For many men, facial hair is a defining element of their personal appearance and style, and an aesthetic amplification of their personality. But many have also confronted the frustrating reality of occasional beard and mustache bumps -- an itchy inconvenience that, if left untreated, can lead to more serious conditions. However, beard and mustache bumps are both treatable and preventable if you know how and, in most cases, it's much easier to deal with than you might think. Armed with a bit of knowledge around what causes these irritating intruders and some tips on taking care of them, you can keep your facial hair and skin looking and feeling handsome and healthy.
Understanding Beard and Mustache Bumps
Beard and mustache bumps, scientifically referred to as pseudofolliculitis barbae or razor bumps, occur when facial hair grows back into the skin rather than outward. Consequently, this leads to inflammation and the development of small, raised bumps. This condition is more prevalent among men of color (with curly or coarse hair) because our hair tends to curl back into the skin as it grows. This re-entry of hair into the skin causes irritation and triggers an immune response, ultimately forming itchy bumps. These bumps can cause discomfort and pain and, if infected, pus-filled lesions. In fact, if left untreated or consistently aggravated, the condition can lead to scarring and hyperpigmentation of the affected areas.
It's also important to understand that razor bumps differ from acne. Acne is characterized by clogged pores, inflammation, and the formation of various types of lesions, including pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts. Excess oil production, clogged pores, bacteria, hormonal factors, and inflammation can all cause acne. Acne can appear on your face, but also on your chest, back, and shoulders.
Can Beard and Mustache Bumps Be Prevented?
You don't have to live in constant pain or discomfort caused by razor bumps. Proper shaving techniques, including using a sharp razor, shaving in the direction of hair growth, and lubrication (like shaving cream or gel), can help prevent and alleviate bumps in the beard and mustache. In addition, keeping up with good skincare habits like exfoliating and moisturizing can reduce the occurrence of razor bumps. If the condition persists or worsens, it's best to see a dermatologist who can prescribe topical corticosteroids or other effective drugs.
Does How I Shave Affect Whether Bumps Will Occur?
Absolutely! In fact, one recommendation is to start over with your beard or mustache with a clean shave. A clean shave done properly can reduce the number of razor bumps that occur considerably. For a clean shave that minimizes razor bumps, we suggest the following step-by-step shaving process:
Step #1 – Identify the direction of hair growth. Pull tightly on the skin where your beard grows and look at the direction of hairs that grow under your chin.
- Note: Men with curly or coarse hair are likely to notice that their hair seems to grow in multiple directions. You'll want adjust your grooming routine to train these hairs to flow in the same direction by repetitive brushing/combing.
Step #2 – Wash your face with a gentle cleanser. Apply the cleanser using a washcloth or a soft-bristled face brush, gently massaging in a circular motion. This eliminates dead skin cells, which can lower the number of hairs that curl back into your skin. Rinse with warm water.
Step #3 – Apply a warm compress for five minutes. Warmth moisture causes hairs to swell, making it less likely that they will curl into your skin after you shave. It can also help soften the hairs that have grown into razor bumps. If warm compresses aren't your thing, you can achieve the same result by simply shaving after a warm shower.
Step #4 – Use a moisturizing shave cream. After applying, give the shaving cream a minute or two to work on your face. Don't wait too long because the shaving cream can dry out.
Step #5 – Always use a sharp razor. Whether you use an electric or manual shaver, the blades must be sharp. Single-blade razors will generally last you between five and seven shaves. Electric razor foils and blades should be replaced as directed by the manufacturer.
Step #6 – Use proper shaving techniques. This includes using short strokes to shave in the direction of your hair growth, never shaving over the same area more than twice, and rinsing your blade after each swipe.
Step #7 – Use warm water to rinse. Gently rinse all shaving cream from your face to avoid later irritation.
Step #8 – Apply a cool compress. Cover your face with a cool compress for five minutes.
Step #9 – Apply aftershave. Choose an aftershave specifically designed to soothe irritated skin and razor bumps.
Step #10 – Store your razor in a dry place. A wet razor is a breeding ground for bacteria, so always dry it after shaving and store it away from a wet sink.
What Are Some Treatment Options For Beard And Mustache Bumps?
While prevention is always the best option, there are other options for treating an active case, including:
- Tea Tree Oil - Because it is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial, tea tree oil has several uses. It reduces razor bump inflammation and redness, softens ingrown hair, and opens pores. You can start by soaking a washcloth in a bowl of warm water with 10 to 15 drops of tea tree oil added. Then wrap a wet washcloth around the problem area and leave it there for 30 minutes. This process can be repeated many times a day, as needed.
- Exfoliate – When a strand of hair grows back into the skin near your beard or mustache, it's called an ingrown hair. You can remove these problem hairs yourself by using a washcloth soaked in warm (not hot) water. You can also use an exfoliating gel, brush, or gel if you'd like. To remove the affected hair, use your cloth or brush to make small, circular motions that will gently remove the hair.
- Manual Extraction - If you prefer, you can also remove an ingrown hair using a clean needle, pin, or tweezers to gently pull it out.
- Combination Treatments – Bumps may also be treated with a combination of prescription antibacterial lotions, warm compresses with green tea bags, and spot treatment with over-the-counter steroid creams.
- Laser Hair Removal – Eliminating the ability for hair follicle growth also eliminates the possibility of ingrown hairs that cause bumps. While laser hair removal may seem extreme, it is warranted in severe cases. But know that it isn't the cheapest option. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, prices can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars for a complete treatment course.
Dealing with beard and mustache bumps can be an annoying and uncomfortable problem for many men. But by thoroughly understanding the root causes behind these bumps, it becomes possible to prevent and treat them successfully. Through appropriate shaving methods and maintaining a consistent skincare routine, men can effectively steer clear of these bumps and address any existing ones.