducing the potential for ingrown hairs.

2. Laser Therapy

Laser hair removal involves removing the hair follicle to stop new hairs from growing and is the closest thing to a cure that currently exists for PFB. Different laser epilation systems can be used for different skin types, but laser therapy can typically take several treatment sessions.

3. Electrolysis

This is another hair removal technique that is usually done by a dermatologist. It works by inserting an epilator device into the skin that uses shortwave radio frequencies to make existing hair fall out and stop new hair from growing.

Complications from Pseudofolliculitis Barbae

PFB is not life-threatening but can result in more and more complications the longer it’s left untreated. When treated early, most of these serious complications can be avoided. The most severe complications include hypertrophic scarring, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), and keloid formation that results in cosmetic disfigurement.

(Video) Dermatologist Shares 11 Shaving Mistakes to Avoid (Tips for Ingrown Hairs, Irritation, & More)

When You Should See a Dermatologist

If you find that you have recurring bumps, it’s definitely time to visit a dermatologist. Since PFB can closely resemble tinea barbae (a fungal infection of the hair), it’s important to consult a professional to ensure that you receive the right treatment. In addition, leaving PFB untreated can lead to further complications or permanent scarring of the skin.

Pseudofolliculitis barbae can be difficult to deal with, and if left untreated, can result in several complications that can reduce your quality of life. At Pine Belt Dermatology, MS, we’re dedicated to offering the best dermatology and cosmetic services to fulfill all your needs. To get in touch, check out our locations, or request an appointment today.


How do dermatologists get rid of razor bumps? ›

Before shaving, wash your skin with a non-comedogenic cleanser. While shaving, always use a moisturizing shaving cream. Once you're done shaving, apply a soothing aftershave formulated to reduce risk of razor bumps and irritation. Use proper technique when shaving to reduce bumps.

What is the best treatment for razor bumps? ›

Razor bumps that look inflamed or are taking extra time to heal may be aided with a topical steroid. These creams will reduce inflammation. You can find hydrocortisone creams at your local drugs stores. If you don't notice any changes in your razor burn after two to three days, call your doctor.

What ointment is good for razor bumps? ›

King recommended hydrocortisone cream, a steroid that can help soothe irritation or use ointments or moisturizers with emollients, which are sealing agents that locks moisture in to help healing, such as Aquaphor Healing Ointment or Vanicream Moisturizing Ointment.

Does hydrocortisone cream get rid of razor bumps? ›

Best cream spot treatment for getting rid of razor bumps

Jaber told us that a 1-percent hydrocortisone cream like this “will make the redness and inflammation go down” on most standard-issue bumps.

Do you eventually stop getting razor bumps? ›

Razor bumps tend to resolve on their own, within 2 or 3 weeks of shaving. However, 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.

Is Vaseline good for razor bumps? ›

In times of trouble and razor burn, turn to the tried and tested Vaseline Original Pure Skin Jelly. Its triple purified formula of pure petroleum jelly is hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. This works gently to reduce dryness, cracking and itchiness on the skin with ease. Bid razor burn goodbye instantly!

What is the cause of razor bumps? ›

Razor bumps develop when hair is cut right at the point where it pushes out of the skin. This may lead the hair to curl back inward. The ingrown hair then becomes irritated, causing it to swell into a red bump.

Is witch hazel good for razor bumps? ›

Witch hazel is a natural antiseptic that helps reduce inflammation in the skin. Apply it directly to your razor bumps to help reduce the redness and irritation.

Does Neosporin help razor bumps? ›

Applying an antibiotic ointment cream (like Neosporin) or aloe-based cream on visible bumps and razor burn will do wonders in helping the skin heal while reducing irritation and inflammation.

Can aquaphor heal razor bumps? ›

this can help with razor bumps that often come along with razor burn. Aquaphor: this common healing ointment will keep the skin hydrated and cooled as it heals. lotion: a gentle, fragrance-free lotion can help soothe razor-burned skin.

