Ingrown hairs (commonly called razor bumps), those red painful bumps you get after shaving, are the result of shaved hairs getting trapped and growing back into the follicle. Left untreated, these hairs can continue to grow in the follicle (I've seen them get to half an inch long) and cause infection and scarring.
There are several things you can do tin the treatment and prevention of ingrown hairs (called pseudofolliculitis barbae by medical folks).
- Shave Properly. Using the correct shaving technique is critical. Avoid applying pressure to the razor and don't shave against the grain. Hair that is shaved too closely will get stuck in the follicle and grow inward.
- Deep Clean. Cleanse skin with a product that contains salicylic acid and follow your shave with a lotion that contains this ingredient. Salicylic acid (a beta hydroxy acid derived from willow tree bark) causes the skin cells to slough off more easily, preventing pores from clogging. I really love Menscience Daily Face Wash.
- Exfoliate. Use a gentle face scrub, such as Menscience Microfine Face Scrub, every other day to help remove dead skin and deep clean the pores. The use of a shaving brush will further clean the skin and lift the hairs to prepare for shaving.
- Take the Weekend Off. Give your skin a break from time to time, especially if you have ingrown hairs. Shaving over them will aggravate the problem, so skip shaving for a day or two if you can.
- Unplug. Avoid electric razors, especially those with rotating heads. These razors can cause the hair to be cut off in all sorts of directions and are of no use when you are trying to shave with the grain.
- Go Collarless. High, stiff collars will rub against the sensitive skin on your neck and irritate the skin. A high collar can also trap dirt, sweat, and oil which will clog pores. If you have the type of career that will allow it, opt for a collarless shirt or a shirt with a very low collar (e.g., a polo type shirt).
Consistently using the techniques above will help prevent ingrown hairs. Once you've got one, use these tips for getting rid of it.
- Prep. Wash the face with warm water and hold a clean, moist cloth against the affected area to soften the skin and make it easier to see the hair. If you can't see the hair, repeat the application of the damp cloth a few times until you can.
- Extract. Sterilize a needle or pointed pair of tweezers by soaking in isopropyl alcohol or holding it over an open flame. Use the needle or tweezers to gently coax the hair out of the skin. Don't dig too hard or cut the skin as this can cause infection and aggravate the problem. The goal is to get end of the ingrown hair out of the skin and allow the follicle to heal.
- Protect. Wash the face with a gentle moisturizing soap and water and apply an antiseptic such as hydrogen peroxide or benzoyl peroxide, followed by a good moisturizer. Avoid alcohol as it can dry out the skin and cause irritation.
These tips should help you minimize and control ingrown hairs. If the problem persists, please see your dermatologist.