We all want healthy looking skin after shaving.
But all too often your newly-smooth look is ruined by ingrown hairs or razor bumps.
They’re red, unsightly and painful, and when they get infected, they can make your life a misery!
Read on to find out how to calm and treat the ingrown hairs that you have, and, more importantly, prevent any new ones from appearing.
We want to make sure you get the clean shave that you deserve.
What is an ingrown hair?
Sometimes when you cut hairs very short (like when you shave) instead of growing back out of the skin normally they do a U-turn. They curl back into your skin and start to grow beneath the surface. This ingrown hair then creates a swollen bump on your skin.
Your body can interpret the trapped hair as a ‘foreign intruder’ and so it sends white blood cells to fight it off. That’s where the inflammation comes from. This causes the bump to become red, tender and very painful!
What causes razor bumps and ingrown hairs?
Ingrown hairs are almost always the result of shaving, when the hair has been cut to below the surface level of the skin.
If the hair follicle is clogged up by dead skin cells this blocks the hair from growing out normally, and it grows back into the skin, or under the surface, instead.
Most affected skin types
Whilst anyone can get ingrown hairs black-skinned and Hispanic guys tend to have thicker, stronger, curlier hair which is more likely to curl back on itself making you guys more prone to ingrown hairs.
Where do ingrown hairs appear?
As they’re usually caused by shaving they can appear pretty much wherever you’ve shaved! But your neck is particularly susceptible because the hair tends to be coarser there and the skin less well exfoliated.
If ingrown hairs are causing you problems, don’t worry. There’s a lot you can do to treat the ones you have… and prevent any more from appearing.
How to treat existing ingrown hairs
AT HOME TREATMENTS
In most cases ingrown hairs will clear up without treatment but there are things you can do to help speed along the healing process:
- Gently exfoliate the area around the ingrown hair: this will remove any dead skin cells that are blocking the hair from breaking through the skin’s surface.
- Apply a warm, damp compress: this will soften the skin and help to tease out the ingrown hair.
- Avoid shaving for a few days: just until your skin has had a chance to heal.
- Use a light, non-greasy moisturizer: this will soften your skin, soothe the inflamed area and improve the texture and tone of your skin.
- Tweeze out any visible hair: if you can see a hair near the surface try to gently pull it out with a pair of sterile tweezers.
WHAT TO DO IF THE INGROWN HAIR IS INFECTED
If a white pustule has developed around the hair then it has probably become infected, and it’s better to deal with it now or it could get worse. If you don’t remove it the infected hair may continue to grow and cause further irritation and inflammation.
At this stage it’s best to treat the pustule first - and then remove the hair.
Treat the bump with acne medication or a topical hydrocortisone cream. This will reduce the swelling and expose the ingrown hair so that you can easily extract it with a clean pair of tweezers.
WHEN TO CALL THE DERMATOLOGIST
Not all ingrown hairs get this bad but if the bump won’t heal, and it’s becoming more and more painful, then it’s worth calling a dermatologist.
They can give you a cortisone injection to quieten down the redness and inflammation caused by the infected ingrown hair under your skin.
But the best treatment is prevention…
How to prevent ingrown hairs and razor bumps
GENTLY. EXFOLIATE. EVERY. DAY.
No really, the best way to prevent ingrown hairs from appearing is to exfoliate your skin regularly.
This will minimize the amount of dead skin cells that can clog up the hair follicles and pores which cause the hairs to grow back into the skin.
So if you want to avoid razor bumps altogether then gently exfoliate regularly to keep your skin nice and clear.
But this doesn’t mean using a rough facial scrub. Instead choose a gently exfoliating face wash that includes a natural alpha-hydroxy acid. This not only combines two tasks into one – cleaning and exfoliating – but it means that dead skin cells never have the chance to build up and block your hair follicles and pores.
We would definitely recommend our exfoliating Daily Face Wash which is gentle enough to use twice a day, even if you have sensitive skin.
We’ve got more info about the benefits of exfoliation, as well as the best way to exfoliate your skin here: “A Man's Guide to Exfoliation: FAQ's".
There’s also steps you can take to improve your shaving routine to stop ingrown hairs and razor bumps from developing. These steps also help to reduce razor burn and irritation.
Shaving instructions –
4 key steps to prevent ingrown hairs, razor bumps and razor burn
#1: Prepare your skin –
- Open your pores first – try to shave after your shower. The hot and humid atmosphere will open up your pores and leave your skin nice and relaxed. Alternatively apply a hot towel to your beard area first, like a professional barber would.
Massage in a nourishing, protective shave cream – this will create a protective barrier between your skin and the blade.
The cream will also soften the hair so that the razor will cut them on the first pass.
Shaving cream also helps the hairs to stand up slightly making them easier to cut.
DON'T use an alcohol based shave gel though. This will dry out your skin, creating more dead skin cells and encouraging ingrown hairs.
So now with your pores relaxed and open, your skin nourished and protected, and the hairs standing up, your razor will glide easily over your face – with no irritation.
#2: Choose the right razor -
#3: Shave Direction
Always shave WITH the grain.
Shaving against the grain not only aggravates your skin causing irritation but it also distorts the hair follicles making ingrown hairs more likely.
#4: Moisturize afterwards
For more on achieving the perfect, painless shaving experience see our article here: “SHAVE: 9 tips to give you a pain-free shave".
Skincare ingredients to look for that can help with ingrown hairs
- Lactic Acid: Lactic Acid is the most gentle of the natural Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) and great for exfoliating away the dead skin cells that cause razor bumps and ingrown hairs.
- Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera is the best at soothing any type of irritated skin.
For more on the excellent skin benefits of Aloe Vera see “Why Aloe Vera is So Great For a Man's Skin".
- Tea Tree Oil: Tea Tree Oil not only leaves your skin feeling cool and refreshed post-shave, it also helps calm redness and irritation.
Follow these guidelines and your clean shaven face will always look smooth and blemish-free.
How to treat existing ingrown hairs:
At home -
- Gently exfoliate the area around the ingrown hair
- Apply a warm, damp compress to help tease out the trapped hair
- Avoid shaving for a few days to let the skin heal
- Use a light, non-greasy moisturiser to soften your skin
- Tweeze out visible hair with clean tweezers
If the ingrown hair is infected:
- Treat the bump with acne medication or a steroid cream
- When the swelling has reduced, extract the hair with sterile tweezers
If the bump won’t heal:
- See a dermatologist for a cortisone injection
But the best treatment is prevention, so …
- Gently exfoliate your skin regularly
Improve your shaving routine
- Prep your skin well
- Opt for a single blade razor
- Shave WITH the grain
- Moisturize afterwards
And finally, some skincare ingredients to look for:
- Lactic Acid – to gently exfoliate your skin
- Aloe Vera – to soothe and heal
- Tea Tree Oil – to calm redness and irritation. This also purifies and acts as an anti-inflammatory.