How to Tell If It’s Herpes or Razor Bumps? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

How to Tell If It's Herpes or Razor Bumps Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Razor bumps are the ingrown hairs that appear after you shave certain parts of the body whereas herpes is a caused by herpes simplex virus (1). 

As most of the symptoms of these two conditions overlap, people get confused about what they are having. Both razor bumps and herpes can appear anywhere on the body, but the latter often occurs around the mouth and genitals (2). 

If you have recently witnessed sores or bumps on some body parts, this comparison of razor bumps vs. herpes will give detailed insight. Keep reading!

Difference Between Razor Bumps and Herpes

What are HERPES?


Herpes occurs due to herpes simplex virus. They are of two types-

  1. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) 
  2. Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2)


The common symptoms of herpes include the development of watery sores or bumps that often cause a rupturing yellow discharge. These sores often develop in clusters and are tender to touch. The condition is accompanied by headache and fever. 


Herpes is a contagious disease and comes under one of the sexually transmitted infections. Kissing, as well as vaginal, anal, and oral sex, can spread HSV-1 and HSV-2 (3). It is possible that the herpes virus remains in the dormant stage in the body and doesn’t show any symptoms. Other times, it may cause sudden outbreaks. 


Razor Bumps

Razor bumps are the ingrown hair that develop after you shave certain areas of the body like legs, arms or genitals. They appear red and tender and may cause skin irritation. 

As you shave, the hair grows again after a few days, pushing through the skin. When this developing hair is blocked or when it starts growing in a different direction, it becomes difficult for it to get through the skin, causing ingrown hair. 


As the name indicates, they appear as small and red bumps- not clustered like in herpes but single or isolated. Often, these bumps have a head and are tender to touch. You may also feel itching in the area. 

The bump or sore may rupture on squeezing, releasing white pus. It could get inflamed on squeezing.  

Razor bumps develop infection because the hair follicle is blocked, preventing hair from protruding out of the skin surface. As a result of infection, razor bumps feel more irritating with increased soreness (4). 

Upon observing the razor bump, you may notice a thin line of hair in the center. It is the ingrown hair that’s causing the problem. Here, it is important to mention that not every razor bump has a noticeable black thin line depicting ingrown hair. So, it is not the only telltale sign to distinguish between razor bumps vs. herpes. 

Below is the table comparing razor bumps vs. herpes to give a better insight-

CharacteristicRazor BumpsHerpes
CauseResult from shaving, ingrown hairs, or irritationCaused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV)
AppearanceSmall, red or pink bumpsCluster of small, fluid-filled blisters
LocationCommonly occur in areas where hair is shavedCan occur anywhere on the body, often around the mouth or genitals
Pain or ItchinessMay cause itching or discomfortCan be painful and may cause itching or burning sensations
ContagiousNot contagiousHighly contagious, especially when blisters are present
DurationTypically resolve on their own within a few daysMay recur periodically and last for weeks
TreatmentUsually resolves with proper skincare, such as exfoliation and moisturizingAntiviral medications can help manage symptoms and reduce outbreaks
PreventionProper shaving techniques, avoiding close shaving, using moisturizers after shavingAvoiding direct contact with affected areas, practicing safe sex, and using condoms or dental dams

How to Diagnose Razor Bumps or Herpes?

Often, it is easy to identify a razor bump, especially if it has a pimple like head with a thin black line, showing the ingrown hair. Also, it occurs in isolation. On the other hand, herpes appears in clusters. 

However, other times, it becomes difficult to distinguish between these two conditions as their symptoms overlap. In such cases, the doctor may recommend blood tests to rule out the possibility of HSV-1 and HSV-2. 

It is essential to get the right diagnosis at the right time to prevent the spread of contagious herpes virus.  

​​Treatment Options of Razor Bumps and Herpes

Usually, razor bumps do not require any treatment because they resolve once the ingrown hair breaks through the skin. As a result, the sore clears up, and the skin becomes normal after a few days.

However, if redness, swelling, pain, and discomfort persist, you may visit a doctor who may prescribe pain relief medications to manage the symptoms. 

Talking about herpes, there is no cure as it is a viral infection. Virus will complete its cycle before the infection resolves. However, anti-viral medications can be prescribed by the doctor to supress herpes outbreak. Additionally, medicines will be given to reduce fever, headache and to manage other symptoms.


Now that we have compared razor bumps and herpes in detail, it would be easy to identify which condition you are dealing with. In case of a razor bump you need to be patient to allow the ingrown hair to break through the skin and resolve. 

However, if it’s herpes, manage the symptoms with medications and take plenty of rest. Once the virus completes its life cycle, the sores will reduce, and the condition will improve. 

Image Source : canva

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