When it comes to grooming, there are some top essentials for men’s skin care. Of course, there are facial washes and moisturizers. Naturally, there is sunscreen and deodorant. And, unsurprisingly, we have our shaving products.
Shaving is an exercise that men must follow judiciously on a regular basis. Additionally, grooming our facial and body hair can add energy and stamina to our appearance. Having acknowledged that shaving is both a necessary and beneficial procedure for men, how do we improve the experience?
One of the worst parts of shaving is the ingrown hairs. On top of reducing the feel and look of skin substantially, they are outright annoying.
Today, we will discuss ingrown hair, how to prevent it, and how to treat it.
What Are Ingrown Hairs?
Hair follicles are tunnel-shaped structures located on the outer layer of our skin. We have about five million of these follicles located all over our bodies. Hair grows from the bottom of these hair follicles and up out of the skin to the epidermis, which is the surface of the skin. The sebaceous glands near the follicles produce sebum, an oily, waxy substance that nourishes hair and skin.
Once the hair has reached the surface, you have the option of continuing to let it grow or to remove it. Unless you are undergoing laser hair removal treatments to damage the follicles and permanently prevent the hair from returning, it will continue to grow back through your follicles.
After being removed from shaving or tweezing, ingrown hairs are hair that re-enters the skin and grows back into it, rather than out of its follicle. Ingrown hairs result in inflammation, red and itchy bumps on the skin, a bacterial infection, hyperpigmentation, and scarring. The likelihood of developing these ingrown hairs increases if you have curly or coarse hair, such as the hair in your pubic area, armpits, or beard area.
Preventing Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs are annoying and unattractive. Thankfully, there are several different ways to reduce the chances of getting any. Making adjustments to how you remove your hair from your body is probably the best way to prevent ingrown hairs.
Here are some effective tips for preventing ingrown hairs while shaving.
Before you begin to shave, try gently exfoliating the targeted area. While you have the option of using mechanical exfoliation — which is exfoliating manually with tools — or chemical exfoliation – which is exfoliating with a chemical solution — we recommend the latter option.
Applying a chemical exfoliant that contains glycolic or salicylic acid or even a prescription retinoid to the skin can help to dissolve dead skin cells sitting upon the skin’s surface. These same dead skin cells, when not removed, are typically responsible for trapping in the hair and causing it to re-enter the skin.
Applying a product containing a little chemical exfoliant with your washcloth before shaving can help to prevent ingrown hairs from forming.
Choose Quality Tools
Next, when it is time to begin your shave, consider the tool that you are using. An extremely close shave might promote the growth of ingrown hairs. For this reason, you may want to consider opting for an electric razor rather than a manual one.
Regardless of which razor you are more comfortable applying to your skin and choose to use, the razor must be sharp. Dull razors typically require that you shave over the same area more than once to successfully remove the hair. This puts you at risk of not only ingrown hairs but also cuts, razor burn, irritation, and infection.
Make sure your razor is sharp and contains a single blade. It is recommended that you replace your razor blade after every five to seven uses.
Wet the Hair
Now that we have gotten to the point of actually applying the blade to your skin, we are going to caution against dry hair. Without having first been soaked, the hair that you are shaving is likely to have sharp edges, increasing the chances of them growing back into — rather than out of — the skin.
In addition to warm water, you are going to want to use a good shaving cream or gel to assist you with the hair removal process. For your convenience, we recommend The Resetter. This product doubles as a facial cleanser and shaving gel to save you time in your already busy life.
Instead, it is a water-based product that uses all-natural ingredients that leave your skin and hair feeling soft, smooth, and hydrated. These ingredients include coconut oil with glycerin, sunflower seed oil for moisturizing, rosehip oil, and eucalyptus leaf oil.
After leaving the shaving gel to soak for a few minutes, you can begin to shave. As you shave, let your skin sit naturally. A common misconception about shaving is that by pulling the skin back as you use your razor, you will achieve a cleaner shave. In actuality, performing this action and making your skin tight will make the tips of whatever hair remains after you have shrunk into your skin and grow there rather than grow outwards.