Does antibiotic cream get rid of razor bumps? ›

There are no medicines that specifically cure razor bumps. You can use over-the-counter antibiotic creams to speed up healing, though. Over-the-counter steroid creams with hydrocortisone can reduce the swelling.

Is aloe vera better than cortisone? ›

After 48 hours under a bandage, the aloe gel seemed to be more effective at reducing skin redness than the hydrocortisone gel, but less effective than the hydrocortisone cream (which stays on the skin longer and is easier to absorb than a gel).

What is the difference between razor burn and razor bumps? ›

Although the terms are used interchangeably, razor burn and razor bumps are generally considered different conditions. A razor burn is caused after you shave, and razor bumps are the result of shaved hairs growing back and becoming ingrown. Ingrown hairs may look like raised bumps or even acne.

Does hydrogen peroxide help with razor bumps? ›

After shaving, some experts recommend using a gentle astringent like witch hazel or hydrogen peroxide on the skin to prevent infection and ingrown hairs.

Is CeraVe good for razor bumps? ›

Best Wash: CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

It contains salicylic acid which, "helps exfoliate the skin but also decreases oil production and unclogs pores, all of which can help with razor bumps," she says.

Can diaper rash cream get rid of razor bumps? ›

Reduce razor bumps

Zinc oxide, the main ingredient in diaper rash cream, will help soothe irritated areas. Simply apply a thin layer to freshly shaved areas (bikini line, under arms, etc.) to prevent or treat razor bumps. Since it's thick, use overnight and rinse off in the morning.

Does apple cider vinegar stop razor bumps? ›

Apple Cider Vinegar

If you would like to get rid of shaving rash quickly, apple cider vinegar is your best bet. It's a great anti-inflammatory, which helps to reduce itching, and the acetic acid helps to prevent any infection from occurring.

Does baking soda cure razor bumps? ›

Baking Soda Paste

Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with one cup of lukewarm water until it thickens and apply it to the skin, says Dr. Chacon. Then, leave it on for about 20 minutes or until it dries, then rinse it off your skin thoroughly. Repeat this process twice a day until your razor bumps disappear.

Does Epsom salt help with razor bumps? ›

Add epsom salts to water, then mix it well and apply it to the area affected by razor rash. This opens up the pores and relieves irritation. It's especially helpful on acne prone skin.

How do you get rid of razor bumps on your pubic area overnight? ›

Use a cool compress: Applying a cool compress to the affected area could help reduce skin swelling and soothe razor burn. Soak in a warm bath: Taking a warm bath may open up the pores and relieve swelling and skin irritation.

Is A&D ointment good for razor bumps? ›

If razor burn is present at the shaved site, you may apply some A&D ointment or aloe.

Are razor bumps bacterial? ›

What Causes Razor Bumps? Bacterial causation of folliculitis barbae is usually due to infection with the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus)1. The bacteria can be spread to other hair follicles when the pus-filled spots in the area is cut by razors, causing bleeding and pus drainage 3.

Should I see a dermatologist for razor bumps? ›

Ingrown hairs that are seriously irritated and/or infected are best treated by a board-certified dermatologist. A dermatologist can also recommend a regimen of anti-bacterial washes and creams as well as topical retinoids that can help treat the area and prevent future ingrown hairs.

Can dermatologist get rid of hair bumps? ›

Ingrown hairs that are seriously irritated and/or infected are best treated by a board-certified dermatologist. A dermatologist can also recommend a regimen of anti-bacterial washes and creams as well as topical retinoids that can help treat the area and prevent future ingrown hairs.

When should I see a doctor about razor bumps? ›

If the bumps develop signs of infection, consult your doctor. Symptoms of infection include welts and pustules. If the area is infected, your doctor will prescribe an oral antibiotic. Your doctor may also recommend products to prevent future razor burns or bumps.

Can an esthetician help with razor bumps? ›

Get a facial: Professional aesthetician Micheline Reboh says, "facials are very soothing and they will relieve any skin irritation caused by razor burns.”


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