How to avoid stubborn razor bumps after shaving

Some 60% of men are at risk, as well as women who shave their groins

In Summary

• Having a grade one shave is important in avoiding painful ingrown hair after a shave

• Using mentholated spirit as aftershave tends to dry the skin and may cause irritation

razor bumps at the beard and neck region
razor bumps at the beard and neck region
Image: handout

Up to 60 per cent of African men and other people with curly hair develop razor bumps after shaving.

This common condition, scientifically called pseudo folliculitis barbae, may cause keloidal scarring, which looks like hard bumps on the beard area. This is according to research done by the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.

The problem results when highly curved hairs grow back into the skin, causing an inflammation reaction. This condition is most problematic around the beard and neck, hence the term “barbae,” which refers to the beard.

However, razor bumps can also occur in women who shave, especially in the groin area or anywhere the hair is shaved or plucked.

Dr Roop Saini, a certified dermatologist, says shaving may cause small papules and pustules that can be confused with bacterial infection and inflammation.

And the condition is also more common when a blade razor is used rather than an electric shaver, which doesn’t cut as close as blades do.


Amon, 32, is a father of one who has been using scissors trimming his own beard for six months now.

“I have been avoiding shaving my beard because I get razor bumps whenever I shave. I used to shave once per week but when the problem kept recurring, I had to stop,” he added.

Every weekend, when he paid the local ‘kinyozi’ a visit, the following week he was battling an itchy beard with lesions and painful bumps.

“I had to change my barber like four times but the problem grew worse and worse. My partner saw it best I stop shaving and improvise,” he added.

Amon then went ahead and bought the necessary tools for that task: a shaving cream and blade.

“The condition improved over a month, the lesions cleared up. But after a while, they were back again.

It is then that he sought medical attention from a dermatologist.


Amon was advised to grow his beard for a month so the hairs left under the skin would grow out.

“It was hard for me because I was used to the ‘Jordan ‘type of shave,” he says. Meaning he was used to shaving completely.

He said people at work said he looked different but they soon came to terms with his new ‘Mr Beard’ look.

After the 30 days, he went back to the doctor and was advised to have a grade one shave and was put on some antibiotics.

It only took him three weeks, he can now afford both a smile and get his perfect shave during the weekend just like in the TV commercials.


“Treatment for razor bumps depends on how severe the condition is,” Dr Saini, a dermatologist, says during an interview with the Star.

“Razor bumps can take two weeks or more to go away and this can be re-triggered every time one shaves, making it seem like they never clear up.”

Therefore, Dr Saini advises that one should avoid frequent shaving.

“A grade one shave is important: a grade one shave is roughly 0.3mm. This means there is still some hair left on the skin but if one wants to eliminate the hair completely, it is advised to opt for a laser hair removal treatment.”

“It doesn’t mean that one cannot do the shave at home, but when doing so, consider the use of a single blade disposable razor or use of electric hair clippers. This is because they have an attachment that leaves the cut hairs long enough.”

“If one must use a blade, water-soften the beard first with a hot, wet washcloth for five minutes,” she said.

“Then use lubricating shaving gel as prescribed and then shave.

Avoid stretching the skin and shave with the grain of the beard using one stroke over each area of the beard.”

She advised exfoliating the skin for men as this ensure the surface skin cells and pores are unclogged, reducing the likelihood of new inflamed spots.

“I always advise people to stick to a professional barber who will understand their skin and know how to go about the condition of their skin,” Saini said.

She warned against the use of mentholated spirit as aftershave as it tends to dry the skin and may cause irritation. “Cleanse the skin using a polyester skin-cleansing pad or use a moisturising shaving foam instead.”

Shaving in the direction of the follicle and not against it was advised as it reduces the chances of in-growns and irritations and in doing so avoids stretching the skin.

The use of sterilised metal hair clippers and electric razors is necessary to avoid recurring bacterial infections.