They say that a close shave is the best shave. Try telling that to anyone with an ingrown hair.
It is far from pleasant when that hair furls up under the skin, and gets closed off to the outside world. It grows and grows inside there while bacteria and pus proliferate… Oof. No thank you.
We’re all susceptible to ingrown hairs—some of us more than others, namely guys with curly and thick facial hair. But ingrown hairs are also avoidable most of the time, so long as you approach your shave with the right products, plan, and patience.
That’s what we’ll outline here today: The best way to avoid ingrown hairs without sacrificing your precious shave regimen.
1. Condition the whiskers between shaves
One way to stay ahead of ingrown hairs is to nourish the whiskers (and the skin beneath them) on a daily basis. You can do this with a standard moisturizer if you shave regularly, or you can use a beard oil if you tend to grow the whiskers out prior to your next shave. By routinely feeding the hair and skin, you condition it to stay soft and cooperative, thus minimizing any stubborn subcutaneous episodes during the shave.
2. Trim down the hair
If your whiskers aren’t at stubble length prior to the shave, then get them there first with a guard-less beard trimmer. You want as little razor drag as possible during the shave, and the longer the hairs, the more likely you are to increase resistance to the blade and decrease the blade’s impact on the hairs themselves.
3. Use a fresh, sharp blade
You want maximum sharpness and minimal germs. Using a fresh blade as often as possible means you avoid things like razor drag, burn, bumps, and irritation. Ditto for ingrown hairs, since you’re slicing the whiskers without any hesitance. If you shave frequently, then replace the blade after 6-8 shaves, or half that time if you don’t mind the slightly higher cost. If you shave infrequently, then don’t use a razor that is more than 3 weeks old after its inaugural use.
4. Switch to a safety razor if problems persist
In this list, you’ll see us talk a lot about “minimizing razor drag”, which is a common problem for cartridge razors. All those blades pushed closely together creates a wall where grime, hair, and dead skin can gather, plus it snips away at the stubble upwards of 5 or 6 times. Yes, that’s worth bragging about in terms of a close shave, but there’s also no reason you need more than one single, sharp blade. That’s why most ingrown-prone guys use a safety razor.
It’s a timeless blade, trusted by barbers and enthusiasts alike. Consider the switch for yourself—you’ll probably even save some money in the long run on blade replacements.
5. Exfoliate before shaving
Also for the sake of minimizing razor drag: You should exfoliate skin with a gritty scrub prior to shaving. You can do this after cleansing the face with warm water. Exfoliation will remove dead skin cells and rough patches of skin (especially important if you get facial dandruff), clearing the way for smooth, steady razor strokes, and minimal razor drag—thus maximum slicing prowess.
It also prevents those skin cells from getting trapped in the pores, which themselves are especially susceptible to clogging, given the topmost layer of skin is soon getting lifted away with the shave.
Try Bulldog face scrub for this step.
6. Soften the skin and whiskers
Don’t dive right into the shave itself just yet. First, you want to condition the skin and hairs with a pre-shave agent. This can be a standalone oil, which will create an invisible, protective, and glide-inducing layer over top the skin. You can also apply your shave cream a couple minutes before the shave and let it nourish both skin and hair, for the same softening and conditioning effect.
We recommend Grooming Lounge’s shave/pre-shave oil.
7. Shave with the grain
This is imperative for ingrown prevention, probably more than any other tip on the list. While you would get a closer shave by shaving against the grain of your hair’s growth, you want to draw the razor in the same direction that the hair is growing. This prevents the hairs from getting cut at an angle against their natural predilection, which prevents them from getting furled up under the skin as a result.
Besides, the difference in closeness is nominal when you get down to it: What, maybe you buy yourself a few extra hours of smoothness? That’s not worth the risk, so stay with the grain.
8. Don’t pull your skin taut
This tip is another saboteur of the ultra-close shave: Normally, we’d tell guys to pull the skin taut in order to get a close shave—especially considering we want everyone to shave with the grain and sacrifice closeness on that front.
However, ingrown-prone guys need to avoid taut-ening the skin, since it ever so slightly stretches the hairs out away from the skin. If you shave it in this state and then relax the skin, it allows the hair to then retreat beneath the surface and begin its furling and hellraising. As long as you can shave with minimal resistance while keeping the skin loose, you’ll still enjoy smooth results.
9. Rinse the blade in warm water after each stroke
You know why: Steady rinsing will minimize razor drag and increase blade efficacy.
10. Follow with a cold splash, and a toning, alcohol-free aftershave
After the shave, rinse away everything with cold water, which will also tighten the skin and close off the pores. Follow that with an application of a neutralizing, toning, and soothing aftershave—whether it’s a balm, cream, splash, whatever. Make sure it’s alcohol-free to prevent redness and drying out; there are plenty of effective alternatives, like tea tree and witch hazel. Lather it on.
We can’t recommend Anthony Ingrown Hair Treatment enough for this.
11. Keep that electric shaver ready, just in case
Most electric shavers can still trim you down to a barely-there stubble. It’ll be invisible to the naked eye, and although it might require daily or every-other-day maintenance, the reward is that you will never, ever, ever, ever, ever get an ingrown hair on your face again.
Philips Norelco’s new 9500 shaver is the best in the game.
If you’re looking to keep your edges and sideburns clean in between cuts, here’s how. Also, here’s 7 manscaping tips to follow all year round.
Photo via Supply