What Are Razor Bumps?

Also Known As Pseudofolliculitis Barbae

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Razor bumps (pseudofolliculitis barbae) are small, inflamed bumps that occur after shaving. They are caused by cut hair curving over and growing back into the skin. Razor bumps are most common in people who have curly hair. Up to 60% of Black people who shave their face experience razor bumps.

This article will discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of razor bumps.

parent helping child shave face

MoMo Productions / Getty Images

What Are Razor Bumps?

Razor bumps are an inflammatory condition. They are most common in people who have tightly curled hair on the face, but they can occur in all genders and ethnicities. They usually form on the face or neck but can develop anywhere that hair is shaved, waxed, or removed, mainly where the hair is coarse and thick.

Symptoms of Razor Bumps

Razor bumps are small red or brown bumps around the hair follicles. They occur in areas such as:

  • Parts of the face that are covered by beard hair (mustache and sideburns are typically not affected)
  • Groin
  • Underarms
  • Legs

These bumps may:

  • Resemble acne
  • Be irritated, itchy, or painful
  • Darken over time
  • Lead to scarring, such as keloids
  • Become pustules (small bumps that contain fluid or pus)
  • Lead to folliculitis (a common skin infection)
Image of Folliculitis Barbae (Ingrown Hair)

Reproduced with permission from ©DermNet NZ and © Raimo Suhonen  www.dermnetnz.org 2022

Causes of Razor Bumps

Shaving (and sometimes other forms of hair removal) cause the end of the hair to become sharpened like a spear. Razor bumps form when hairs penetrate the skin before leaving the follicle or from curling back and growing into the skin. This happens when hair grows at an angle and meets resistance from dead skin cells at the pore opening.

The ingrown hair causes irritation, inflammation, and/or a foreign body response (the body's way of protecting against foreign materials entering), resulting in a bump.

What Are Some Complications of Razor Bumps?

Left untreated, razor bumps can lead to complications such as:

  • Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (areas of darkened skin left after inflammation)
  • Hypertrophic scarring (a thickened, widened scar)
  • Keloid formation (a raised, "overgrown" scar)

Treatment of Razor Bumps

The most effective treatment for razor bumps is to stop shaving and let the hair grow naturally. This will eliminate active bumps and prevent new ones from forming within a few weeks.

If a clean-shaven face is required for work, you can ask your healthcare provider to provide a note explaining why you cannot have a closely shaven face.

If you do not want to stop shaving, there are measures you can take to minimize razor bumps as much as possible. These are outlined below.

Change How You Shave

How you shave matters. When you shave, it may help to do the following:

  • Shave daily.
  • Start by washing your face with a mild cleanser (applied in a circular motion), then apply a warm compress (hot, wet towel) to the area for about five minutes.
  • Loosen embedded hairs by brushing the area or gently rubbing with a towel.
  • If there are still embedded hairs, lift them out using a sewing needle cleaned with alcohol or antiseptic (don't pluck).
  • Cover the area with shaving cream and let it sit for a few minutes before beginning to shave (reapply as often as necessary if it dries out while you are shaving).
  • Avoid a close shave (leave about 0.5 millimeters to 3 millimeters of hair length).
  • Try using a single blade razor or an electric shaver or clippers set to a higher setting.
  • Do not stretch the skin or press the razor hard against the skin while shaving.
  • Use short strokes, shaving with the direction of the hair growth (if your hair grows in multiple directions, train your hair by using a clean, unused toothbrush daily to brush your hair in one direction).
  • Rinse the blade after each stroke.
  • Avoid shaving the same area multiple times.
  • Rinse after shaving and apply a cool compress to the shaved areas.
  • Apply aftershave.
  • Keep your razor in a cool, dry place (don't use the same disposable blade more than five times).

Use Alternative Hair Removal Methods

Chemical depilatory products containing barium sulfide or calcium thioglycolate dissolve the hair instead of cutting or pulling it out, which may reduce razor bumps. These products include:

  • Magic Shave
  • Surgex shaving powder
  • Nair
  • Neet
  • Veet

These products range from mild to strong and can cause chemical burns when misused or when used on sensitive areas like the face. If using it on the face, leave it on for less time than the package recommends until you see how your skin reacts to it.

Before using any of these products, try a small amount on a test area to watch for a reaction.

Don't use these products on razor bumps; wait until the skin is clear and free of bumps to reduce irritation. Use these products no more than every 48 to 72 hours.

After the process is done, immediately and thoroughly rinse the area two or three times with soap and water, then use a diluted vinegar solution (one tablespoon per pint of water) to neutralize the depilatory. Rinse again with tap water.

Natural Remedies

Some natural remedies that may help manage razor bump symptoms include:

  • Aloe vera
  • Tea tree oil (dilute with a carrier oil before applying it to the skin)
  • Exfoliants (gently rub store-bought or homemade exfoliant over the area for a few minutes using a circular motion, then rinse)


If necessary, your healthcare provider may recommend medications such as:

  • A topical steroid
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • A topical or oral antibiotic (if a secondary bacterial infection occurs)
  • A mild retinoid (such as tretinoin [Retin-A] 0.025% or 0.05%)
  • Glycolic acid lotion 8% (Alpha-hydroxy, NeoStrata, and others)


Laser hair removal or electrolysis (uses an electrical current) may be used to destroy the hair follicle and prevent hair from regrowing. This should only be done by a medical expert, like a dermatologist. Repeated treatments are usually needed. These treatments can be expensive but may be covered by some insurance providers. There is a small risk of scarring with these procedures.

Glycolic acid and salicylic acid peels can help exfoliate and make hair grow straighter.

Steroid injections may treat keloids or other thick scars resulting from razor bumps.


Razor bumps are small red or brown bumps caused by hair growing back into the skin after shaving or other forms of hair removal.

They are usually on the face and neck but can occur anywhere that hair is shaved. They are more common in people with naturally curly hair.

The best way to treat and prevent razor bumps is to stop shaving and let the hair grow out. Razor bumps can also be treated and prevented using careful shaving methods, natural skin remedies, prescription medications, and procedures such as laser hair removal or electrolysis.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Patel TS, Dalia Y. Pseudofolliculitis barbae. JAMA Dermatol. 2022;158(6):708. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2022.0077

  2. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Pseudofolliculitis barbae.

  3. Kundu RV, Patterson S. Dermatologic conditions in skin of color: part ii. Disorders occurring predominantly in skin of color. AFP. 2013;87(12):859-865.

  4. Pine Belt Dermatology. What are razor bumps & how to treat them.

  5. Ogunbiyi A. Pseudofolliculitis barbae; current treatment options. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2019;12:241-247. doi:10.2147/CCID.S149250

  6. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Pseudofolliculitis barbae: razor bumps.

By Heather Jones
Heather M. Jones is a freelance writer with a strong focus on health, parenting, disability, and feminism.