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avoiding spots whilst shaving with a razor

Why you get spots when you shave and how to avoid them

We’ve all been there. Satisfied that you’ve lovingly removed every hair from your face — even the ones in that pesky awkward spot behind your jaw — you place your ever-reliable razor back in its holder and lean forward to admire your handiwork in the mirror.

Smooth all over, you think. What a shave. Is it possible I look even more handsome than I did before?

But wait, what’s that? As you stare in weary disbelief, you see it’s happened again. Those annoying, itchy and unsightly red razor bumps are back, and they’re angry. Maybe it wasn’t one of the all-time great shaves after all.

So why do you get spots when you shave? And how can you banish them from the bathroom forever? Follow our guide to razor bumps and you can’t go too far wrong.

What are razor bumps? 

Razor bumps — or pseudofolliculities barbae to give them their scientific name — can appear thanks to a number of causes, but it’s usually the very hairs you’re shaving that are the culprit. Hairs that become either partly or fully ingrown can cause your skin to inflame and form the nasty red bumps that you see. 

Why do razor bumps appear?

Once you’ve finished your shave, freshly cut hairs that have been shaved at an awkward angle (usually because of pulling and tugging) can curl themselves back into your skin and start determinedly burrowing their way underneath the surface. Your skin expresses its displeasure with small pimple-like bumps which are usually red but can be colourless too. Before you know it, the whole area is painful and itchy with these little spots that can swell up and sometimes contain pus. 

Razor bumps are especially likely if your hair is dry or if there’s lots of dirt and grime around the area you’re shaving. Hydrating properly beforehand with a good-quality shaving gel and clearing the area with your trusty shave brush can make all the difference. 

Annoyingly, razor bumps can happen anywhere on the body, but facial hair is especially good at giving you razor bumps as it’s thicker, coarser and frankly harder to tame than the hair on other parts of your anatomy. And it’s very good at curling back towards your skin. 

How long do razor bumps take to go away?

It’s different for everyone, and can be anything from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. The time it takes for the bumps to disappear depends on whether you’ve got dry, oily or especially sensitive skin. But you can bet that if you give into the temptation to itch your spots, they’ll hang around for longer.

How to prevent razor bumps when you’re shaving

Sadly there’s no one-cure-fits-all solution for razor bumps – if your skin and hair are particularly stubborn you might find that treatment rather than prevention is the best course of action – and your local pharmacy will be brimming with creams that can help soothe those pesky little red bumps. 

But your best chance of swerving the spots is all in a good shave – and just like any shave, there are a few golden rules that can give you the best and most comfortable results. 

1. It’s all in the hydration

If your skin is dry, creeping across it with a razor is likely to leave you all red and inflamed. One of the most common causes of razor bumps is that simple — shaving without enough moisture around. 

Take a warm shower or a bath (not too hot) to soften the hair and make it more malleable and less likely to drag. This is a crucial first step, so don’t just pile on the shaving gel and hope for the best (but do use shaving gel, because it forms an all-important protective layer that’ll leave your skin smoother and happier).

2. Spend more time shaving

We would say that, wouldn’t we? But it’s true. Instead of shaving frantically like you’re on a game show, and going over the same patch repeatedly until every last hair is removed, try to avoid re-strokes as much as you can because that’s where razor bumps lurk. 

Slow down and take the time to shave gently and carefully, applying a little bit less pressure than you think you need to (our razors are pretty hard working) and you’ll soon find that you’ve got your shave down to a few highly efficient expert moves. Your skin will thank you – just don’t forget to rinse between strokes. 

3. Change those blades 

Don’t wait until your razor blades are uncomfortable and ineffective to change them. Old, dull blades are much more likely to cause skin irritation, nicks, cuts and, yes, razor bumps – so don’t keep them around when they’re past the peak of their powers. 

If you’re constantly forgetting to buy new ones, have you thought about a shaving subscription? If you’re someone who tends to stretch razors to within an inch of their lives, having reliable new blades on hand whenever you need them might just be the thing that banishes razor bumps for good.

4. Aftercare is key

Finished shaving? At this stage there are three things to have in your arsenal that might just keep razor bumps at bay if they’re threatening to put in an appearance:

  • Press a cool, damp cloth against the area you’ve just shaved for a few minutes.
  • Invest in a post-shave balm to soothe your skin and protect freshly opened pores.
  • Use an exfoliating scrub to keep the area clean and release any trapped hairs.