With the recent cold winter months, shaving is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. Yes, even for men – no shave November ringing a bell? From shaving beards to shaving legs, men and women who choose this method of hair removal are commonly plagued with ingrown hairs. The redness, irritation and bumps that appear only a few days after shaving typically accompany ingrown hairs. Though these symptoms can be treated, incorporating simple habits to your skin care regiment as a means of prevention is much more advantageous. In this article, we will explore ways to treat and prevent ingrown hairs.
Ingrown hairs (Pseudofolliculitis Barbae) are unsightly and can be painful. They result when shaved hair gets trapped inside the follicle or grows back into the skin. Additionally, certain body parts that are more difficult to shave (such as underarms and bikini line) are more prone to this condition due to body heat and friction between skin or against clothing. Ingrown hairs cause an inflammatory response (redness, itchiness, and/or raised infected area).
Razor bumps are caused by infected hair follicles and come from the end of the hair shaft that has been cut and continues to grow into another nearby hair follicle. The introduction of the sharpened end of a hair follicle into another causes an inflammatory response in the skin and leads to a pimple or bump.
The American Academy of Dermatology makes several recommendations to treat and prevent this condition:
*Use Active Ingredients: When selecting a facial cleanser/body wash, choose a product that contains beta hydroxy acids (such as salicylic acid). Since the hair follicle can be blocked by hardened proteins, exfoliating with a beta hydroxyl acid will penetrate deeply and slowly dissolve the plug of hardened proteins. Dermatological-grade ingredients exfoliate, moisturize, clear pores and help prevent infection. Salicylic acid is also recommended as a post-shave product.
*Exfoliate: Every time you bathe and cleanse your body and/or face, exfoliate to dislodge the tips of ingrown hairs and eliminate dead skin cells. This lifts the hair away from the follicle while softening the hair and preparing it for the shave. Moreover, exfoliation works well to help grow hair in the right direction.
*Observe Shaving Techniques:
Razor bumps are triggered by shaving too close. When hair stubs are cut closely, they get trapped inside the hair follicle and curl inward. When shaving, press gently with the blade and make sure not to pull the skin. Also, use a single-blade razor (never an old, dull blade) and avoid shaving over the same area too many times, as this will cause unnecessary skin irritation.
To treat already ingrown hairs:
*Disinfect the area using a product containing buffered, fatty alcohol. This kills the bacteria without the “sting.”
*Use tweezers to carefully lift the ingrown end. Don’t pluck as this will make the hair grow deeper.
*Use products that contain azulene, allantoin and witch hazel to reduce the redness and swelling caused by the ingrown hair.
*There are products available that fight ingrown hairs. Apply to the target area and the bumps should subside and the ingrown hair will point back to the skin’s surface.
If you have further questions or concerns regarding this common condition, schedule an appointment today at Knoxville Dermatology Group with one of our board certified physicians to gain more knowledge about your skin so it can reach its fullest, healthiest potential!