What Causes Razor Rashes and Bumps and How to Prevent Them

Learn about razor rashes, also known as razor burn, and razor bumps, including what causes them, how to treat them and ways to prevent them when shaving.

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Razor rashes and bumps can be itchy, cause discomfort and can even be painful. Find out what causes razor rashes and bumps, and how you can protect your skin while you shave.

The difference between razor rashes and bumps

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Razor rashes and razor bumps are often used interchangeably, but they are actually considered to be separate conditions. Razor rashes, also known as razor burn, can cause itchy rashes, tenderness and redness. Razor bumps are ingrown hairs caused by cut hair strands that curl back into the skin and grow under the surface, causing red or skin-coloured, pimple-like bumps.

What causes razor rashes and bumps

Skin rash on the arms

Your razor, how you shave and even your skin type all can cause razor burn and bumps. For instance, shaving dry skin with a manual razor and using a dull razor blade increases the chances of developing razor burn and bumps; and if your skin is naturally more sensitive, you are also at a higher risk of developing skin irritation when shaving.

How to treat razor rashes and bumps

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Although razor burn and bumps should heal on their own without treatment, you can take steps to help speed up the healing process.

  • For razor burn, apply a cold washcloth or lotion with calming ingredients like aloe to soothe heated or irritated skin and prevent scratching, which can delay healing.
  • For razor bumps, place a warm towel on the affected area for a few minutes to help encourage the ingrown hairs to break through the skin, and that's how you get rid of razor bumps.
  • To treat both razor burn and bumps, keep skin well-moisturized to help fight the urge to itch any affected areas.
  • If your skin irritation gets infected, see a dermatologist to get an antibiotic.

How to prevent razor rashes and bumps

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Although there is no exact solution for how to stop razor burn, rashes and bumps from occurring, especially if you have sensitive skin, you can minimize the chances of irritation when shaving.

Exfoliate before you shave to remove dead skin

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Exfoliation helps prevent razor burn and ingrown hairs by removing dead skin from the surface. To exfoliate, use a gentle scrub or loofah and gently scrub your skin before you shave.

Use a sharp razor blade

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How to prevent razor bumps or rashes? Always try shaving with a sharp razor blade, that protects your skin from nicks, razor burn and bumps. It’s time to replace your blade with a new one if it feels rough on your skin or pulls at your body hair.

Hydrate your skin before you shave

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Shaving dry skin increases irritation, so soak the area you plan to shave for three to five minutes in warm water via a bath or shower and apply shaving gel to maintain moisture while you shave.

Choose the right razor

Silver razor with three different colored detached oval razor heads above it

Using a razor with three or more blades can prevent razor burn and bumps because the blades are spaced more tightly together on the razor head and will glide easier across your skin. More blades also allow for a closer shave in fewer strokes, which helps prevent skin irritation.

Shave in the direction of hair growth

Woman shaving her leg on dry skin

If your skin is more sensitive, shave only in the direction of the hair grown to avoid irritation. Also, take your time and shave in light, steady strokes. Learn more about how to shave each individual area of your body to further reduce the chances of razor rashes and bumps..

Moisturize after shaving

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After you shave, apply a moisturizing lotion or oil, preferably alcohol-free, to preserve moisture and add an extra layer of protection from razor burn and bumps.