Shaving Pains

by Sue Chung Patient Expert

Every time I shave my legs, I get itchy, red bumps. How can I get rid of them and how can I prevent them?

In order to take care of shaving-related irritations, it's important to know the underlying cause of inflamed bumps. Razor burn, which results from improper shaving techniques, can create a rash-like appearance that usually fades on its own after a few days. On the other hand, it's possible that those razor bumps are the result of ingrown hairs, which are also referred to as pseudofolliculitis barbae.

When shaving, make sure you use a gentle hand. If your problem is simply razor burn, you need to make a few adjustments to your shaving routine in order to reduce irritation and inflammation. To start, soften the hair by soaking your legs for several minutes in warm water. Invest in a moisturizing shave gel-soap doesn't cut it-and lather the shaving area completely. Let the lather sit on the hair for a minute before proceeding.

Instead of trying to hold on to disposable razors, always shave with a new blade after every other use. A dull blade will cause you to place more pressure on your skin and will also cause you to go over the same area multiple times since it won't cut the hair cleanly.

Start at your ankles, make sure not to place too much stress on the blade, and don't pull your skin while you shave. Once you're finished, wash your legs with warm water and towel dry thoroughly. At this point, slather on a gentle moisturizer, preferably with a soothing ingredient like aloe or vitamin E.

If these steps don't reduce the appearance of bumps, it's possible that you're experiencing inflammation from ingrown hairs. In this case, you'll have to step up the treatment. Ingrown hairs are usually the result of hairs curling back into skin and getting trapped underneath a buildup of dead skin cells. This ends up causing inflammation and can be painful or itchy.

Exfoliating on a regular basis is one way to encourage skin cell turnover and get rid of dead skin build up. In order to exfoliate effectively, apply a body lotion every day that contains glycolic or lactic acid, two effective chemical exfoliants. If your razor bump problem is severe, try using a lotion like TendSkin, which is specifically used to improve the appearance of razor bumps. TendSkin can smudge nail polish, so be careful if you have manicured nails.

For red, irritated bumps that don't improve, consult your dermatologist. It may be possible that you're experiencing folliculitis, a condition in which your hair follicles get blocked and become infected with bacteria. Your doctor will need to prescribe an antiseptic or antibiotic ointment to kill the bacteria and heal the inflammation.

Once ingrown hairs have been nudged free, consider using alternative methods of hair removal if shaving continues to cause problems. You can either opt for an electric razor to control how closely you shave or you can try waxing or chemical depilatories. For a more permanent method of hair removal, consult your doctor about the use of laser technology.

Sue Chung
Meet Our Writer
Sue Chung

Sue wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Healthy Skin.