It is also important that you shave in the direction of your hair. If you decide to shave in both directions, start by shaving in the direction your hair naturally grows. Give your now shortened hairs some time to soften up and hydrate before reapplying your razor in the opposite direction.
Rinse Your Tools
Between every stroke of your blade, remember to rinse your razor. While shaving, the blade will inevitably begin to clog up with the hair that it has successfully removed from your face or body. Similar to a dull razor, this will negatively affect the efficiency of your blade. Rinsing your blade after every stroke, especially when being used on your face, will keep your razor clean and efficient. As a bonus, this will add additional lubrication to your shave.
If you spot stray hair after you have finished shaving, we encourage you not to tweeze it. Either get back to shaving or wait till your next shave to get rid of it. Though tweezing may seem like the smart solution for this pesky situation, it may actually leave a fragment of hair below the skin’s surface which can later develop into an ingrown hair.
Once you have completed your shave, it is important that you moisturize your skin. Applying a moisturizer will reinforce the skin’s protective barrier, prevent the skin from drying out, and reduce the chances of irritation. We recommend soothing and preserving your freshly shaved skin with MadeMan’s The Refresher.
The Refresher is an all-in-one moisturizer perfect for fast-tracking long-term skin enhancement. Just like The Resetter, this product is water-based and uses all-natural ingredients. One of these ingredients, for example, is castor seed oil, which is used to restore the skin’s natural balance and increase collagen production to rejuvenate the skin so that it is softer and smoother.
Containing an antioxidant blend that promotes the natural repair process, this fast-absorbing moisturizer penetrates into your skin layers and can offer your freshly shaven skin the exact nutrients it needs to heal in addition to protection against redness.
Treating Ingrown Hairs
In the instance that you are already dealing with ingrown hairs, we do have some tips for treating the inflammation and irritation and getting rid of them entirely.
In general, it is recommended that you wait for the affected area to heal before continuing to remove hair. If you do not have the time to wait, here are some simple ideas for speeding up the process.
One method for calming the irritation of ingrown hairs is to gently exfoliate. We previously discussed the benefits of chemically exfoliating before shaving. Many of those same benefits can be applied to treating ingrown hairs.
Applying a product with a chemical exfoliant can quicken your cell turnover and, ideally, set the trapped hair free. Chemical exfoliants include glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide.
Treating, rather than preventing, ingrown hair also opens up the opportunity for mechanical exfoliation. To calm down the affected area, you can try using a tool like a brush or wet washcloth to scrub the spot in circular motions. Warm compresses can also help encourage the hair to come out, while tea tree oil can help reduce the possibility of infection.
As for soothing the irritation or itching itself, using products with shea butter may help people with sensitive skin find some relief.
Remember to be gentle and only use the appropriate tools and products to avoid further harming your skin.
Suppose, after correct and consistent use, these at-home exfoliation methods do not render the results you are looking for. In that case, we advise that you visit a dermatologist for professional help.
Ingrown hairs are common, especially in areas with thick and curly hair, but they're not impossible to avoid. Ingrown hairs occur when a hair curls back as it grows and re-enters or never exits the pore.
Sometimes, these ingrown hairs become infected and filled with pus, becoming pustules. Other times, they remain small red bumps or create hyperpigmentation. They may also lead to razor bumps, also called pseudofolliculitis barbae.
Applying some simple adjustments to your shaving routine can make a world of difference. Having self-discipline and implementing good habits while removing your hair will keep your skin looking and feeling fresh.
Hair removal methods like waxing may be more likely to create ingrown hairs, while proper shaving techniques may help prevent them. Using a fresh, single-bladed razor and shaving in the direction of hair growth can make a world of difference.
For the unfortunate instances in which you are unable to avoid developing an ingrown hair or two, practice restraint and do not pluck out the hair yourself with tweezers or your fingers. Digging into the skin will only cause harm. Not only will it increase the chances of spreading bacteria and developing an infection, but also that the hair will be ingrown again when it regrows.
Instead, try a home exfoliation method or visit with a physician to see what options they can offer you.