I once dated a man whose nickname was "The Man From Planet Slow." The nickname had nothing to do with his quickness of wit, as he was razor-sharp in that regard. The way that he acquired this nickname was by taking an inordinately long time to shave his face. The reason? You guessed it: ingrown hairs.
Ingrown hair grows out through surrounding skin rather than through the follicles. These trapped hairs irritate the skin, which the body responds to by creating papules (small elevations of the skin) commonly known as razor bumps. My boyfriend's method of addressing the problem was to painstakingly lift the tip of each individual hair above his skin using something akin to a dental pic. Since I've always been a believer that personal hygiene is just that-personal, I never commented on his shaving regimen though I do remember thinking to myself, "Gee, there has to be a better way." There are skin care tips that can help you learn how to get rid of ingrown hair, but prevention is the best solution to this skin problem. Here are some things you can do to prevent it:
- Exfoliation. Exfoliation removes the outermost layer of skin (and dead skin cells) and thus exposes hair so that it can grow straight out of the follicle. This is a great ingrown hair treatment.
- Skin lotions. There are many products on the market designed to prevent ingrown hairs by exfoliating the outside layer of skin with chemicals. Frequently they also contain pain relievers and soothing products to minimize the irritation. All-natural exfoliants such as tea tree oil are also available.
- Physical means. Loofah sponges and grainy scrubs for the skin use physical means to exfoliate the outer layer of skin.
- Razors. Special razors which leave hair longer than traditional razors do are another preventative method. Because the tip of the hair is left above the skin, it continues to grow straight out rather than back into the skin. The disadvantage, of course, is that these razors make your five o'clock shadow more like a 5 o'clock black hole, but that may be a small price to pay for relief.
- Beards and goatees. A beard or goatee is a completely natural solution to ingrown hairs. If your workplace (or wife) frowns upon facial hair, or you can't grow it without looking like Gandalf, you can still grow it intermittently - say over vacations or at least over a long weekend-to give your skin a break from shaving.
- Electrolysis. Electrolysis uses short pulses of energy (usually electricity) delivered through a thin probe inserted into the follicle, destroying the hair in that particular follicle. When you take a look at your face, you'll see that you have thousands of hair follicles (between 10,000-30,000), making electrolysis a good option for problem patches but an unlikely solution for the entire face.
- Shaving. Always shave in the direction of hair growth. When shaving your face, this generally means to shave downward on the cheeks, chin and upper lip, and upward on the neck. Keep in mind that everyone has individual growth patterns, so go without shaving for a few days to get a look at yours if you're unsure. Shaving "against the grain" is one of the worst things you can do for ingrown hairs.
Good luck avoiding ingrown hairs! I haven't spoken with my friend in years but writing this article makes me wonder if I should drop him a line...."How are your follicles?" Maybe not.