Shaving is an incredibly quick and easy method to eliminate unwanted hair. But unfortunately, the process can leave some pesky problems like unsightly razor bumps and uncomfortable ingrown hairs. In fact, the skin irritation can be so bad sometimes that it looks worse than the fuzz you were trying to remove. Luckily, there are ways you can prevent this irritation in the first place. We chatted with Dr. Hayley Goldbach, a double board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Brown, to answer our burning questions.
What causes razor bumps?
“Razor bumps are irritated hair follicles. We have hair almost all over the body, and hair follicles can get irritated. It’s called folliculitis. It happens more when the hair follicles are traumatized, like when shaving.”
What causes ingrown hairs?
“Ingrown hairs are hairs that curl back into the skin instead of coming through the surface. Sometimes the body treats that hair as a foreign object [like how skin reacts to a splinter] and gets irritated and inflamed.”
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What are your top three tips for getting rid of razor bumps?
1. It’s important to use a clean, sharp razor. I use Athena Club’s Razor Kit, and new blades are delivered to me regularly via their subscription service. This means my blade is always fresh, and I don’t have to waste lots of plastic with disposable razors.
2. Make sure the skin is moisturized and wet when you shave to help soften hair follicles. A foam like Athena Club’s Cloud Shave Foam works really well for this.
3. If your razor bumps are painful or persistent, see a board-certified dermatologist. Bacteria can enter through microscopic cuts near the hair follicle and occasionally cause serious infections.
What are your top three tips for getting rid of ingrown hairs?
1. If you get an ingrown hair, don’t try to push it out yourself. Instead, try a warm compress and see a doctor if there are signs of an infection such as redness, warmth, swelling or pus.
2. To prevent ingrowns, try a product with a gentle chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid to soften the skin over the hair. Regular use of salicylic acid or a similar cleanser can also help prevent skin cells from shedding into the follicle and creating a blockage.
3. Consider laser hair removal. If you have persistent ingrown hairs, you might be a good candidate for laser hair removal, which targets the base of the hair and ensures it won’t grow at all.