Skin + Hair Basics

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs

Ingrown hairs are painful and unsightly, and can get easily infected. Here are the steps to take so that you prevent ingrown hairs altogether.
How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs

Every so often, a hair decides it doesn’t want to grow out of your skin, but would rather furl up inside the pore and cause you significant pain—not to mention, unsightly inflammation. Some people get ingrown hairs more often than others due to their hair’s curl pattern, while others get them frequently because of a subpar skin or shave regimen

With a few simple adjustments to these regimens, you can mitigate the problem and hopefully never have to deal with ingrown hairs again. Below is our advice on how to prevent ingrown hairs.

Ways to Prevent Ingrown Hairs

1. Exfoliate regularly

Routine exfoliation is one of the best ways to prevent hairs from getting trapped inside the pores. By removing dead, dry skin from the body (and in turn preventing it from getting trapped in the pore and inflaming the follicle), it is less likely that short hairs will themselves become trapped inside the pore, too. You can choose any means of exfoliation in order to keep skin smooth—from chemical ingredients like salicylic acid to physical scrubs (the latter of which can also help coerce trapped hair out from the pores, in some cases). Speak with your dermatologist about prescription-grade retinol, too, since the Vitamin A derivative accelerates cellular turnover and prevents downstream side effects like acne and ingrowns.

2. Shave with the grain

While it may be true that shaving against the direction of hair growth is what delivers the closest, smoothest shave, it’s also true that this is a recipe for ingrown hairs, since it shaves the shaft of the hair in a way that defies natural emergence from the top layer of skin. So, try shaving with the grain of hair growth (in the direct it is moving) in order to cut the hair the opposite direction and in turn coach it out of the skin. The result will still be smooth and fresh, we promise.

3. Practice pre- and post-shave care

A nourishing pre-shave regimen softens the skin and hairs, and prepares everything for a shave. Typically it involves a warm water wash to open the pores, followed by pre-shave oil to condition everything and to lubricate the skin for a more efficient shave with minimal friction. Some people often choose to use a physical scrub after the warm splash, too, in order to lift away any lingering dead skin cells.

A post-shave regimen starts with a cold splash of water to close the pores, followed by a toner and/or aftershave balm to calm skin and neutralize bacteria. This helps to prevent any additional redness on the skin or swelling beneath it, which would otherwise aggravate ingrown hairs.

4. Consider changing razors

If you’re constantly getting ingrowns with your current shaving regimen, then the razor might be the problem. Most ingrown-prone guys will drop their cartridge razor in favor of safety razor blades, which cut through thicker hairs more efficiently, and which also use a single blade to do so (as opposed to dragging 2-6 razors over top the skin and dragging all those extra cells and clippings). Also, if you are in a hurry or if you don’t mind sporting five o’clock shadow at the end of every day, then consider switching to an electric razor, which won’t cut hairs below the surface of the skin. (Translation: Hairs can’t get trapped inside the skin, so no more ingrown hairs.) If you’re precious about having smooth skin as often as possible, then an electric razor may not be for you every day, though we still think it’s important for every guy to have at the ready, given how efficient and problem-free they are.

5. Practice better razor hygiene

Dull razors can’t give you the efficient, clean cut you deserve. That’s why it’s important to swap out each blade after 6-8 uses, or after 2-3 weeks from the first use (whichever of those two scenarios comes first). The latter is more for hygienic reasons, which is important in and of itself, but any dull blade is going to cause extra drag and razor burn, and will exponentially increase the odds of ingrowns—no matter if it’s a cartridge or safety razor. So, swap it out regularly. And be sure to give it a thorough rinse between strokes and after each use, then let it dry completely in a cool, dry place before storing it away until your next shave. All of these steps will ensure that your blade stays clean and sharp as long as needed (even if it’s just 2 weeks).

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