Just In Time For Beach Season: How To Naturally Treat Those Pesky Razor Bumps

mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department.

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Razor bumps are a cruel joke. You go through all this effort to make sure your legs are smooth, soft, and ready to show off, and next thing you know, angry, little red bumps start popping up.

But here's the good news: You can easily treat them. And the great news: With the right techniques and tools, you might be able to prevent them altogether.

What causes them?

"Razor bumps are essentially ingrown hairs in areas where you shave," says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D. "When you shave, the free edge of the hair is cut below the surface of the skin. When the free edge of the hair becomes trapped within the skin, it will grow on itself and curl under the skin rather than growing freely to the surface."

This develops into pimple-like red spots. It may feel sore and inflamed. And in more severe cases, it might become infected, which will look like a large, puss-filled cyst. In either case, these might last a while—around two weeks.

If you are someone who feels you develop them more frequently than your friends, well, it might be your shaving technique (more on that later)—or it could be something out of your control: your hair texture. Those with curly, thick strands can be more prone to shaving bumps. "Curly hair is more likely not to grow out cleanly through the surface of the skin," says Zeichner. This is also the reason you might find more frequent bumps around areas that hair naturally grows in coarser, like, ahem, your bikini line.

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How can you get rid of razor bumps naturally?

So you have one or two bumps: Now what? For smaller, less irritable bumps, you'll find you're almost treating these like a zit on your face. You can start by spot treating them: Chemical exfoliators, salicylic acid, or AHAs may be useful. "It helps dry out the angry bump and exfoliate dead cells from the surface of the skin to open the blocked pore," says Zeichner.

If you have a spot treatment at home already, you can just use a dab of that in a pinch. Tea tree oil is also another popular natural option because of its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. After the product formula dries, rub on something soothing to help the redness and puffiness go down, like aloe vera.

If it's on the infected end of the spectrum, you'll need to apply a topical first aid ointment: Curoxen is a natural alternative to traditional antibacterial options. Regularly clean and reapply until it heals. If it's really bad, you might need to visit a dermatologist to perform extractions. (Never, ever perform extractions on your own.)

And during this time, it's very important to take a break from shaving, which will only exacerbate the issue.

How do you prevent them?

"Shaving is an interaction between the hair, the skin, and the razor," says Zeichner, and all three components should come into consideration when you are talking about prevention.

Let's start with the razor. Ask yourself: How old is yours? If you have to think about it, it's likely too old. Make sure to swap them out every five to 10 shaves. Board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D., also recommends to stick to options with no more than two blades: Anything more will be cutting too close to the skin, making it more likely that the hair will get trapped under the surface.

We might also suggest switching to a safety razor (like Oui's Rose Gold Single Blade Razor), so you're not constantly tossing out plastic versions. Safety razors also only use one, finely sharpened blade, so you are getting a close shave without having to push down on the skin.

As for the preparation, shave after your shower ("When the skin and the hairs are soft and well hydrated," says Zeichner.) And generously apply your shave gel, cream, or oil: Proper lubrication is key so you don't drag and scrape the skin's surface. Bonus? These will also help soften and hydrate the skin, as shaving is more or less a form of physical exfoliation (along with hairs, you're also scraping off dead skin cells).

During the shave, always go with the grain, or the hair's growth pattern, in single strokes. Along the shin, for example, that will be shaving down—not up, like most shaving commercials will have you believe. This might get tricky around rounded areas where growth patterns might go in different directions.

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