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How do you get rid of shaving bumps?

Shaving bumps and razor burn are enough to make any man swear off shaving. But all's not lost! The right technique and products can help your sensitive skin be silky smooth and bump free. See more personal hygiene pictures.
©iStockphoto.com/EricHood

Does your daily shave leave your skin less than smooth? If you find yourself in an endless battle against red and swollen shaving bumps, know this: It's not hopeless.

Shaving bumps and ingrown hairs, known as pseudofolliculitis barbae, are caused by hairs that either never make it out of the follicle as they regrow after shaving, or hairs that curl around and re-enter the skin as they grow. Both problems cause the skin to become inflamed with red, sometimes pus-filled pimples. When hair re-enters the skin, the body considers it a foreign invader, as it would bacteria, triggering a response to attack the hair -- and it's this response that causes inflammation. That's right -- the very hair you're trying to remove is interfering with your daily beautification efforts.

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But don't adopt a beard just yet. There are ways to treat those bumps, from your shaving technique to over-the-counter remedies and other hair removal solutions. First, let's talk technique.

 

 

 

A good shaving technique is paramount in preventing ingrown hairs. It starts with having the right tools for the job and doing a little prep work.

First, let's talk about those tools. If you're wet shaving, you'll need a razor (disposable, cartridge or safety), a thick shaving cream or lubricating shaving gel, and warm water. Make sure that the razor's blade is sharp -- the sharper the blade, the better it is for removing hairs in the fewest strokes possible. If it's a week old, it's not sharp enough.

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Shave immediately after showering or make shaving part of your in-shower routine -- this lets you take advantage of the steam. The steamy room will help to open your pores and make hairs softer and easier to shave. Smoothing shaving oil on your face before lathering up with shaving gel, a step commonly overlooked, can also help make shaving easier while decreasing the irritation caused by the razor.

Now, how's your technique? While shaving against the direction of hair growth will get you a closer shave, it also increases your chances of ingrown hairs. Shaving in the same direction as your hair grows -- shaving with the grain (this is usually going to mean downward strokes) -- may also help to minimize nicks and ingrown hairs. Refrain from pulling your skin taut as you shave -- while this is another common technique to get a close shave, it can also increase the likelihood of getting shaving bumps. Shave with just one stroke (or as few as it takes) to remove the hair from each section of skin. Rinse the blade in hot water after each stroke, and splash cool water on your skin when you're done.

Even the best prevention methods aren't perfect. If you're prone to shaving bumps, you'll also need to know a few tricks for treating them.

There are a few at-home or readily available over-the-counter remedies that may help treat ingrown hairs when they happen.

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First, look for products that contain salicylic acid as the active ingredient. These will help encourage the skin to turn over its dead skin cells. You should also consider gently exfoliating the area with a loofah, washcloth or exfoliating facial wash during your shower or bath, which will remove dead skin cells and discourage ingrown hairs. To advance healing and reduce swelling of bumps, topical hydrocortisone cream is available over the counter.

Also, invest in a pair of sharp tweezers. To help reduce the healing time, which can take three to four weeks or longer, you can tweeze the hairs lodged within those red bumps. With a clean pair of tweezers or a sterile needle (rubbing alcohol will sterilize them), grab the ingrown hair and coax it out from underneath your skin, as if you were removing a splinter. This works best when the hair is close to the top of the skin, and it's a bit easier to grab after trying exfoliating techniques and products. Be careful not to pluck the hair, however. If you do this, the next hair that grows could very well be ingrown, too.

If adapting a new shaving technique, exfoliating and trying over-the-counter remedies aren't enough to tackle the problem, it's time to break out the big guns.

If your bumps are more than mildly inflamed, you may benefit from the advice of a medical health professional. Topical treatments such as tretinoin cream or lotions containing glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid that helps improve the skin's overall texture and reduce fine lines) may help the skin cells slough off faster. Prescription-strength hydrocortisone creams can help reduce redness and inflammation. Doctors may also prescribe topical or oral antibiotics to help clear any secondary infections that may have developed in the hair follicle.

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Above all else, one foolproof way to get rid of shaving bumps is to shave less often or not at all. If you shave daily, try skipping a day or two, or consider growing your hair out. If you can't or don't want to grow out your hair, consider treatments such as depilatories, electrolysis or laser hair removal.

Want to know more about shaving bumps? Check out the next page for lots more information.

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Sources

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Laser Hair Removal." 2006. (Jan. 14, 2011)http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/cosmetic_laserhair.html
  • American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. "Pseudofolliculitis Barbae." 2011. (Jan. 14, 2011) http://www.aocd.org/skin/dermatologic_diseases/pseudofolliculitis.html
  • Davis, Dawn. "What Is Tretinoin Cream, How Does It Work, And How Effective Is It In Treating Aging Skin?" Good Morning America. June 1, 2009. (Jan. 14. 2011)http://abcnews.go.com/Health/WellnessResource/story?id=7709456
  • Go Ask Alice! "What do I do about all these ingrown hairs?" Columbia University's Health Q&A Internet Service. April 22, 2005. (Jan. 14, 2011) http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/3225.html
  • Healthwise, Inc. "Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center." WebMD. July 19, 2005. (Jan. 14, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/razor-bumps-topic-overview
  • Hudson's FTM Resource Guide. "All About Shaving." (Jan. 14, 2011) http://www.ftmguide.org/shaving.html
  • Mayo Clinic. "Keratosis pilaris." July 10, 2010. (Jan. 14, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/keratosis-pilaris/DS00769/DSECTION=causes
  • The Merck Manuals. "Pseudofolliculitis Barbae." August 2008. (Jan. 14, 2011)http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec10/ch124/ch124d.html
  • Shaefer, Kayleen. "The Perfect Shave." Details. (Jan. 14, 2011)http://www.details.com/style-advice/grooming-and-health/200705/how-to-get-the-perfect-shave

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