If you read the title of this article and immediately started scratching your face, we don't blame you. Ingrown hairs are one of the most uncomfortable things that a man can experience.
Most associate the experience with that awkward learning period between fourteen and seventeen, when about two-thirds of men began to shave. However, the fact remains that ingrown hairs, like acne, have a habit of turning up when you least want or need them to. Often in locations that make them difficult or awkward to treat.
However, all hope is not lost, for there are steps you can take to try to prevent ingrown hairs from coming. Or, if they're already here, ways that you can treat them. Our comprehensive guide will explain what ingrown hairs are, why they happen, how to prevent them, and how to get rid of them.
First Off, What Is an Ingrown Hair?
Ingrown hairs are what they sound like on the tin. They're hairs that curl in on themselves and grow into the skin. They're most common right after puberty and in areas where the hair is coarsest. So, for men, that would be the neck and the beard. For women, they usually happen in the bikini area.
While ingrown hairs care little about your race or sex, they do tend to happen most often to those with tight hair coils. So, if your hair's on the curly side, you can expect to have many more dealings with these little menaces. Ingrown hairs can appear anywhere on the body that hair exists, including the eyelid, but are most common in the areas we tend to shave.
Why Do Ingrown Hairs Happen?
Ingrown hairs can strike at any time and in any location. However, the most common cause of ingrown hairs is improper shaving, waxing, or plucking. When you try to speedrun your morning routine to shave precious seconds off of your commute or work prep time, you get hasty and forget all the rules and tools that make for a good shave.
By shaving too close or going too fast, you lead to a situation where the hairs don't grow out as normal. Instead, they wedge themselves underneath the skin, irritating and inflaming the area around them. Despite our many products to care for it, our body's hair is naturally rather sharp at the tips, which is why it's able to push through (and back into) our skin with such ease.
How Can You Tell If You Have an Ingrown Hair?
It can be tricky at first to tell the difference between a pimple and an ingrown hair bump, since the two present in similar ways. Both can lead to hard-feeling or pus-filled bumps in your skin, which can turn into cysts if you don't treat them. Acne and ingrown hairs also have a knack for causing pain and itching at their initial sites.
So, how can you tell the difference? If it's ingrown hair, the skin may seem darker around the bump. You may even be able to see where the hair has curled up underneath the skin. If it's acne, on the other hand, the area should seem red and irritated, eventually coming to a pus-filled head.
Either way, if it looks like the redness is spreading or more bumps have appeared, it's worth checking whether or not you have a rash. Or, in the worst-case scenario, going to a doctor for further care and information.
What to Do to Prevent Ingrown Hairs
Now that you understand what ingrown hairs are and how you can spot them, let's talk prevention. What can you do to prevent these painful, itchy issues from arising? Some steps you can take include:
Use a Disinfecting Cleanser Before You Shave
Part of the reason why ingrown hairs become so painful is that they can turn into infected cysts. To prevent this from happening, you should wash your face with a cleanser or moisturizer that has antibacterial properties.
If the face wash you buy doesn't advertise this fact, you might be able to spot one by the ingredient list. Face washes with benzoyl peroxide or sulfur have the necessary properties.
Slow and Steady Shaving Is Key
What's the greatest cause of ingrown hairs, razor burns, and other unpleasant nicks and cuts? Haste. Your shaving routine should not start and end with your razor. No matter how high quality our BODBARBER razor package may be, you should still take the time to clean, moisturize, and exfoliate before you begin.
This will ensure not only that you get a clean shave, but that you don't clog your razors with dead skin cells alongside the hair you're trying to remove. And, tempting as it may be, it's not a wise idea to save your shave until five minutes before work. You'll more than likely miss crucial spots, and increase your risk for ingrown hairs.
Keep Your Blades Sharp
Proper blade maintenance and replacement are key to any shaving regimen. If your razor blades are too dull, not only will they not shave your hair as effectively, but they become more likely to cut your skin. Worse, dull razors can harbor all kinds of dangerous, even potentially deadly bacteria. So, make sure you're sharpening, cleaning, and replacing your blades as often as possible.
Don't Shave Dry
Most of us were taught this lesson as teenagers, but it bears repeating: You should never shave dry. Try to time your shave for right after you finish showering when your pores are at their most relaxed. You should also use some sort of shaving cream or gel to protect your face from direct contact with the blades. The more lubrication you have, the less likely you are to nick yourself and cause ingrown hairs.
