Razor bumps can be a seriously annoying issue when shaving your head. They cause irritation and a burning sensation that’s uncomfortable, and they can lead to infections if you don’t properly care for them.
In this guide, I’ll explain why you might be getting razor bumps, what you can do to soothe them, and ways of shaving your head that can prevent them from reoccurring.
Potential causes of razor bumps on the back of the head
- Razor bumps can be caused by irritated follicles or ingrown hairs
- You can prevent them by shaving with wet skin, moisturizing, and following good shaving practice
- Treatment options include soothing creams and gentle scrubs, although care is needed
- Safety razors with a single blade are a better choice than multi-blade razors or electric shavers
There are two main types of razor bumps, and their causes vary.
The first is called folliculitis, also known as “barber’s rash”. This is where the follicle becomes irritated and infected with bacteria, causing it to become inflamed, and leading to bumps on the head.
The second is ingrown hairs, or to give it the fancy term, pseudofolliculitis barbae. This is caused when the hair is coarse and curved, and when it is cut short it bends over and starts to grow under the skin, being covered by new skin cells.
The main difference between them is that with folliculitis, the hair still grows through the irritation, while with ingrown hairs the hair is instead growing in the wrong direction under the skin, so it won’t show through.
But both will cause the same kinds of irritation.
How long do head razor bumps last?
If they are left untreated, razor bumps will normally resolve themselves within 2-3 weeks, although if the bump has become infected then it may last longer. You can accelerate the process using different treatment options.
When your razor bumps are the result of barber’s rash, you just need to give the pores time to recover. Clean the area with warm water and antibacterial soap, and moisturize afterwards. Within a couple of weeks, the inflammation should subside.
When the cause is an ingrown hair, it will normally still resolve itself when the hair becomes long enough to pop back through the skin. Expect to see longer hairs because they’ll have been growing in the wrong direction.
Sometimes, ingrown hairs won’t resolve themselves, and will instead become further inflamed and potentially infected. The best way to treat these is with a good hygiene routine.
How do you get rid of ingrown hair bumps on the back of your head?
The best way to get rid of razor bumps on the back of your head is to avoid shaving, keep the area clean with warm water, and use salicylic acid or glycolic acid to help unclog your pores and remove dead skin cells while being sensitive to inflamed areas.
These acids are found in a range of different cleansers, lotions, and peels and are designed to make sure the affected area is properly cleaned, without being harsh on the pores. They’ll remove any bacteria build-up, while relaxing the pores and removing dead skin cells which may cause ingrown hairs to remain trapped.
Pores don’t open up with warmer temperatures and close with colder ones, that’s a myth. But warm water is a good way to encourage healing as it makes the skin loosen up so it’s easier to clean out the buildup of dirt.
Make sure you’re having hot showers, and use a warm washcloth gently pushed onto the area to exfoliate.
While a cloth is fine for this, I like to use the right tools for the job. I exfoliate with The Bald Brothers’ Smooth AF scrub twice a week to maintain my melon, and if you click the link to the official site below and use the code HAPPY20 at checkout, you’ll get 20% off:
Smooth AF Bald Head Exfoliate Scrub
The Bald Brothers
- 20% off with code HAPPY20
- Gently removes dirt & dead skin
- Ideal pre-shave treatment
- Doubles as scalp & face cleanser
I use Smooth AF because it’s a great all-round scrub, but there are other options. For example, there are more suitable products if you have sensitive skin, or if you’re working to a budget. You can read about them all in this guide to the best bald head exfoliators.
There are also more intensive medical treatments you can try if these aren’t effective. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medications such as retinoids that are used in the treatments of acne as ways of improving the skin, while steroids may also reduce irritation.
Be wary of using scrubs – these can sometimes damage the skin, rather than simply exfoliating, causing razor bumps to endure.
If you do have razor bumps, it’s important to leave the skin to rest and treat it before you resume shaving. If you continue to shave over razor bumps you can worsen the problem and damage the skin, adding to the recovery time.
How to get rid of razor bumps on the back of your head as an African American
There aren’t necessarily any different techniques for African American men to use when getting rid of razor bumps. But men with darker skin tones are more likely to suffer from the issues, as they often have coarser, curlier hair which is more likely to become trapped and grow inwards.
So while there isn’t specific advice for African American men on how to prevent or treat razor bumps, it is important that those men take the appropriate care when shaving, and that they are careful when treating any razor bumps to minimize the potential damage caused.
How to shave your head without getting razor bumps
Prevention is always better than the cure, especially when it comes to razor bumps. Following best practice tips when shaving will help to make sure that you avoid causing the problems that lead to both types of razor bumps.
Good hygiene is an essential part of a good shaving routine. If you don’t keep the area clean, or you don’t clean your razor, you’re introducing bacteria into your pores and inviting inflammation. So always wash your head with shampoo or an appropriate skin cleanser before you shave, and make sure you clean your razor or trimmer effectively after every use.
