How To Prevent Razor Bumps From Destroying Your Skin

Razor bumps (also known as pseudofolliculitis barbae) can quite literally be a pain in the neck.

As a result, you might be trying to figure out how to prevent razor bumps from happening the next time you shave.

Not only does a lot of it come down to your morning routine and required prep work…

…but another huge consideration is the razor itself.

Before we dive deep into the details, we first want to take a quick minute to explain how the pseudofolliculitis barbae (fancy way of saying razor bumps) shows up on your neck as this is important to understanding how you can fully prevent them from happening again.

Let’s get started:

Where Do Razor Bumps Actually Come From?

Razor bumps are primarily caused from ingrown hairs.

They most often occur around the neck as the hairs in this particular area for many men grow in all different directions.

However, it’s not uncommon to experience razor bumps elsewhere on your face; another particular trouble spot for some men will be their upper lip.

Based on our research and the reports from other men, those that use cartridge-based razors for their daily shave often have a higher occurrence of razor bumps.

We think this is primarily due to the ‘lift and cut’ technology these devices employ.

While this technology helps to sell a ton of razors, for some men, the ‘lift and cut’ technique may cut their hair a bit too low and create an environment where naturally curly hairs grow back into the skin.

This problem is compounded further when you use a dull razor blade that just can’t physically get a clean (and straight) cut on your facial hair.

This being said, if the cartridge razor is really the problem, then what’s the alternative?

Enter the safety razor.

Double Edge Safety Razors Have Helped to Prevent Razor Bumps for a Lot of Men

There are several different types of razors on the market today.

Ninety-nine percent of the razor offerings fall into any one of the five categories:

  1. Double edge safety razor
  2. Straight razor or shavette razor
  3. Electric razors
  4. Beard trimmers
  5. Cartridge Razors

Needless to say, you have a quite a bit to choose from.

But for those men who deal with razor bumps all the time, not every razor will work for you.

Based on all of our research, we found that double edge safety razors are by far one of the most reliable tools you can own in order to prevent razor bumps.

But why?

First, safety razors rely on just one blade.

The single blade that is used to get a clean shave is way more than enough to get the job done – don’t let the marketing gurus from these fancy razor companies tell you otherwise.

The reliance on a single blade means less passes on your skin as this prevents you from cutting the hair too low, a common problem for those cartridge razors that ‘lift-and-cut’ when you go to make a pass.

Even a quick search over on Reddit shows that other ‘independent sources’ back up this claim:

screencap of a reddit comment about razor bumps

Secondly, safety razor blades are cheap.

While this might not seem like a big deal for most, here’s why this is critical to preventing razor bumps:

With blades that cost a fraction of their cartridge counterpart, you are more likely to replace them often – which ensures a sharp blade that requires less passes.

This works together to provide a happy and comfortable shave experience that provides clean shaven results.


There’s a kicker…

Sharp cartridge razors are phenomenal and make it damn near impossible to nick yourself while shaving.

On the other hand, when using a double edge safety razor, there is definitely a learning curve that you will experience.

Don’t be surprised if some cuts do naturally occur, especially when you first start to learn.

Therefore, you will want to take your time and not rush the shaving process.

Just Like Its Cartridge Counterpart, Electric Razors Can Also Cause Razor Bumps

When it comes to electric razors, things can go either really good or really bad.

While using an electric razor can be one of the fastest ways to get ready in the morning, if you are experiencing razor bumps while shaving with it, it might be time to change it up.

As we noted earlier with cartridge razors that lift and cut the hair on your face and neck areas, electric razors do something in very similar fashion.

If you are using a rotary shaver instead of a foil-based shaver (if you don’t know the difference check out our foil vs rotary explanation), the hair is literally cut like a weed whacker (rotary heads).

When looked at under a microscope, it looks something like this when compared to a double edge safety razor:

microscopic picture comparing hair cut with razor to electric shaver

Info: Left side cut with a razor – right side with a rotary electric razor.

Sure, this is definitely in microscopic detail, but the point is that your hair is not cut straight and is likely to grow in sideways and cause ingrown hairs and razor bumps.

Foil-based electric razors do suffer from this same problem as well.

If you are apprehensive on giving up your electric razor, then you should try something like electric shave.

It’s an alcohol-based solution that will make your hairs stand up on edge so you can get a better and cleaner shave with your electric razor.

