Men, How “No-Shave November” Can Benefit Your Skin
Shaving is a ubiquitous morning ritual for men in our culture. We just take it for granted that after puberty a man will shave. It’s like brushing your teeth; you just do it. But, shaving can cause skin problems. And, taking a break from shaving can give your skin a rest. Support Movember, the No-Shave November movement, and give your skin a break too.
What are some of the skin problems you can get from shaving?
- Bockhart’s impetigo
- Pseudofolliculitis barbae
- Scars and post-inflammatory dyschromia from continually shaving over acne pimples
Translated into English and interpreted, what this means for men and shaving is: Bockhart’s impetigo: Shaving can lead to a staph bacterial infection, called Bockhart’s impetigo, in the hair follicles of the beard area. Shaving spreads the germ into many of the follicles where you shave. What happens is that your shaved skin gets small white head pimples around the hairs. The infection is usually superficial so the pimples are not really deep. It can get worse, however, and lead to larger cysts that scar. Treatment for Bockhart’s impetigo is often successful with topical prescription acne antibiotic medicines that you apply to your skin. Sometimes oral antibiotics are needed though. The big issue is prevention and that’s where shaving comes in. You need to keep your razor impeccably clean between shaving. I discuss that below. Taking a break from shaving will help your skin heal. Pseudofolliculitis barbae: Shaving can cause curly hairs to in grow into the skin. Skin does not like hairs diving into it like splinters and a pimple like lesion forms at the site. Normally, hairs that are shaved exit the follicle at the opening, but not so when the hairs are really kinked with curls. Shaving sharpens the end of the hair to make it dagger sharp so that it can efficiently and surgically stab its way through the follicle lining and into the skin. The pimple-like lesions can become quite large, fester for a long time, and lead to scarring. Here is the sort of cartoon drawing I give my patients in the exam room to explain the process: Normally, straight hair is shaved flush with the skin, that's the ideal! Curly hair, on the other hand, is like a spring. Shaving stretches it, sharpens the end, and causes the hair to recoil back down in spring-like fashion; that sharp corkscrew-like dagger is sitting below the hair follicle opening. When the hair shaft continues its daily growth of 1 mm or so, it may just grow into the side of the follicle instead of out the opening. When it does, presto, an ingrown hair. Ouch! No-Shave November is a great idea for men who are prone to pseudofolliculitis barbae. Once the hairs have formed a nice beard and mustache, don’t ever cut them short again. Use an electric razor to maintain a short stubble if possible. You don’t want such a close shave that your curly beard hairs recoil back down into the follicle where they can in grow through the follicle lining again. Scars and post-inflammatory dyschromia: Shaving causes constant excoriations to bumpy irregularities on your skin. Pimples that stick up higher than your skin surface are constantly abraded. Over time, the repeated injury will scar and leave either brown or red marks that may never fade. Letting your skin heal by taking a break from shaving will go a long way to prevent scarring and discoloration in the beard area. Don’t forget to treat your acne while you let your beard area rest. See my Acne Treatment Advice.
Don’t ever shave with a dirty razor. Shaving, like surgery, needs to be done with germ-free tools. If you use a wet razor to shave, rinse out ALL of the soap scum and hairs and be certain your razor dries completely between uses. I recommend NOT keeping your razor in the shower. If you have a problem with shaving pimples try pouring rubbing alcohol over your razor after rinsing it clean. Again, be sure it is absolutely clean and dry before using it again. If you use an electric razor, you also need to keep your razor clean. Take the heads off and clean them well. If possible, pour rubbing alcohol over them from time to time to disinfect them. Be certain the alcohol is entirely dry before replacing them on your razor; alcohol is flammable and that’s a drama you don’t need! Even if you don’t have shaving skin problems, it’s sometimes fun just to mix up your look. I've been getting to do that exact thing this year. After 4 months of chemotherapy, I now have short hair for the first time since I was 5 years old. It’s curly too and it’s just plain fun. I look totally different and it’s in a good way. The curls won’t last and my husband likes long hair, so I’ll let my hair grow. But, for now, the change is fun. Show your support for Movember, "No-Shave November" and try on a new facial hair look for a good cause, and give your skin a rest too.