Ingrown Beard Hair | Causes, Prevention, and Solutions
Some men experience the occasional ingrown beard hair. Some men feel like they’re constantly dealing with ingrown hairs, every time they shave. While some hair types are more prone to ingrown hairs than others, ingrown hairs are something that can happen to anyone on any part of their body.
Although ingrown hairs are uncomfortable and sometimes unpleasant to look at, they’re easily treated. You can often handle ingrown hair at home. The best thing to do would be to prevent ingrown hairs, and prevention is the most important part of the solution.
What is an Ingrown Hair?
Your beard grows out from below the surface of your skin. The hair begins in the follicle, growing up until it becomes visible and sits right on your face.
That’s the ideal scenario. Not every hair will have the same journey. Some hairs get caught on the way out. Rather than breaking through the surface, they break into the surface. This causes irritation and a very large bump. As the growth of an ingrown hair progresses, you may sometimes see a loop or curl of hair breaking through the surface of the bump.
What Causes Ingrown Hairs?
Ingrown hairs have many potential causes. The first is shaving the wrong way. If you’re shaving dry, shaving with a dull blade, shaving in the wrong direction, or shaving too quickly, you’re not actually shaving. You’re merely hacking off the hair at an uneven point, and significantly damaging your skin in the process.
This uneven cut can leave the edges of the hair slightly irregular, making it harder for it to grow through the surface of the skin as expected or intended. It can get caught on the way out, bending and trapping the hair within the skin.
Ingrown hairs can also be caused by a lack of exfoliation. Exfoliation is especially important for men who develop patches of dead skin around their beard. When dead skin accumulates on the surface of the skin, it prevents anything from entering or exiting. Moisturizer can’t absorb, and hair can’t emerge. The dead skin keeps it trapped, and when it can’t get out, the only place for it to go is inward.
How Can I Prevent Ingrown Hairs?
The best way to prevent ingrown hairs is to shave properly and exfoliate your skin. Make sure you’re prepping your skin correctly and taking your time when you shave.
One of the most important aspects of shaving properly is consistently using a sharp blade. If you have a razor with disposable or replaceable blades, like a cartridge razor, a safety razor, or a shavette straight razor, you need to change your blades regularly.
Every single cut you make with a razor dulls the blade a little bit. After two to five full face shaves, it’s probably time to replace your blade or cartridge. If you have thin facial hair or don’t grow a lot of facial hair, you’ll probably be at the longer end of that timeframe. Men who grow thick or coarse hair will wear out their blades rather quickly.
Most men don’t realize how often blades are supposed to be replaced. Men who use cartridge razors are more hesitant to replace the heads because they’re very expensive. If cost makes you hesitant to pop on a new cartridge, switch to a safety razor or a shavette. Even if you replace the blade after every shave, you’re spending pennies instead of dollars. These kinds of razors are extremely inexpensive to maintain.
Exfoliating your skin before you shave plays an important role in preventing ingrown hairs. You might notice flaky white patches in or around your facial hair. Even if you don’t, dead skin cells are still present on the surface of your skin. These cells prevent you from getting a close shave, and they prevent new hair from emerging through the surface of the skin.
You should be exfoliating your face at least once a week with a mild exfoliator. Products with a salt, sugar, or ground coffee base provide just enough grit to slough dead cells on the surface of the skin without damaging the healthy new cells beneath that layer.
Preparing Your Skin
It’s best to shave after a hot shower. Hot showers open up your pores and your hair shafts, allowing water to penetrate your skin and hair. Even the coarsest of beard hair is softer when it’s wet, making it easier to shave without friction.
Keep your shave hot. If you don’t have a hot lather machine, now is the time to get one. Brushing hot lather onto your skin before you shave helps to retain moisture and maintain warmth while you’re shaving. You can take your time shaving without fear that your face will cool down or dry off before you’re finished.
What To Do When You Have an Ingrown Hair
Do not attempt to pop or cut ingrown hairs. To do so will only cause trauma to the surrounding skin. Ingrown hairs can be remedied if the hair is visible. You might need a magnifying mirror to see if a loop of the hair is visible at the top of the bump. When it is, you can use a toothpick, tweezers, or a sterile needle to go through that loop, lifting straight up. The lifting motion will safely pull the ingrown hair out from the surface of the skin.
Treat the area with an antibiotic ointment to eliminate any bacteria or infection that may have developed at the site of the ingrown hair. If you can, use a good pair of tweezers to pluck the ingrown hair directly from the root. Hair plucked directly from the root will grow back with a soft, tapered tip that will have an easier time fully surfacing without getting stuck.
If you cannot see the hair or if it’s trapped inside of something that looks like a pimple or a cyst, try applying hot compresses to encourage the hair to surface. This might make the ingrown hair naturally pop. When it does, the hair will become visible and easier to manage.
Never try to squeeze the ingrown hair. Instead, use a comedone extractor or blackhead remover tool to apply even pressure around all sides of the ingrown hair. The pressure from the comedone extractor may encourage the hair to pop straight out. You may not need to look for a loop or pull the hair out of your skin manually. As soon as you see the hair, pluck it straight out.
Even with great shaving techniques and all the right shaving products, ingrown hairs can still happen from time to time. Nothing is completely foolproof, but it’s always wise to eliminate as many risk factors as possible. Doing your best to take care of your skin should be a huge priority, and the way you shave is a major part of skincare.
Occasionally, ingrown hairs are a result of inconsistent hair patterns or a very curly beard texture. If you find that nothing helps you keep ingrown beard hairs under control, switch to trimming short instead of shaving. Leaving enough of the hair shaft above the surface of the skin will prevent recurring ingrown hairs.