How To Avoid Ingrown Hairs While Shaving


Illustration: Tobatron

The advent of the botanical-enhanced shaving concoctions, an appreciation for classic shaving paraphernalia, and cutting-edge technology have all but eradicated the knicks and cuts that plagued prior generations of clean-shaven gents. But the ingrown hair is not so easily banished. In search of answers on how best to avoid them, we called some of America’s best barbers for their advice on how to keep things moving in the proper direction.

Our Experts:

Shorty Maniace, better known in downtown Manhattan as Shorty The Barber.

Aiden Gill, proprietor of the best barber shop in New Orleans.

Martial Vivot, the man behind Martial Vivot, Salon Pour Homme, one of New York’s top men’s salons.

Richie Cuts, a mainstay of the Lower East Side institution Frank’s Chop Shop.

Tip 1: Exfoliate.
Per Aiden Gill, “keeping skin as clean and new as possible” is crucial for a good shave. Weekly exfoliating gets rid of dead skin and pore-clogging residue that leads to ingrown hairs. “After six months, the body starts renewing the skin faster, and people come up to you, saying ‘you look well,’ even when you’re dealing with a hangover.” Martial Vivot also points out that “when you use a facial scrub, the friction helps to loosen any ingrown hairs you may already have,” making them easier to deal with.

Potential downside: Requires occasional use of term “exfoliate.”

Tip 2: Really soften the skin
“Preparation is nine tenths of a good shave,” says Gill, and getting your skin and whiskers as soft as possible is crucial. To that end, his barbers use a total of seven hot towels during a shave. For those who shave at home, and don’t want to spend half an hour doing it, Richie Cuts has a simple method. “Put a damp towel in the microwave for one minute,” he says. “Apply some shaving cream to your skin, put the towel on your face to get it nice and warm, softening the skin, then reapply the shaving cream, and get the razor out.”

Potential downside: Yet another step to a good shave.

Tip 3: Shave with the grain.
Shorty Maniace echoes the advice of pretty much all barbers when he says that “shaving against the grain is a major cause of ingrown hairs. If you’re prone to them, always shave with the grain. If you want to do a second pass for closeness, do that with the grain, too.” If you really feel like that doesn’t provide the closeness you need, Richie Cuts suggests you go “across the grain for your second pass, not against it. If you go against the grain, you’re ripping the hairs.”

Potential downside: Going with the grain nets you zero rebel-style points.

Tip 4: Close your pores tight.
When you shave, your pores are wide open, and susceptible to clogging that can lead to problems, so once you’re done it’s best to close them promptly, and completely. “A splash of cold water just stays on your face for a moment,” says Shorty, “so use a [wet] towel instead.”

Potential downside: None.

Tip 5: Shave early. Shave often.
“An ingrown hair is often one that has grown out and wants to come back in,” says Vivot, “so if you shave everyday it won’t get long enough to do that.” Richie Cuts also points out that, “if you shave every day, it doesn’t need to be so close.” This reduces the chances of ingrown hairs. If you’re more inclined to shave weekly, rather than daily, Richie suggests trimming the growth with clippers before blade-shaving, to reduce irritation.

Potential downside: Smooth, apple-cheeked look not conducive to overall badass vibe you’ve been cultivating. On the other hand, neither are ingrown hairs.

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  1. kenneth says:

    Brilliant suggestions that I will definitely consider tonight.

  2. Simon says:

    Is the hot wet towel prep necessary if I’m shaving (face and head) in the shower?

  3. Hamish Anderson says:

    No, that would be an either/or. Just make sure the shower is fairly hot.

  4. Ivan says:

    If your gym has a steam room, use it before shaving. It has a dual effect of the barber’s hot towels to soften the follicle and is also a very effective whole body exfoliation. Your pores will open and sweat will push out all the unwanted grime. Before you shave rinse your face with warm water and prep with shaving cream.

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  6. Eric says:

    Good, basic points…however much of this won’t move the needle if you have coarse, curly facial hair….unfortunately, that’s how I roll!

  7. David says:

    Closing pores, that’s a good one

  8. Christopher says:

    My skin is so sensitive that I cannot shave with a razor.Great
    tips though.

    Gilt…Start shipping to Canada.

  9. Michael says:

    I have coarse, curly facial hair that grows flat against my neck and tends to “ingrow”. May sound like sissy-stuff, but I actually got some daily exfoliating (chemical, not abrasive) pads from Somme (“Transport” pads, or MD Skincare has something similar) that I use to sort of “eat away” the dry, dead skin cells that hair tends to get caught on. Anthony Logistics for Men makes a nice toner (to close pores) and facial moisturizer to finish up with.

    Also, a nice, sharp-pointed pair of tweezers (Zwilling JA Henckels) is great for lifting out troublesome hairs (don’t pull them, they grow back deeper – or so I’m told). The only caveat is that, if you’re going to be working on ingrown hairs, the tweezers need to sit in Barbicide for 10 minutes prior to each use. I keep a shot glass with about an inch of barbicide/water to store the tweezers on my bathroom counter, so they’re ready whenever I notice an ingrown. Works incredibly.

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