Also, there are some advanced electric razors that do have an adjustment setting.  If you can get away with it, try to come a notch or two up from the closest setting possible.

Softening Your Facial Hair Is Important Before You Shave

Before you shave, it is important to make sure that you take a long (i.e. greater than 5 minutes) shower.

This allows the stubble on your face to completely absorb all of the water and fatten up.

When you have hair follicles that are swollen, it will allow the razor to pass through much easier than if you were to go in with just shaving cream.

If you’re in a time crunch, you can go with splashing hot water on your face or soaking your face in a hot, wet towel for a few minutes.  However, this should only be secondary as a warm shower gives you a lot more benefits.

Secondary to the prep process is using a decent pre-shave oil.

What is pre-shave oil?

I recently wrote an entire post outlining pre-shave oil for you to check out.  However, on a high overview – it’s a liquid (usually natural oils) that further moisturizes your stubble before you shave.

When applied, it can help the razor glide through your facial hair even more effortlessly than if you had just gotten out of the shower.

It is important to note that with pre-shave oil, it’s very much a “YMMV” (your mileage may vary) type of deal.

More often than not, guys love it — but there are definitely quite a few that don’t find it as useful as they thought it would be (but they all seem to come to the conclusion that their face does at least feel smoother for the rest of the day).

How A Decent Shave Cream Can Help Prevent Razor Bumps

Shave cream gets overlooked way more than it should.

It is by far one of the most important prep work steps that you need to consider in order to prevent razor bumps.

If you are using one of those mass-produced brands that you pick up at the grocery store on the weekends, it might be time to switch it up to one that delivers a bit more in terms of quality.

But why?

Quality shave creams will provide you with a unique experience given that they are often packed with natural moisturizers and oils.  

This helps make sure that the razor blade will glide through your facial hair like butter.

The lather itself will feel so much more natural and ‘right’ (for lack of a better term) than its gel tube counterpart.

Upgrading Your Shave Cream Means Upgrading to a Shave Brush

The best way to apply a boutique shaving cream is not with your hands.

Instead, you want to go with a shave brush like this one.  It’ll only set you back a few bucks, but it will be completely worth it.

Instead of using your hands — that may be giving an unequal distribution of shaving cream on your face — a shave brush is perfect for deeper, and frankly better, distribution of shaving cream.

Distribution aside, the real beauty lies in the shave brush’s ability to transfer water from the shaving cream to your face.

This helps make sure that all the hairs that are about to be shaved off are equally moisturized.

The added benefit to the badger brush is that it acts naturally as an exfoliant so you’ll be clearing out all the dead skin cells in no time.

Therefore, when the hair starts to regrow, it will have a clear path that will make it less likely to cause a razor bump.

Improper Shaving May Lead to Razor Bumps

When it comes to shaving and preventing razor bumps, sometimes we get stuck into stubborn old habits that our father or grandfather may have passed down to us.

It’s important to note that when you shave, make sure you go at it with the proper shaving technique – with the grain.

Many guys will claim that shaving against the grain will give you a much closer shave. While that may be true, you are opening yourself up to having potential razor bumps.

You’ll see that when you shave against the grain, your razor will pull the hairs in a different direction than how they naturally grow.

When you do that, you are much more susceptible to ingrown hairs.

Instead, you should do this:

Prior to applying any pre-shave oil or shaving cream, take a minute or two to inspect your face and the direction that the facial hair grows in.

Once you get the general idea, you can proceed with the shaving process.

Another important technique to the shave is that you shave on a daily basis.

If you are shaving daily, this will help prevent the hairs from getting “too out of sorts” and become ingrown.

Lastly – don’t pull your skin too tight while shaving.

The skin on your face is already relatively tight; therefore, it doesn’t need the added stretch when shaving.

You should avoid doing this as it will likely cut the hair at an unnatural angle making the hair more susceptible to growing in crooked, thus creating a razor bump.

More often than not, a reason for razor bumps is a poor shaving technique, so make sure you take a step back and have an honest review of what you do when shaving daily.

If You Can – Go with a Beard Trimmer

Many work places are pretty liberal when it comes to their facial hair policy.  If that is the case for your workplace, you should really check out a beard trimmer instead.

The largest advantage of a beard trimmer is that you never have a blade going across your skin.

With your facial hair never cut too low, it will never have a chance to become ingrown.

