Razor bumps and ingrown hairs

Image credit: Ryan Hyde 

Image credit: Ryan Hyde 


Skincare isn’t just for the ladies!  In our weekly Men's Room feature, we look at issues that relate specifically to men’s health and grooming, so the active man on the go can keep his skin looking and feeling clean, healthy and stimulated.

Unlike women, who mostly shave where only a select few people can see it, most men get their shaving done right out in the open: on their face.  But with the nicks, bumps, ingrown hairs and painful irritation shaving can cause on a man’s most visible feature, is it any wonder stars like Liam Hemsworth, Gerard Butler and Hugh Jackman are opting for grizzly neckbeards, even on red carpets?  But, while the mountain man scruff might be easier to maintain, frequently women, employers and judgemental parents demand a more deliberately-groomed look.  So how can a busy man keep his facial hair in check without spending huge amounts of money on professional barbers and expensive skincare products?

What causes ingrown hairs?

Ingrown hairs are exactly what they say on the tin: hairs that grow sideways or downwards into the skin, instead of out into the open.  It’s a problem primarily with coarse, curly hair like facial or pubic hair, but it can happen anywhere on the body.  It’s a particular problem with hair that gets shaved, because breaking the hair unevenly makes it hard for it to exit the follicle as it grows.  Hair trapped inside the follicle can cause itching, swelling, redness, and even infection.

Healthy hair grows straight out of the follicle.  Image credit: NIH 

What can I do?

Thankfully, even if you’re particularly prone to ingrown hairs, there are a few simple things you can do to help reveal smooth, clear skin when you shave, instead of unsightly bumps and pimples.  The first step is to prepare the skin properly before shaving.  You want your skin and hair to be clean and warm.  Using a cleanser with an active ingredient like salicylic acid will exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells and oil that could cause an uneven shave.  Some experts recommend moistening your face with a warm washcloth too.  

Proper shaving technique is essential to avoid ingrown hairs.  Make sure you’re using a sharp razor, and don’t shave too close!  If you hack away at it, it’s more likely to break the hair unevenly; you also run the risk of shaving the hair shorter than the surface of the skin, which makes ingrown hairs much more likely.  Use a shaving cream or oil that will moisturize your skin and properly lubricate the hair, to avoid nicks and scratches.

Everyone's facial hair grows in slightly differently.  Image credit: Sjbrown

Here’s the most important part - and the part most men forget: figure out which direction your hair grows.  Everyone’s hair is unique: most facial hair grows downwards at a slight angle, but some people’s beards grow straight down, some grow sideways, and some grow every which way.  But shaving against the direction of the hair is a surefire way to trap hairs under the skin and end up with those irritating razor bumps.  Always shave in the direction of the hair growth: you’ll get a much smoother shave with much less irritation.

After shaving, it’s important to wash again and exfoliate.  Not only do you want to get rid of any bits of hair lingering on your skin after the razor; exfoliating will clear away dead skin cells and oil that could trap hairs under the skin.  Hair keeps growing after it’s cut: you want to make sure the new hair has a place to go that isn’t back into the follicle!  If you do keep a beard, particularly a close-cropped one, use an exfoliating brush or mitt to tease the ends of the hair away from your face so that it grows outwards, not back in.

BellaPelle recommends:

BellaPelle has several products that are perfectly suited to combat ingrown hairs and razor bumps for men and women.  For a daily shaving routine, we recommend:

  1. Chiara wash: used before shaving, this salicylic acid cleanser will get rid of all the debris sitting on your skin before you shave.

  2. Chiara tonic II: this industrial-strength exfoliating tonic is the perfect aftershave.  Use it just after shaving to remove dead skin cells and left-over shaving cream, or use it on existing razor bumps to reduce the swelling.

  3. Urban rainforest serum: this moisturizing serum helps balance out the exfoliation by re-hydrating your skin, reducing redness and irritation.  Plus, its earthy, fresh scent is perfect for a man on the go.

  4. SpaCell exfoliating pad: use this specially-designed pad to help remove dead skin cells and tease the ends of your beard away from your skin.

A good skincare and shaving routine should be enough to get rid of those ingrown hairs, but if the razor bumps just won’t go away, consider booking a facial with a professional esthetician.  The right combination of hydration, exfoliation and extraction might be just what your skin needs to kick it into gear.

Shop our range of skincare products, or visit our pop-up partner in men's grooming, Proraso (now available at 9 Maiden Lane!) For stubborn skin that just won't behave, call (415)362-6384 to book a consultation with one of our estheticians.