The acne-like breakouts we know as “shaving bumps,” or Pseudofolliculitis barbae, are the result of inflammation in the hair follicle brought on by shaving. As hairs begin to grow back after shaving, waxing or plucking, they get trapped inside the follicle, resulting in irritation and swelling. Anyone can get shaving bumps, but they’re more common in people with curly hair. Fortunately, anyone can take steps to prevent them. By following a few simple steps, you can learn to “shave smart” for fewer breakouts.

Acne & Shaving – Warm it up. Before you begin shaving, prep the area with warm water. The hydration makes your skin more pliable; the heat will dilate your blood vessels, bringing blood flow to the area. Some people find that shaving in the shower brings better results.

Acne & Shaving – Lather well. Pseudofolliculitis barbae can also be diminished by using the right shaving cream. Thinner, more filmy shaving creams help the razor glide over the skin, reducing irritation.

Acne & Shaving – Use the right razor. If you can, use an electric razor. The shave won’t be as close, but you probably won’t break out. If you prefer blade shaving, use a new single-blade razor each time you shave. Why single? Double-and triple-edged blades lift the hair out of the follicle for a shave that is actually below the epidermis. As part of the skin’s natural healing process, the epidermis grows over the opening of the follicle. Then, as the hair grows back, it has to fight to get out of the closed follicle — causing an inflammatory response.

Acne & Shaving – Go with the grain. The closer your shave, the more likely you are to get shaving bumps. So try to get into the habit of shaving with the grain — for both men and women, this usually means shaving down rather than up. This will cut down on irritation and may help with nicks and cuts, too.

Acne & Shaving – Tone up. When you’re done, you may want to apply a mild alcohol-free toner (witch hazel is a gentle alternative) or antibacterial gel; this will kill bacteria before it gets into the open follicles — and help you stop Pseudofolliculitis barbae before it starts. Both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are available in gel form as well.

For most people, these simple practices go a long way toward the prevention of Pseudofolliculitis barbae. If your shaving bumps persist, consult your dermatologist; he or she may be able to prescribe a more aggressive topical acne treatment.

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