This would be the absolute best way to completely nix any possibility of razor bumps happening ever again.

As an added bonus, most women find beard stubble extremely attractive.

A Proper Aftershave to Prevent Razor Bumps

Aftershave is making a huge comeback in the men’s grooming world.

Before it was often sought as a way to simply clean the skin by splashing on alcohol to your face as part of the shave routine.

This was in large part popular with the barbers of the early 1900s that would use the same straight edge blade between clients.

In today’s world…this has definitely changed.

Now if you find alcohol in aftershave, it’s typically for the cheap or low-cost versions.

If you decide to go with an aftershave, you should consider aftershave balms instead.

These are going to be much more complimentary to your skin as they act as a natural moisturizer.

Not only will this give your face a much nicer glow, but it will also help strengthen it in order to prevent any ingrown hairs from occurring.

Aloe Vera For Instant Relief

If aftershave balm isn’t your thing, perhaps you should consider aloe vera.

While the science is still out on the overall effectiveness of aloe vera when it comes to topical solutions (source), we found that men in popular forums, such as “/r/wicked_edge” and “Badger & Blade”, swear by this stuff.

With its soothing qualities, simply adding a bit of aloe vera to your skin post-shave will not only provide instant relief, it may help to also reduce the occurrence of razor bumps from instantly forming.

If you like to take the all-natural and homeopathic route with caring for your skin, the anti- inflammatory properties claimed by many within aloe vera will be your new best friend.

Other DIY Solutions: Proceed with Caution

In the world of ‘clean labels’ and natural remedies, a lot of men are starting to take notice of some of the more natural remedies to try and stop some of the irritation caused by razor bumps.

Therefore, when you are searching for some quick fixes, you should proceed with caution.

But why?

Many of the natural remedies that exist on the market haven’t been fully tested nor proven.

More often than not, many of these solutions come from people looking to sell you on their essential oil brand.

Therefore, if you think a simple spritz of lemon juice or marshmallow extract will blast those painful bumps away, think again.

Of all the DIY solutions out there, there are only a rare few that we think are worth considering.

Most notably will be aloe vera (see above), a cool washcloth (largely to help reduce the pain or swelling) or benzoyl peroxide as this is a key chemical in fighting the natural oil buildup on your skin.

So, if you have your deodorant stick in and are about to smear it all over your neck — set it down.

Razor Bump Products Are an Emerging Trend

With the ever-growing online marketplaces where new companies are popping up every day, there are a few companies that got on our radar which we think warrants a deeper look.

The most popular solution on the market to cure razor bumps will be those from Bump Stopper.

Maker of a variety of solutions, including shave gels, lotions, and of course, razor bump cures, they have one of the most compelling products out there – High Time Bump Stopper.

It has generally gathered high marks from both men and women and has visually demonstrated to deliver great results.

If you’re not sold on Bump Stopper’s solution, other companies worth considering would be both Tend Skin or Bump Patrol’s aftershave formula.

Signs of Razor Bumps May Be an Underlying Sign of Improper Skin Care

Sorry guys, but the days of ignoring the beauty aisle at your local drugstore are long over.

It’s time to take care of your skin.

This means using products like moisturizers and exfoliators (namely salicylic, glycolic, or tannic acid), along with anti-aging creams.

The most important part of the above regimen when it comes to razor bump prevention would be the exfoliation process.

While the thought of applying acid regularly to your face may sound both painful and ill-advised, it’s not.

Many skin care experts agree that the introduction of a salicylic acid (also known as a beta hydroxy acid) is a great way to reduce the occurrence of both acne and pimples on your face.

When applied to razor bumps, the salicylic acid penetrates the skin and helps to dissolve any oily buildup that could be causing discomfort within the bump itself.

For further help, this acid will also work to physically reduce the size of the razor bump, too.

Preventing Razor Bumps Can Happen

As a wrap to the article on preventing razor bumps, you can see there are several different ways to go about it.

However, it is important to note that you may have to try different combinations.

If it’s your first time trying to cure them, I would recommend switching out your razor to a double edge safety razor if you are currently using a cartridge based one.  Also, it’s worth upgrading your shaving cream to a decent one that provides moisture and nutrients.

The double edge safety razor alone can make a world of difference on both a comfort level as well as overall cost of ownership.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more. When Adam isn't working, he enjoys spending time with his two little kids who keep him both on his toes and young at heart.

Ask a Question