No matter how careful you are when shaving, there's always the risk of getting razor bumps. Of course, as Murphy's Law dictates, this shaving mishap will always happen right before heading to the beach for a summer long weekend.
But, razor bumps aren't just caused by a case of bad luck. It has to do with the texture and growth pattern of the hair on the area of your body you're using your razor on. "Razor bumps are caused by an inflammatory reaction when terminal (thick, dark, mature) hairs that have previously been shaved try to re-emerge from the skin but become trapped," explains Dr. Melanie Palm, Solana Beach CA-based board certified dermatologist and director of Art of Skin MD. "The hair curves back under the skin or continues under the skin’s surface and causes red or dark brown raised bumps centered around each hair follicle unit." The dermatologist also notes that curly hair, hair that grows against the grain, or areas with high skin friction care more prone to razor bumps.
On the upside, wearing the new swimsuit you splurged on for your getaway isn't necessarily a lost cause. The quickest possible fix, says Dr. Palm, is applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to the affected area. A topical salicylic acid cream from any shop's acne aisle could help, too.
Although there isn't any way to truly prevent razor bumps aside from permanent hair removal, there are a few steps you can take in your skincare routine that can help if your skin is prone to bumps. In the shower use a loofah or puff with a cleanser, which may help the trapped hair re-emerge faster. "Use of a gentle exfoliating ingredient such as salicylic acid may reduce the likelihood that skin will trap a re-emerging hair from its follicle," suggests Dr. Palm. Also, when shaving, always work in the direction of hair growth with a fresh razor that has multiple blades and shaving cream - or be brave and start DIYing your bikini waxes.
Post-shave, immediately applying your usual lotion and deodorant won't increase your chances of getting razor bumps, but Dr. Palm says that if "a topical such as a deodorant or lotion is potentially irritating to sensitive skin or occlusive to a hair follicle, it could worsen the case of razor bumps."