Shaving is a choice not a necessity. For those of us who choose to shave, we are often greeted with unwelcome bumps and ingrown hairs that speckle the smooth surface of our skin. There are some people who may never experience these irritations (lucky you!), but for the majority of us that do, there are many solutions that can help solve this annoyance. Understanding the causes of this skin irritation and seeking solutions will lead to informed purchases and polished skin from head to toe.
What Causes Ingrown Hairs & Razor Bumps?
Most simply put, ingrown hairs are the result of hairs that have grown underneath the skin and have not completely penetrated the surface. According to the Mayo Clinic, ingrown hairs can affect anyone who shaves, tweezes, or waxes any area of their body. Therefore, ingrown hairs are typically found in the armpit, legs, facial, and pubic areas of the body. When an ingrown hair forms and penetrates the skin, this may lead to inflammation, causing a bump and potential redness.
Ingrown hairs and razor bumps are more common in individuals with tightly curled hair, more commonly seen in African and African-American populations. As the hair tries to exit the skin barrier, a curled or curved hair follicle makes it difficult for the hair to directly exit. Often times, it becomes stuck beneath the skin.
Additional causes of ingrown hair and razor bumps may be:
- Use of dull razors that can cause cuts in the skin
- Pulling your skin taut while shaving
- Tweezing without completely removing the hair follicle
There are also skin conditions that may resemble ingrown hairs and razor bumps, but may actually be the result of an infection. Make sure to check with your dermatologist to receive the proper diagnosis of your skin condition.
How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs & Razor Bumps?
The best way to prevent ingrown hairs and bumps is to avoid shaving. For those who prefer a smooth, hairless texture to some areas of their body, this isn’t an option.
Following recommendations by the American Academy of Dermatology, the following steps can help lead to a clean, smooth shave.
- Shave at the end of or after a shower so that your hair is clean “without excess oil or dead skin cells”. The heat from the shower will help soften the hair for a smoother shave.
- Use a shaving cream or gel – Think of this as a conditioner for your hair; It’s another smoothing step before you apply your razor.
- Use a clean, sharp razor. Depending on the area of the body you are shaving, most razors can be used 3-4 times before it is time to toss and replace it. If you are shaving areas with dense amounts of hair, you may have to replace your razor sooner.
- Shave in the same direction as the hair grows to prevent irritation.
- Keep your razor in a dry area away from your shower or sink to prevent bacteria growth and rusting.
- Apply a safe serum, oil, or lotion to shaved area. Vitamin E oil works well to nourish the skin post shave.
- Exfoliate in the following days using a Glycolic 5% wash to help remove flakes of skin that could cause ingrown hairs and bumps. In less sensitive areas like the legs, try a sugar scrub like this Brown Sugar Body Scrub.
- BONUS STEP! Try not to shave every day, especially for those with sensitive skin. Constantly shaving the skin without providing time for it to heal can further lead to irritation, discomfort, and itching.
How to Treat Your Skin Depending on the Hair Removal Method
Treating ingrown hairs and razor bumps that have already formed can be tricky, but the key is to be gentle to your skin. Depending on the hair removal method of your choice, your skin may require slightly different types of treatment. Let’s take a look.
The tips above have addressed the most common ways to prevent ingrown hairs and razor bumps. If you already have them, look for shaving gels or serums that contain lactic, glycolic, or salicylic acids to exfoliate the skin and allow the hair to push past the skin barrier, as suggested by Science Daily.
Waxing is an appealing method of hair removal because the hairs are pulled out from the root, as opposed to shaving which just cuts. As a result, waxing can last a few weeks. Just as with shaving, as the hair grows back, your skin may become irritated and lead to inflammation and ingrown hairs. Following similar recommendations to shaving, it is important to continue to exfoliate the skin. In addition, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests avoiding “double dipping” with the wooden sticks used in waxing. This is can transfer germs and bacteria, leading to infections and continued irritation to the skin.
Depilatories involved the application of a cream to the skin that can dissolve the hair. The most common skin issues related to this hair removal method are the burning and stinging sensations experienced upon application of the product. While some can tolerate the product, others may have severe reactions. For best results, it is recommended to test the cream on a small area of the skin for the instructed amount of time. Do not exceed the time suggested and wipe the cream off immediately. If you have no adverse reactions, it is likely fine for you to continue applying the product.
Similar to tweezing, threading is a hair removal method that snags unwanted hairs and rips them out. This method of hair removal is incredibly precise and can last for weeks. Just as in shaving, tweezing, and the previous hair removal methods mentioned, ingrown hairs and bumps may occur if the hair is not removed properly. Threading is not suitable for large areas and should be done by an experienced, clean practitioner. If not, your skin is more at risk for irritation.
Laser Hair Removal
Through multiple treatments, laser hair removal will “emit a beam of light which the pigment in your hair absorbs”. Ultimately, the follicle of the hair will be destroyed and cannot grow back. This is an ideal solution for individuals who no longer want to shave and are looking for more permanent results. This is one of the best treatments for ingrown hairs and razor bumps because there is no longer trapped hair trying to escape the barrier of the skin.
Laser hair removal can also be an expensive and slightly painful process, which is why many may stick with shaving or waxing. It is also crucial that individuals with darker skin types ensure that the laser being used on their skin is appropriate. According to an article published by Dermatologic Therapy entitled Laser-assisted Hair Removal for Darker Skin Types, lasers referred to as “long-pulsed diode” and “Nd:YAG-wavelength-based laser systems” are best for darker skin because they do not cause problems with hyperpigmentation.
In order to get the best results, it is imperative that you have this procedure done by an experienced physician, particularly a board-certified dermatologist. If left in the wrong hands, this procedure can lead to dark spots, burns, blisters, or infections. When seeking professional help, you will get the best results with the most qualified practitioners.
Keep Your Skin Hydrated
While faced with a plethora of choices when it comes to skincare, oftentimes our skin can flourish best with simplicity. When your hair is removed by whatever method of your choosing, make sure that you complete your routine by staying moisturized. Moisturized skin feels and appears smoother because your skin is hydrated and supple. Many lotions like the ones you’ll find here can keep your skin smelling good and feeling great.
Refer to this article whenever you’re interested in trying a new method of hair removal. If you’re unsure how your skin will react or have sensitive skin concerns, consult with your dermatologist to review the best hair removal plans for you. As mentioned in the article, if you choose to try a hair removal method like laser hair removal or electrolysis, make sure that the physician or practitioner is using the correct laser for your skin tone.
Enjoy your smooth skin!