While the current pandemic presents a summer much different than the ones before, it’s still time to get our skin prepared for some socially distanced fun in the sun. For those of us who use shaving hair removal methods to prepare, there are two downsides to consider: red, itchy razor bumps that arise as a result of shaving incorrectly that become increasingly inflamed over time, and ingrown hairs, which can develop after any hair removal method and need to be removed very carefully to prevent infection.
Before you start treating your skin, know that the terms razor bumps and ingrown hairs are used interchangeably. "When someone says they have razor bumps, it means they have ingrown hair," Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, MD, dermatologist and director of the Skin of the Color Division for the University of Miami Department of Dermatology, tells TZR. An ingrown hair is more common in people that have curly hair, or areas where curly hair grows like the underarms and bikini area. Why do ingrown hairs form? "The close shaving of hair causes the hair to penetrate the wall of the follicle and extend into the dermis as it grows back or to curve back on itself and pierce the skin, such as with an ingrown hair," Dr. DiAnne Davis, M.D., FAAD, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Houston, tells TZR.
Razor irritation, or razor burn, is another skin problem you might have experienced. "The other type of razor bump is more like an irritation and they are little red dots that occur usually immediately after shaving, and some people call that a razor burn." Dr. Woolery-Lloyd notes. Razor irritations are treated a little differently because it's more like the skin is just irritated, she adds.
Whatever you're currently facing, below find everything you need to tackle both issues and prevent them from recurring — so you can have a carefree season with poolside.
How To Banish Razor Irritations: Use An Anti-Inflammatory
When you're experiencing razor irritations, Dr. Woolery-Llyod says to use an anti-inflammatory like hydrocortisone or a cooling gel such as aloe, which will aid in soothing the aggravated skin.
How To Banish Razor Irritations: Skip Exfoliating
"Exfoliation works for ingrown hairs, but not for razor irritation," Dr. Woolery-Lloyd notes. Instead, stick to soothing products like hydrocortisone or soothing post-shave creams and lotions to help reduce irritation.
How To Banish Razor Irritations: Use An Electric Razor
"You’re less likely to get it [a razor irritation] with an electric razor, because they are theoretically less irritating," Dr. Woolery-Lloyd says. "Especially the wet ones, they have wet and dry electric razors, but the ones that are wet give you a little less slick and are less likely to irritate."
How To Banish Razor Irritations: Use Shaving Cream
Dr. Woolery-Lloyd suggests opting for a soothing shaving cream so the razor glides smoothly over the skin. Consider trying eos' Ultra Moisturizing Shave Cream, formulated with calming ingredients like oats and aloe.
How To Banish Ingrown Hairs: Laser Hair Removal
If you want to say goodbye to ingrown hairs longterm, laser hair removal is the most permanent solution. "Overtime these treatments reduce the number of hairs growing out of the follicle," Dr. Davis explains. "After a series of treatments you enter into maintenance mode where you can usually keep the hair completely gone, as long as you keep up with maintenance treatments two to three times a year." Overtime, laser hair removal is going to decrease the number of hairs, while also shrinking the hair follicle in diameter. Therefore, the diameter of the hair becomes thinner, finer, and less coarse. "And when the hair is thinner, finer, and less coarse, it tends not want to curve back on itself and cause the irritation that can lead to the razor bump."
How To Banish Ingrown Hairs: Use Hydrocortisone
If you're prone to ingrown hairs, hydrocortisone will be your best friend. "It's an anti-inflammatory, so it reduces inflammation," Dr. Woolery-Lloyd notes. "If you have a lot of ingrown hairs and your skin is bumpy and irritated, hydrocortisone might help to soothe that." She notes the active ingredient is hydrocortisone 1%, and the over the counter options come in hydrocortisone 0.5% and hydrocortisone 1%. And the dermatologist says you can choose between a cream ointment or lotion.
How To Banish Ingrown Hairs: Gentle Exfoliant
"Gentle exfoliation with an exfoliating mitt can be helpful because it can remove the very top layer of skin so that the trapped ingrown hairs can emerge," Dr. Woolery- Lloyd notes. She says that some skincare products designed for ingrown hairs, like Tend Skin, contain ingredients like salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin.
Another option is Differn Gel, which is typically applied to the face. "[Use a] mild gentle exfoliant like Differn Gel, which is kind of an exfoliant that keeps the hair from getting clogged underneath the pores," Dr. Davis says. It's a topical retinoid, but it prevents the top layer of the skin from getting clogged by things like hair follicles, dead skin cells, oil, and debris. "Should the hair need to grow directly up and out of the skin, it has a better chance of not getting caught underneath it." Though it can be used on the face daily, the derm recommends only applying it two to three times a week to the bikini area .
How To Banish Ingrown Hairs: Use Clean Razors
To help prevent ingrown hairs, Dr. Davis notes the importance in using clean razors. "I'll tell patients you'll want to make sure you’re changing out your razors very frequently, like two or three times a week. You don't want to let it be an old dull razor." Additionally, she says to make sure the razor is sharp, and a single blade option tends to be a tad better than razors with multiple blades.
And Dr. Woolery-Lloyd says an electric razor is a great solution to treating ingrown hairs. This is because using an electric razor doesn't give as close of a shave, which means how short the hair is compared to the skin. "If it's at the level or below the level of the skin, it's a close shave. But if you can see a little stubble, that's a less close shave, which is less likely to cause ingrown hairs."
How To Banish Ingrown Hairs: Shave In The Direction The Hair Grows
An easy way to avoid ingrown hairs is by shaving in the direction the hair grows. "A lot of times for the underarms we might think to shave in an upward fashion, but for someone who gets a lot of ingrown hairs in their underarm region I would say shave in a downward motion," Dr. Davis suggests. "The bikini area can be a little tricky because sometimes the hairs grow in several different directions, but you want to be very gentle. You don't want to pull the skin tight to help with the shaving, because that can sometimes be traumatic to the skin and lead to ingrown hairs or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation."
How To Banish Ingrown Hairs: Don't Pluck
Whatever you do, don't pluck. Dr. Woolery-Llyod says plucking the hairs will make the problem worse, so hide the tweezers when it comes to ingrown hairs.
This article was originally published on