Why Do I Always Get Razor Burn and Razor Bumps?

Does shaving irritate your skin? Do you have to shave for your job even though it’s painful? Why does razor burn happen, and how do you prevent it? Well, the skin on your face is much more susceptible to it, and when the hair tries to grow back, this can make the razor burn feel even worse. On top of that, you might experience razor bumps, especially if you have tightly coiled hair (curly and thick). 

So, what is razor burn?

Razor burn can be caused by shaving too close or against the direction of hair growth. Although this makes the shave feel smooth, this can cause razor burn. Razor burns can happen when the razor cuts so close to the skin that it damages part of the pilosebaceous unit.

This is where hair grows underneath the skin. Every hair belongs to a pilosebaceous unit, and a razor burn can be caused by shaving dry skin or shaving without a proper shaving product. Shaving with a dull blade can also cause razor burns. Razor burns can last anywhere from a few hours to days. 

What are razor bumps? 

Razor bumps are different than razor burns. The technical term for razor bumps is pseudofolliculitis barbae. Pseudofolliculitis barbae normally occurs because ofingrown hairs. When you shave, your hair might curl under the skin as it grows back. Razor burns are small bumps and razor burns look like rashes. However, just because you have one doesn’t mean you’ll have the other. 

Razor bumps are particularly common in men with richly melanated skin and tightly coiled hair. Because the skin is so curly, it can easily curl under the skin. So, for this hair type, it’s particularly important to follow a good skincare and shaving regimen. 

How do I avoid razor burn and bumps?

Use warm water and exfoliate

It can be helpful to cleanse with an exfoliating product before shaving. Exfoliation means removing old skin cells from your face, Exfoliating beforehand also cleanses the skin and ensures that the surface of your skin is clean beforehand. You never want to use anything grainy before shaving. Use something gentle and nourishing beforehand. You’ll also want to use warm water because it prepares the hair shaft for shaving. 

Why should I exfoliate?

When you don’t exfoliate, dead skin cells can build up and increase the chance of irritation and hair getting trapped beneath the surface. One type of exfoliator is salicylic acid. Salicylic acid sounds intense, but it’s just called “acid” because it breaks down impurities and old skin cells. However, for the sake of shaving, you’ll want a gentle cleanse. So, you can search for a “gentle salicylic acid cleanser” or “gentle exfoliating cleanser.”

Shaving gel

If you razor burn easily, you’ll want to use a shaving cream specifically for this. There are many “fragrance-free sensitive skin shaving products.” And actually, the product you shave with can be crucial to avoiding irritation and razor burn. A good shaving product soothes and hydrates the skin. 

Use shaving products that are more hydrating than foamy is better. Although foams may allow for closer shaves, shaving gels are actually the better option because they are more likely to hydrate the skin.  

Use gentle pressure

When you want a clean shave, applying pressure is tempting, but doing so can actually damage the skin, cause razor burns, and razor bumps. Applying too much pressure can also increase the risk of cutting your skin. Also, make sure you shave in the direction that your hair grows. Use long, gentle motions. 

How do I prevent redness after shaving? 

Use a nourishing cleanser and moisturizer afterward

You can use a “cleansing balm”which is an oil-based cleanser. As another option, you could also use a ceramide cleanser instead to nourish the skin after shaving. Our skin naturally makes ceramides, and they are important building blocks to our skin’s health. 

As a third option, you could use use a niacinamide cleanser. Niacinamide prevents inflammation, redness, and controls oil. Naturally, shaving can make the skin sensitive and it’s good to use a replenishing moisturizer afterward that will help fortify the skin barrier. Remember, the skin barrier is a layer that protects the deeper layers of your skin and body.

Use sunscreen

Using sunscreen or SPF is very important because the sun’s UV rays can actually irritate the skin. Plus, shaving can cause some natural inflammation, and you don’t want UV rays making it worse. SPF protects the skin barrier, moisturizes the skin, and allows the skin to be more healthy. After shaving, it may be better to use physical sunscreen as they are known to be more gentle.You can read here about the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens. Sunscreens can also work as moisturizers!

Overall, it's best to have three products as a minimum: a gentle, exfoliating cleanser, a shaving gel, and a nourishing sunscreen!

For best results, you'll need five: a gentle exfoliating cleanser, a hydrating, shaving gel, a nourishing cleanser to use after shaving, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen.