Razor bumps (pseudofolliculitis barbae), or razor burn, are small bumps in the skin that develop after shaving. As well as looking like pimples, which can completely spoil the attractive clean-shaven look, razor bumps can also be sore. Over time, these seemingly minor shaving bumps can develop into permanent scar tissue.

Causes of Razor Bumps

Razor bumps are caused by shaving. Sometimes when a hair is cut off at the point where it exits the skin, it can curl back and start growing inwards. These ingrown hairs cause irritation to the hair follicle, which swells into a small red lump that looks a bit like a pimple.

By using proper shaving technique, you can help to reduce shaving bumps and ingrown hairs.

If you already have razor bumps, then it might be a good idea to hold off on shaving for a few days while they heal up. Shaving skin that is already irritated by razor burn is a recipe for pain, and you could even end up with scarring if the damage is never given chance to heal.

Types of Razor Bumps

There are actually two types of razor bumps: extrafollicular and transfollicular. In the former case, the hair turns around and grows inwards without exiting the skin at all. In transfollicular razor bumps, however, the hair exits the skin and reenters it, so you may be able to see a small amount of exposed hair. In this case, you might be able to tease the end of the hair out of the skin with a pair of tweezers, but resist the temptation to pluck the hair out completely: you’ll only end up with deeper ingrown hairs if you do.

Who gets Razor Bumps?

Men are more likely to suffer from razor bumps than women. This is both because men shave every day and because the skin on the face is an especially sensitive part of the body. A recent poll conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology found that 78% of men had experienced some form of irritation as a result of shaving, which could include razor bumps, reddened skin, or soreness.

Whereas only 20% of Caucasians experience problems with razor bumps, various sources claim that between 60-80% of black men are affected. This is because the tightly curled facial hair of black men is more prone to curling around and burrowing back into the skin than straighter hair types. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that men with curly facial hair were 50 times more likely to suffer from razor bumps than their straight-haired counterparts.

As black skin is also more susceptible to keloid scarring, which can develop if razor bumps are left untreated, it is especially important for black men to learn how to prevent and treat this common skin condition.