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Razor Bumps

Topic Overview

What are razor bumps?

Razor bumps, also called pseudofolliculitis barbae, are small, irritated bumps on the skin. They develop after shaving, when strands of hair curl back on themselves and grow into the skin. Razor bumps cause irritation and pimples. They also may cause scarring.

How are razor bumps treated?

The best way to treat razor bumps is to stop shaving. If you cannot stop shaving, use a clean needle to release the embedded hair shaft. This usually stops razor bumps from developing, depending on how bad they are.

But if shaving is restarted, razor bumps typically return.

Severe razor bumps that do not go away with home treatment may be treated with medicine you spread on the skin, such as hydrocortisone, antibiotic, or tretinoin cream.

Do shaving alternatives stop the development of razor bumps?

Razor bumps will typically go away if shaving is stopped. Hair removal products (depilatories) can be used instead of shaving. But these products can irritate the skin and should be used only once or twice a week.

Or you can prevent irritation from shaving by having beard hair removed permanently with laser treatments or electrolysis.

Can razor bumps be prevented?

Following these shaving instructions can help prevent razor bumps:

  • Gently moisten the skin with water and a mild soap before shaving, to soften the hair and open the pores.
  • Use a thick shaving gel.
  • Don't stretch the skin when shaving, and always shave in the direction your beard grows. Use the fewest razor strokes possible. Rinse with cold water.
  • Use an electric razor if it can be adjusted to avoid the closest setting.
  • After shaving, use a moisturizing cream on your face.

Who is at risk for razor bumps?

Anyone can get razor bumps, but they are common among people of African descent and people who have tightly coiled hair.

Related Information


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Last Revised July 18, 2013
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