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How to Prevent & Treat Razor Bumps on the Head

A smooth scalp is every head shaver's dream, but razor bumps can ruin everything. They're painful and can make your scalp look and feel like an itchy minefield.

Join me as we learn about razor bumps, why you get them, the difference between razor bumps and razor burn, and, most importantly, how to get rid of them and prevent them from happening again.

But first, let's be clear. Not all bumps on your head are razor bumps. They may be due to something else.

What are Razor Bumps?

Razor bumps, or pseudofolliculitis barbae, are annoying, painful red bumps that appear days or weeks after you shave, wax, or pluck your scalp, face, underarms, legs, or private areas.

They occur when shaved hair goes back into the skin instead of growing outward becoming what we know as ingrown hairs. The body responds with an inflammatory response; usually red, tender, and itchy bumps.

What Causes Razor Bumps (Ingrown Hairs)?

The major causes of these unpleasant little lumps or ingrown hairs are your hair type, the wrong shaving technique, or using dull blades. One of these factors is enough to cause bumps, but often, two or all three occur, creating a perfect storm for ingrown hairs and pesky bumps.

Curly or Coarse Hair

Since razor bumps are ingrown hairs, those with coarse and curly hair are more prone to the condition. When you shave, the hair's tip becomes sharp and pointed, and if you have coarse and curly hair, it naturally curls back towards the skin and becomes trapped under the scalp instead of growing outward. The skin becomes irritated, resulting in razor bumps.

Shaving Against the Grain

Shaving against the grain (opposite of your hair growth) may give you a close shave but significantly increases the chances of razor bumps. If you shave against your hair growth, sharp, shaved hairs are cut at an angle that makes it easier for them to grow back into the skin, get trapped, and become razor bumps.

Dull Blades

Dull blades may worsen the situation since they tug and pull at the hair, which increases the chances of hair being cut unevenly, growing back into the skin, and becoming trapped and irritated (razor bumps).

What Do Razor Bumps Look Like?

man with razor bumps
ingrown hair being plucked

Razor bumps may vary in appearance from person to person but have some things in common:

  • They are small bumps the size of a pinhead or pea usually 2 to 5 mm. in diameter

  • They are usually red in color due to skin inflammation

  • They are raised and form a visible bump on the skin's surface

  • They are generally smooth but can be rough at times

  • They may develop white or yellow pus in the middle like a pimple

  • In some cases, ingrown hair can be visible at the center

  • Bumps may appear in clusters

  • Surrounding skin may also appear red and inflamed

  • Bumps may darken as they progress

  • In some instances, keloid scarring may occur

Razor Bumps vs. Razor Burns

razor burns on armpit

It's understandable why some shavers might confuse razor bumps with razor burns.

Similarities that Cause Confusion:

  • Location: Both usually appear on frequently shaved areas like our head, face, neck, legs, and private areas.

  • Experience: Both cause redness, irritation, and discomfort.

  • Cause: Both can be caused by dull or low-quality blades or incorrect shaving techniques.

Key Differences between Razor Bumps and Razor Burns:

  • Cause:

    • Razor Burn: Caused by skin irritation from dull blades, incorrect shaving techniques, or harsh shaving products.

    • Razor Bumps: Primarily caused by ingrown hairs, which occur when hairs curl back into the skin.

  • Appearance:

    • Razor Burn: Appears as a red rash, often with a burning or stinging sensation.

    • Razor Bumps: Appears as individual, small red bumps, sometimes with pus-filled tips, indicating an infection.

  • Progression:

    • Razor Burn: Heals faster, usually within a few days with proper care.

    • Razor Bumps: May take longer to heal, especially if ingrown hairs remain trapped in the skin and become infected.

  • Timing:

    • Razor Burn: Occurs immediately after shaving

    • Razor Bumps: Occurs days or weeks after shaving

Are All Bumps on My Head After Shaving Razor Bumps?

Not all bumps on your head after you shave are razor bumps. Other possible conditions cause bumps, such as acne, eczema, or folliculitis.

Before you treat your bumps, make sure they are razor bumps. If you are unsure, consult your doctor or dermatologist.

Razor Bumps

Razor bumps occur days or weeks after shaving and are caused by ingrown hairs trapped under the scalp. They are small, red, and sometimes have pus-filled bumps.

Scalp Acne

Scalp acne may look like razor bumps, but you get them when your pores are clogged due to excess sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells. You'll know if you have acne on your scalp if the bumps are more scattered. Razor bumps often appear individually or in clusters.

Eczema

Eczema is caused by irritation from certain hair products or stress. You may notice a bump on your head and think it's a razor bump, but if it appears as red, flaky, and scaly patches that are very itchy, it's probably eczema.

Folliculitis

Folliculitis is another skin condition that may cause bumps to appear on your scalp. Bumps may look like razor bumps (red, pus-filled) but have different causes. Folliculitis is caused by bacteria, fungus, or yeast infection of the hair follicle. Razor bumps don't spread, while Folliculitis can spread in severe cases.

How to Treat Razor Bumps on the Head

Treating razor bumps on our heads involves soothing the skin, exfoliating, and reducing inflammation. These actions can relieve the bumps and hasten the healing process.

Pause Shaving

Shaving is harsh on our skin. It is vital to stop shaving until the affected area heals. Otherwise, shaving may further irritate razor bumps and cause more bumps to form. 

