Ingrown hairs, also known as pseudofolliculitis barbae, are often caused by sharpened hairs burrowing back into the skin, especially after shaving. These ingrown hairs remain trapped under the skin and have a tendency to become infected. They can easily be mistaken for other skin eruptions and pustules such as acne, but ingrown hairs tend to form along traditional shaving lines such as the neck, legs, armpits, bikini area and face. Most ingrown hairs can be treated with antibiotic ointments or removed with tweezers, but some can trigger a more severe inflammation of the hair follicles.
There are several ways to prevent ingrown hairs, however. While people of all races can develop ingrown hairs, those of African or Mediterranean heritage are especially susceptible. Men with naturally curly hair may find it difficult to shave with a regular razor without risking the development of ingrown hairs. Many men with this condition use a chemical shaving system which dissolves unwanted hair but does not create a close shave or sharpened hair tips. The burned hairs and chemical residue can be scraped away, not shaved off with a razor.
Another way to avoid ingrown hairs is to extend the time between shaves. This allows the body hairs to grow long enough to resist curling back into the skin. Instead of shaving every day, for example, shaving every other day might reduce the number of ingrown hairs. Some men may want to allow their facial hair to grow into full beards and mustaches rather than maintain a clean-shaven appearance. Beards can be trimmed to maintain a professional appearance, and even a temporary beard growth can help heal skin affected by ingrown hairs.
Because body hairs grown in a specific direction, or grain, it also helps to shave with the grain instead of against it. Shaving against the grain in order to achieve a closer cut can be harmful to the follicles and cause ingrown hairs. Legs should be shaved in a downward direction, while the neck should be shaved upwards towards the face. The face should be shaved in a downward direction following the contours of the cheeks and chin. Shaving with a double or triple blade razor can also increase the chances of ingrown hairs, so some experts suggest using blades designed for sensitive skin or electric shavers instead.
Sufficient moisturizing before shaving can also help prevent ingrown hairs. Wait at least five minutes after applying moisturizers before shaving, and avoid stretching the skin for additional closeness. If the shaved hairs retract below the skin, they may not grow out normally and become infected. Properly moisturized skin shaves cleaner than dry or foam-covered skin, so gel shaving products may be preferable to foam-based creams which could dry the skin. Don't expect miracles with any shaving system, however. Trimming body hair to the surface level of your skin should be sufficient for hygienic and aesthetic purposes. Any efforts to shave below the skin may end in the development of unsightly and painful ingrown hairs or shaving bumps.