- Soften the pores
Shaving will be a smoother process if the skin is more loose and pliable, so try to do it only once you’ve showered. The heat from a shower will cause the pores to soften, making the hair easier to trim back using a blade or cutter, so you’re less likely to irritate the skin.
Plus, with the pores softened, the hair is less likely to curl under and get trapped, which leads to ingrowth.
- Using water
Shaving with a wet head is better than shaving with a dry head, as the water provides an extra layer of lubrication on the skin. If you’re using an electric trimmer, use a waterproof one under the shower. If you’re shaving, use a good foam to keep the skin lubricated and the hair upright, ready for cutting.
Moisturizing the skin helps to soften it and reduces irritation risk. You can apply a pre-shave oil on your bald head before you shave (castor oil is good) to form a barrier between head and razor.
Aftershave products can then help to protect the skin after shaving. Here are the best moisturizers for your bald head.
- Following the grain
One of the biggest causes of ingrown hairs is shaving against the grain. By pulling the hair in an unnatural direction, you can cause it to bend and catch under the pore.
A lot of people don’t pay enough attention to this stage, so use mirrors to properly look at your head and see the direction in which your hair is growing. It won’t be uniform so you need almost a mental map of your head.
Then follow the grain when you shave, and this will help to prevent hairs from becoming ingrown. It’s worth knowing the proper technique for shaving your head with a razor to avoid unnecessary irritation, cuts, and bumps.
If you don’t get a close enough shave doing this, then you can try the following:
- Shave your head following the grain
- Apply a warm towel to soften the pores
- Shave again, this time against the grain
If you still have issues with razor bumps, you may have to accept that you can’t shave your head as close as you like.
The best razors for avoiding razor bumps
Electric trimmers and multi-blade razors are the worst offenders for causing ingrown hairs and folliculitis. They aren’t as gentle on the skin, causing irritation which can cause it to swell up, which in turn traps more hairs.
If you insist on using an electric trimmer, consider using adjustable clippers and trimming your hair a little longer. Leaving a small length of hair instead of aiming for a clean shave will remove the pressure on the skin and stop the hair from bending into the pore.
But ideally, use the right tools for the job. This single-blade Bevel razor is designed to avoid razor bumps:
Bevel Safety Razor
- Re-engineered to help prevent razor bumps and irritation
- Single blade effortlessly cuts at scalp level to prevent & reduce bumps
- Perfectly weighted brass handle glides across skin without additional pressure
- Plastic-free – takes care of the planet and your scalp!
You should avoid popping razor bumps. Razor bumps will heal on their own, but popping them damages the skin and can lead to bacteria getting into your pores, causing an infection. Gently wash over the bumps using an appropriate cleanser, but avoid popping them.
If you don’t treat razor bumps by cleaning the area, they will usually heal themselves but it can take longer, and in some instances, they will become infected with pus. Treat them carefully using specialist cleaners or lotions to remove dirt and dead skin and minimize the recovery time.
You should avoid shaving over razor bumps – you’ll damage the skin and prevent them from properly healing, so they won’t go away. If you have razor bumps on your head, give it a couple of weeks off shaving, even if it means your hair growing longer than you’d normally like it to. Then, follow good shaving practices to minimize the risk of repeating razor bumps.
Razor bumps caused by ingrown hairs will normally resolve themselves if you keep the area clean, as the dead skin is removed and the growing hair forces its way out of the pore. If you don’t clean the area, the hair can continue to grow inwards, and ultimately may require the help of a dermatologist.
The best way to get rid of razor bumps naturally is to keep cleaning the affected area with hot water and to apply a warm compress to the area for five minutes as part of your daily routine. Within 2-3 weeks most cases of razor bumps will calm down.
Vaseline can help with razor bumps. It acts as a barrier to prevent bacteria from causing further inflammation. Always clean the affected area daily using hot water, and give time for the pores to ‘breathe’ before adding vaseline – this will allow any ingrown hairs to push their way out before you cover the area.
Not everybody gets razor bumps, but if you do then it can often turn into a recurring issue. It’s usually something you can work around, but it means taking more time with your shaving routine to properly care for your skin.
Prevention is always better than treatment, as to properly treat razor bumps you may be looking at 2 to 3 weeks of time where you can’t shave.
So if you’re susceptible to razor bumps, follow the steps in this guide to shaving your head more carefully – follow good hygiene processes, exfoliate using heat, and shave with a sharp, clean blade.
Finally, remember that simply avoiding razor bumps is the minimum you’ll need to do. To find out which other items you’ll need to invest in to keep your bald head looking and feeling great, read this post on all the best products for bald heads.
Do you have any other tips for treating or preventing razor bumps? Let me know in the comments below.
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