Warm Compress

Applying a warm compress to those nasty bumps can help soothe the skin and open pores. Once the pores are opened, trapped hairs are released quickly, allowing the skin to heal.

Doing this twice a day is ideal.

Face Scrubs

Gently exfoliating the scalp with a mild face scrub can help free ingrown hairs by removing dead skin cells that trap them.

Moisturize

Moisturizing should be a part of your grooming routine, and this doesn't stop if you have razor bumps. If you have razor bumps, use a moisturizer that won't clog your pores and aggravate the situation.

Salicylic Acid and Glycolic Acid

Salicylic and glycolic acids are good exfoliators and can help reduce inflammation. They remove dead skin cells and prevent hair from getting trapped under the skin.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic that can help disinfect and lower inflammation in the affected area. Tea tree oil is potent, dilute with a carrier oil like coconut oil or jojoba to avoid further irritation.

Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera gel is known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, which may reduce redness and discomfort on our scalps. A dry scalp can worsen razor bumps, and aloe vera hydrates our scalp and provides comfort and relief from itch and swelling.

Medical Treatment

If natural remedies aren't working, your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter creams containing steroids (retinoids) that help reduce inflammation and encourage exfoliation.

Follow the application instructions, especially for the more potent ones like tretinoin. You'll have to apply sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher since retinoids make your scalp more sensitive to UV rays.

How Can I Prevent Razor Bumps on the Head?

Since ingrown hair causes razor bumps, prevention should focus on stopping hair from reentering the skin as it grows back. Here are some ways to do this.

Use Sharp Blades

Freebird Rotary Shaver Blades

Remember we mentioned that using dull blades to shave will worsen your razor bump situation? That's why you need to use sharp blades every time you shave. Sharp blades cut cleanly (even coarse and curly hair), minimizing the risk of uneven cuts resulting in ingrown hairs.

Exfoliate

Bald man exfoliating head

Regular exfoliation should be part of your shaving routine if you're prone to ingrown hairs and razor bumps. Dead skin cells can clog the surface of your skin, making it easier for hair to become ingrown.

Getting rid of dead skin lessens the chance of hairs getting trapped under the skin.

Pre-Shave Preparation

man getting hair washed

The proper preparation before shaving can help lessen the chances of razor bumps.

Before shaving, prepare your skin by applying warm water to soften hair and open pores. Next, use a high-quality shaving cream or gel for a smoother shave.

Shave with the Grain

bald man shaving

Another way to prevent razor bumps is to use the proper shaving technique, especially if you're prone to ingrown hair. Shaving with the grain helps lower the chances of razor bumps compared to shaving against the grain, which we have already explained previously. 

Switch to Electric Razors

Rotary shaver

Shaving your head with an electric rotary razor can significantly reduce the chances of ingrown hair. Since it doesn't cut off hair as closely (cuts a short distance above the skin) as a manual razor, hair can't grow back in an ingrown fashion.

Electric razors also have sharp, long-lasting blades that are sometimes hypoallergenic, which is good news for those prone to razor bumps.

Are you ready to make the switch? Freebird's FlexSeries works well to prevent ingrown hairs and is safe for sensitive scalps. Try it out today!

Freebird FlexSeries Shaving Kit

Alternative Solutions to Prevent Shave Bumps

If you continue to get razor bumps despite doing your due diligence in prevention, consider other hair removal options or a different hairstyle.

Hair Removal Creams

Nair Hair Removal Cream

These potent creams can dissolve hair quickly, but are they safe on our scalps? Is this an effective alternative to shaving your head? Read our article on the topic to learn more.

Laser Hair Removal

laser hair treatment

Laser hair removal is a more modern but pricey method of removing hair from your scalp. It uses highly concentrated light to destroy hair follicles.

You'll need 6 to 12 sessions for your scalp.

Buzz Cut

Jason Statham Buzz Cut

Getting a buzz cut is a good option if you want to say goodbye to razor bumps forever. But wait, before you grab your hair clippers, read our article on buzzed or shaved to see if a buzz cut suits you.

The Bottom Line

It's frustrating to get razor bumps when we shave our heads. 

The good news is there are several ways to prevent and treat them, but first, we must determine if they are razor bumps.

If we're sure they're razor bumps and DIY treatments don't work, or things worsen, seek advice from a dermatologist or healthcare professional.

FAQs

How to Avoid Razor Bumps on the Head?

The best way to avoid razor bumps on the head is to:

Do Razor Bumps on the Head Go Away?

Generally, those nasty bumps on our heads heal in a few days or weeks. If they persist or get worse, see a doctor or dermatologist immediately. 

Does Vaseline Help Razor Bumps?

Yes, Vaseline may help with razor bumps. It may help soothe the affected area by locking in moisture and preventing dryness.

Avoid using too much since it may clog pores.

What Heals Razor Bumps Fast?

While there are no magic pills you can take for instant healing of razor bumps, there are steps you can take to hasten healing like:

  • Halt shaving

  • Warm compress

  • Moisturize

  • Use Tea Tree Oil

  • Use Aloe Vera Gel

  • Use Salicylic Acid

  • Use Glycolic Acid 

Can I Get Complications from Razor Bumps?

Yes, razor bumps can get infected if you're not careful. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice them getting worse or more painful.

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