[By Nadine Loh]
Strange bumps have sprung up on your face. They’re not exactly pimples. What could they be?
Many men suffer from ingrown hairs on their faces; these may manifest as bumps or masquerade as zits. Essentially, ingrown hairs are hairs that have curled around and grown back into your skin instead of rising up from it.
While ingrown hairs are far from serious, they can be irritating and embarrassing. Here, we shed some light on how we can get to the root of this hairy problem.
Anyone can suffer from ingrown hair. But the problem is more common in people who have very curly or coarse hair. Curly hair is more likely to bend back and re-enter the skin, especially after it’s been shaved or cut.
Certain races are more proen to this hairy issue than others, with African-Americans, Hispanics, and people with thick or curly hair being most commonly afflicted. For the rest of us, these facial bumps, more commonly known as “razor bumps,” usually appear on the beard area after you’ve shaved, waxed, or tweezed to remove unwanted hair. The hair that grows back in has a sharper edge, so it can more easily poke back through the skin and get trapped under the surface. Of course ingrown hair can afflict the fairer sex for women who shave parts of their bodies such as their legs and underarms.
1. Treat with active ingredients
- There are several products that claim to help treat ingrown hairs, but the reality is that Salicylic acid is the one active substance that can visibly improve razor bumps. It is a dermatological-grade ingredient that exfoliates, moisturizes, clears pores and can help prevent infection. Use a post-shave product with salicylic acid so it remains on your skin the whole day (see below).
- Steroid creams can reduce swelling or itch that accompanies ingrown hairs.
- Retinoids (Retin A) to remove dead skin cells and reduce the skin pigment changes that can occur from ingrown hairs. Be careful to use this sparingly as it may cause redness and peeling in sensitive skin types.
- Use only a non-acnegenic shaving cream specially formulated for sensitive skin, with lots of lubricating agents (foam-based shaving creams can dry and irritate your skin).
- Do not use any product that has alcohol, it will seriously worsen ingrown hairs by drying the skin and closing the pores.
2. Improve your skin’s surface
- Exfoliating (removing the upper layers of dead skin) is indispensable to manage ingrown hairs. Daily use of a gentle face scrub with glycolic and salicylic acid is particularly effective. Alternatively, rub your face in a circular motion using a wet washcloth or an exfoliating scrub to tease out any stubborn ingrown hairs.
- Wet your skin with warm water before shaving and apply a lubricating gel.
- Try a toner with mild AHA to keep your skin free of dead cells such as Sloane Inc Calendula Toner.
3. Adjust your shaving technique
- Shaving too closely is one of the triggers for razor bumps. Hair stubs cut too closely will get trapped inside the hair follicle and dig inward or sideways. Don’t worry, the disappearance of unsightly ingrown hairs will more than make up for the “five-o’clock shadow” appearance.
- To avoid shaving too close, don’t pull the skin when you shave; don’t put too much pressure on the blades; shave with the grain and use a single-blade razor.
- You will need to maintain this approach over time, as one extra-close shave will be enough to cause a recurrence of ingrown hairs that will take weeks to heal.
- If you’re using an electric razor, hold it slightly above the surface of your skin.
- Apply a cool washcloth to your skin after you shave to reduce irritation.
- You can also try other hair removal methods that are less likely to produce ingrown hairs. Those methods include depilatory creams that burn off the hair, and a laser or electric current (electrolysis) to permanently remove the hair follicle.
4. Treat already ingrown hairs
- Carefully lift the ingrown end out with tweezers, but don’t pluck the hair out; this will only make the hair regrow deeper.
- Antibiotic that you take by mouth or rub onto your skin can treat an ingrown hair infection
There isn’t any real permanent cure for ingrown hair other than to grow out your beard. Longer hairs aren’t as sharp at the ends, so they won’t be as likely to curl around and break through the skin. But for men who prefer a clean shave — or women — avoiding the razor may not be an option. That’s when permanent laser hair removal options may be something to consider.