Ack! This is one of those very special — and very rare — queries that actually cause my toes to curl, my blood to run cold and my hair follicles to scream out in agony. The very mention of it, razor bumps, puts me on edge. A bit melodramatic, I know, but this is an extremely irritating “man problem” to the first degree even though ladies — or anyone else tending to a bikini line — can experience problematic pustules as well. That said, the easiest way to cope with pseudofolliculitis barbaei, the condition in which a recently extracted hair curls back on itself and grows into the skin instead of growing straight out of the follicle and becomes inflamed, is to go the way of Joaquin Phoenix, Zach Galifianakis, Harry (Henderson, not Potter), Al Gore circa 2001 and other facial growth-prone gentlemen of note. That’s right … a surefire way to combat unsightly razor bumps is to let your beard reach its bushiest potential so that the hair does not grow back into the skin.


Now, I know not shaving at all (or as much) might not jive with those of you who prefer the clean-shaven look but it’s worth a try. Take it from me. As someone with curly and coarse facial hair (I’m neither black nor Hispanic but these are two segments of the population particularly prone to razor pumps) who once took a blade to his face on a daily basis, I started growing out my beard on the regular to ward off both razor bumps and razor burn which, by the way, is something totally different but often accompanies the former.


Hair farming took some adjustment but I’ve, ahem, grown to like my new look. I’d like to think that it’s “distinguished” … more George Clooney than Chewbaca. Plus, now that I shave only once or twice a week instead of every morning, I’ve saved a ton of cash by not using as much shaving cream, aftershave moisturizer and related ointments. Most noticeably, I’ve saved a bundle on those egregiously expensive razor cartridges that I was flying though.


If going the hirsute route isn’t an option, you can always lift the ingrown end of the hair out of the skin with tweezers or a sterilized needle but don’t pull it completely out. Ouch. Also, you could try switching over to an electric razor to prevent you from shaving too close. If you’re dead set on going the non-electric route, I’d recommend shaving in the shower or taking a nice long one before you get to business so that the skin is soft and that the pores have time to open up. Shave in the direction that your hair grows and use a thick, fragrance-free shaving cream or gel to prevent irritation. Using an exfoliating facial scrub should also help things along. When I do shave, I use this miracle worker of a pre-shave conditioner to soften the beard and further prevent shaving bumps and burns. Laser treatment is also an option for severe bouts of razor bump-age although this is something that should be discussed with a dermatologist.


Despite my somewhat lax facial hair removal regimen, razor bumps still do rear their unsightly heads on occasion. To reduce irritation and promote healing, apply tea tree oil, aloe vera gel or witch hazel (I use an alcohol-free witch hazel-based astringent with aloe vera in it) or a hydrocortisone cream procured from your local drugstore. I’ve even heard of folks making a paste out of crushed aspirin tablets and applying it to the affected area to reduce inflammation and ward of infection. Products containing salicylic acid or allantoin are also recommended (I like this one). Most importantly, keep the affected area dry and clean and don’t pick at or try to “pop” razor bumps (these aren’t pimples we’re dealing with) as this can only make things worse.


Hope this helps! Happy bump-free shaving!


— Matt


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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

How to get rid of razor bumps
The easiest way to cope with razor bumps is to let your beard reach its bushiest potential so that the hair does not grow back into the skin.