For many men, razor bumps (also known as pseudofolliculitis barbae) can be a painful, irritating fact of modern grooming life. When curly hairs are shaved too close, they can start to curl back down into the skin, causing bumps to form. Razor bumps can also come from waxing or clogged pores. They may even turn into ingrown hairs. In some cases, unsightly keloids — an excessive growth of scar tissue — may also grow over the scar if further irritated. We asked Michael James, founder of the grooming collection Frederick Benjamin, for a little guidance on how to avoid the problem in the first place.
“I always tell guys with textured hair to pick a day to shave, preferably on a weekend when you can really take your time,” says James. “Avoid shaving every day if you can, understanding that for some men who work in a corporate environment, a high, buttoned collar and necktie rubbing against beard stubble may cause irritation.”
James advocates a classic shaving regime with a few adjustments:
- Wash and exfoliate your face during a hot shower so your face is clean and pores are open.
- Apply pre-shave oil to allow a nice, clean glide.
- Use a clear shave gel (not a foamy cream) so you can avoid any trouble spots and more easily detail facial hair.
- Use a safety razor or a sensitive skin cartridge razor. Avoid blades with five, six, or more blades that will cut hairs too short, forcing them back into the skin. For some men, it’s best to put down the razor and use an electric trimmer, maintaining a light layer of stubble.
- After shaving, rinse with a cold water splash, then follow up with a product (like those below) designed specifically to moisturize, exfoliate, and reduce swelling, redness, and razor bumps. Use this product daily, not just on the days you shave.
“Avoid any post-shaving products with alcohol. They suck out moisture,” councils James. “It’s like when you go out drinking for a night and are dehydrated the next day. Your skin reacts the same way.”
Many of these products incorporate salicylic or glycolic acid to exfoliate dead surface cells and free ingrown hairs. They can also heal and calm your skin with soothing ingredients like chamomile and aloe. We’ve rounded up our picks of the best of the best.
Frederick Benjamin’s treatment incorporates sunflower seed oil to help hydrate and moisturize the skin. Apply to freshly shaved skin and then as a moisturizer as part of your daily cleansing regimen.
SteelMclean’s Parallel Rapid Smooth bump relief and exfoliant uses vitamins and medicinal extracts to exfoliate dead skin rapidly, leaving smooth, hydrated, and clear skin behind. The brand also notes it works on fine lines and dark spots (we also found it to be an effective acne spot treatment).
The Shavior uses ingredients that both uproot and dissolve ingrown hairs while calming down tender skin. This award-winning treatment is a botanical-loaded lotion that goes to work on razor irritation, bumps, and ingrown hairs. Dab it on to spot-treat a problem area or slather it on after shaving. This barber-tested formulation will moisturize your skin while infusing it with antioxidants and a tad of sun protection.
This lotion frees skin-trapped ingrown hairs by exfoliating the top layer of dead cells with a combination of 2% salicylic and lactic acids. It reduces razor bumps while dissolving pore-clogging dirt and oils that often lead to acne and blackheads. Aloe Leaf and organic chamomile hydrate and soothe irritation.
Anthony For Men also takes a two-step approach to easing razor burn and redness. First, glycolic, salicylic, and phytic acids exfoliate the dead skin. The ingrown hairs are set free, and the acids go to work, killing the bacteria that causes bumps and inflammation. The second step soothes with willowherb and lavender, calming the trauma.
This easy-to-apply cream is an update to Kiehl’s former Razor Bump Relief product. The cream is mildly exfoliating and has soothing aloe vera, lipo hydroxy acid, willow herb extract, and vitamin E. It’s hydrating and cooling while reducing irritation.
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