Don't Cut Things Too Close
Another major cause of ingrown hairs is cutting your shave too close. That's one thing your beard and your nails have in common: If you cut them to the quick, they have a nasty habit of growing back on themselves and causing irritation. So, try not to shave so close that you hit the hairs growing under your skin. If you do, that's a recipe for ingrown hairs and razor bumps.
Now Isn't the Time to Go Against the Grain
Once again, this is a lesson most learn at a fairly young age. However, it never hurts to get a reminder of the basics. Especially when you're using a new product.
You should shave with the grain, not against it. If you go against the grain, you'll get a closer shave, but you can end up getting hairs wedged beneath the skin. This can be prevented by...
Keep the Skin Nice and Loose
If you really like the clean-shaven look, it can be tempting to pull the skin taut while you're shaving. That way, you can get the closest possible shave. However, if you pull your skin too tight, the fractions of millimeters of tension you create can be the difference between an ingrown hair cyst and a nice, clean shave.
Alternatively, Just Don't Shave
Hey, we get it. You come to us to get rid of your body hair, so the advice to "not shave" seems about as helpful as the average Twitch chat. (Which, for those unfamiliar with streaming and online culture, is not helpful at all.)
But, hear us out: It's impossible to get ingrown hairs if you let them grow long enough to get out of the skin.
What Happens If You Leave Ingrown Hairs Untreated?
Now, in many cases, leaving ingrown hair untreated won't cause you much harm. They can, and do, grow out on their own time. However, in some cases, they can turn into cysts and succumb to other bacterial infections. If you suspect that ingrown hairs on your body have become infected, don't hesitate.
Call a doctor, because you do not want to let an infection rage until you go into septic shock. Trust us.
What Are the Best Ingrown Hair Treatment Options?
So, you've got ingrown hairs. Now what? What can you do to treat this annoying, painful, and itchy situation? Some of the best ingrown hair treatment options include:
Warm Compresses Are Your Friend
Part of the reason that ingrown hairs get stuck under the skin is due to the way our skin's pores contract in the cold. While this is a helpful mechanism to keep you alive and help you retain body heat in the winter, it's not super helpful in modern times. We're not apes living in caves anymore, after all.
So, in order to release hair that's become trapped under the skin, you can apply a warm compress to the affected area. This compress can open your pores and allow any hairs trapped there to stand tall and free.
Take These Words of Wisdom: Let it Be
Getting ingrown hairs and getting pimples have yet another similarity. Sometimes, it's best to follow the wise words of The Beatles, and simply "let it be". Don't touch it, don't poke it, don't scratch it, and don't run over it too close with your razor. Give the ingrown hairs some time to recover on their own before you try to "fix" them.
If you don't, your fixes might just make the situation worse.
Tease, Don't Pluck, With Tweezers
Once the hair's close enough to the skin that you can see it, you can attempt to tease it out from under there with a pair of tweezers. Remember, the goal is to twist the hair free, not to pluck it. If you pluck out an ingrown hair, you can end up opening a sore on your skin.
And depending on where the hair is located, an open sore can lead to all kinds of nasty infections and complications. Especially if the ingrown hairs cropped up in more private or hard-to-reach places like the back.
Use an Ingrown Hair Treatment Lotion or Ointment
There are plenty of ingrown hair ointments and lotions available to help you free those trapped hairs. If you've tried letting it rest, tried using a warm compress, and tried to tweeze it out, then one of these may be the best option for you.
Visit the Doctor If You Suspect an Infection or Cyst
Of course, if none of the ingrown hair treatment methods listed above work, then it might be time to see your doctor. If the ingrown hairs have turned into cysts or show signs of infection, then you definitely need medical intervention sooner, rather than later. However, a doctor may be able to help cut ingrown hairs loose before infection begins.
So, if you have some stubborn ingrown hairs, even if they haven't shown signs of infection, then give your doctor a call.
Let's Review What You Need to Know About Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs are an annoying result of a rushed or poorly planned shaving routine that doesn't allow ample time for the skin to get clean and recover. However, by taking the proper time to give yourself a thorough shave and letting your skin and hair recover between shaving sessions, you can prevent these bumpy menaces from taking root.
Have you been feeling less like a man and more like an ape due to your full back and body of hair? Are you ready to look like a modern man with access to proper shaving tools, even for those hard-to-reach places? If so, then we at BAKBLADE are here to help you rejoin modern society.
Check out our website to view our list of products, or browse through our Frequently Asked Questions to get a better understanding of what BAKBLADE can do for you!