The relationship a man has with his facial hair is a lifelong and, sometimes, complicated affair. From peach fuzz to beards, each phase of the growth process comes with its own set of potential skin issues. To better understand how facial hair plays a role in men's skin health and the best way to treat common facial hair-related concerns, The AEDITION asked the experts.
Understanding Facial Hair
First things first: The hair on your head is not the same as the hair on your face. “Facial hair grows differently from scalp hair because these hairs are impacted by hormones differently,” explains Jeanette Black, MD, a board certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills. “As men go through puberty, hormones stimulate facial hair follicles, making them grow thicker and darker.” Another difference? How long it grows. “These hairs often have different growth cycles and may not grow as long as scalp hair can potentially grow,” she says.
There are, however, some similarities between the hair on your head and your face. They can both come in a variety of textures. “Male facial hair differs from fine to thick to curly hair types,” says celebrity groomer Kumi Craig. “The finer the hair, the more gentle the growth through the skin, whereas coarser and curlier facial hair can have more troublesome growth.” As a result, men’s grooming and skincare routines work best when they address the hair and skin.
Facial Hair Care
Men’s skin ages differently than women’s skin, and facial hair has something to do with that. Studies show that beards and mustaches offer protection from sun damage, in addition providing structural support to the skin. “Facial hair can offer support to the skin on the face, and this can decrease the formation of fine lines and wrinkles on the lower face,” Dr. Black says. “Women have a higher propensity to develop fine lines and wrinkles around the mouth and lower face because they do not have the same structural support of facial hair in the skin that men have.”
What facial hair can prevent from aging perspective, however, it can make up for in other skin concerns. “Facial hair in men can lead to a variety of concerns, such as razor burn and ingrown hairs, facial dandruff, and patchy hair growth,” she says. So, what are the most common issues men experience due to their facial hair and how do you treat them? The experts break it down:
1. The Concern: Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs are a common side effect of shaving. While all men may experience this, Black men and those with more coarse facial hair are more prone to them. “Depending on skin color and thickness, hair texture and density, and the amount of shaving performed, a man may be more vulnerable to ingrown hairs,” explains Farhad Ardesh, MD, double board certified facial plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. “Ingrown hair can result in red, raised bumps that may be painful or unattractive.”
As with concerns like strawberry legs that many women experience, hygiene and shaving habits are often causes of folliculitis – an infection of the hair follicles. With built-up dead skin cells getting trapped and the hair curling in on itself, it’s easy to get ingrown hairs. But, it’s just as easy to treat them.
The Solution: Change Shaving Tools
To prevent ingrown hairs, Dr. Black recommends modifying shaving behaviors and avoiding close shaves. “The use of an electronic hair trimmer can be helpful for keeping facial hair well-trimmed without shaving facial hair too closely,” she shares. Beefing up your grooming routine will help, too. “The more grooming that a man performs on their facial hair will act as an exfoliant that will improve the color, texture, and glow of their skin,” Dr. Ardesh says. We like Brickell’s Renewing Face Scrub For Men for a gentle exfoliation before shaving.
2. The Concern: Razor Burn
Similar to ingrown hair, razor burn can be a result of shaving and hygiene. Razor burns show up as little red bumps, and, while they aren’t harmful to the skin, they might be aesthetically unpleasant and, at times, uncomfortable.
The Solution: Topical Treatments
To help with razor burn (and ingrown hairs!), men can alter their shaving behavior and introduce topical treatments in the form of chemical exfoliation. Dr. Black suggests products with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) — salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acid — to help prevent and treat razor burn and ingrown facial hairs. Her pick? PFB Vanish, which uses AHAs and BHAs to unclog pores.
To prevent razor burn, make sure to exfoliate regularly, use shaving cream, and shave in the direction that the hair grows. When experiencing razor burns, avoid shaving in the area until they’ve subsided to decrease the chances of inflammation and irritation. The Fulton & Roark Aftershave Cloths feature a cooling, calming, and clarifying blend of eucalyptus, witch hazel, and tea tree to treat and prevent it.
3. The Concern: Dry, Flaky Skin
Those who choose to grow a beard may experience dandruff. Because the facial hair wicks away moisture and prevents it from getting to the dermis, the skin beneath the beard can become dry, flaky, and dehydrated. That environment can lead to dandruff.
The Solution: Switch Up Your Skincare
To get your skin the moisture it needs, examine how you’re applying your skincare products and consider if they are actually making their way to the skin. “Keeping the skin under the beard hydrated will help with dryness and itching, as well as dandruff,” Craig says. Start by brushing your beard to increase circulation and get rid of any flakiness that’s already persistent. Next, introduce an exfoliating product (an AHA will be key here) to keep the follicles from clogging. Finally, don’t forget to seal it all in with a beard oil, like the vitamin E-rich formula from Jack Black, to restore any lost or missing oils.
While most skin conditions related to facial hair are medically harmless, they may result in aesthetic concerns. With most things in life, it is far easier to prevent than it is to treat. “Caring for your facial hair and skin from the outset and maintaining a routine are key,” Craig inisists. Developing a simple yet well-rounded grooming regimen will go a long way. “For instance, washing and hydrating your facial hair daily should be a part of your basic maintenance,” she says. “Also, find a couple of products that work and are easy to incorporate in your routine.” To get started, check out our ultimate guide to men’s grooming HERE.
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