Ahhhh, Movember. Us Irish hoomans have gotten used to many of our significant others (and ourselves) growing in the bristles for the entire month of November… in aid of a good cause, of course!
This may be considered a controversial opinion, but Irish men often do not take proper care of their skin. I 100% believe it has to do with social stigma and public opinion on what masculinity is. As a skincare expert, I can tell you this for certain… men may have thicker and rougher skin but this can usually be put down to YEARS of neglect. However, it is never too late to get a consult and start nourishing the skin from within and on the outside!
Facial hair can cause some skin problems that you maybe didn’t have before, leaving you twiddling your ‘stache in confusion. This is due to the fact that hair grows from within the pore. The pore is the part of the hair follicle that the hair shaft passes through, so the growth of hair can irritate the pore.
Moustaches, beards and spots
When you were clean shaven, your skin was clean and clear and ready to go. Now, all of a sudden, you’ve got congestion all under your facial hair. Why is that?
Think about what a beard or a moustache is: it is a covering on the face that will trap everything underneath it. When you are sans beard, fresh-faced and fancy-free, the sebum (AKA oil) that your pores secrete are free to roam outwards, escaping the pore fully.
Facial hair acts as a type of cling film for the face. In some ways, this has positive effects… a covering of hair protects the skin from extrinsic stressors such as harsh winds and pollution.
However, it also incubates all of the baddies on the skin, meaning excessive sebum, bacteria, dirt etc. Think about the amount of times a day the average hooman with facial hair runs their hands through it… then think about how many other things their hands touched before it…
This introduction of bacteria, coupled with sebum that has nowhere to go, leads to the formation of congestion on the skin.
What to do about facial hair and spots
How does one tackle this without getting rid of the fuzz entirely? It simply means that your skin requires some extra exfoliation, even if it didn’t need it before. IMAGE Skincare’s Clear Cell Cleanser (€36.00) contains salicylic acid (AKA BHA, beta-hydroxy acid) to help the pores shed dead skin cells and efficiently control the production of sebum within the pore.
The cleanser should be applied after an initial cleanse with the Cleanse Off Mitt (€5.95) and left on for one minute and rinsed off thoroughly with the Cleanse Off Mitt. The Clear Cell Cleanser is fairly potent so I would recommend that it should be used every second night and alternated with the IMAGE Ormedic Cleanser (€35.00) so as to reduce chances of irritation on the skin.
When you are using products that contain acids, whether it is glycolic, salicylic, lactic, azelaic or any other acid, you should be extra careful to wear enough SPF as they can cause mild photosensitivity, meaning that your skin is more prone to sun damage.
I hate to point fingers but men are infamous for slapping a body sunscreen onto their face – SPFs that are formulated for the body are often heavier and can CAUSE congestion themselves, so ensure that you are using one that is specifically for those with oily/acne-prone faces.
When it comes to congestion, I must also stress the importance of actually cleaning your facial hair properly. I don’t want to point any fingers but those with facial hair can be laissez-faire about their skincare at the best of times, but it is especially essential when you have the “hair trap” phenomenon.
We have all heard time and time again that washing your hair on a daily basis is bad for it and this holds true. When you over-wash your hair, it strips each strand of the oils that protect it from everyday wear and tear. The same can be said for facial hair.
Although your face should be washed twice a day (daily, nightly and ever so rightly), your facial hair should only be washed twice or three times a week. Even though it is not my field of expertise and I have never used any, I am aware that there are plenty of skin-friendly beard shampoos on the market – my nerdie advice would be to avoid anything with known skin irritants like perfume and alcohol, which dry out and sensitise the skin.
Moustaches, beards and ingrown hairs
Ingrown hairs are a pain that the vast majority of us have experienced at some stage or another in life. Remember the turmoil of the first time you shaved your bikini line?! NIGHTMARES.
The grooming of facial hair is almost always carried out through the medium of shaving, whether it be with a regular cartridge razor, an electric razor or the old reliable straight razor.
Shaving is a notorious culprit for causing ingrown hairs as it pulls and stretches the hair shaft, causing breakage. When the hair shaft breaks, it can begin to grow back in on itself and become trapped in the follicle. Couple this with bacteria and the pore will fill with pus and become red, inflamed and sore.
Ingrown hairs react best to prevention rather than trying your best to soothe the little buggers, like anything on the skin. Avoiding ingrown hairs means shaving gently with the grain and lubricating the area enough so as not to cause tugging and breaking.
We are all taught from a young age through the magical force of advertising that the key to a close, clean shave is shaving foam. Weeeeelll, I have news for you: it is one hundred percent not the most efficient nor skin-respectful way to do it.
Shaving foams, especially those from gigantic brands that focus on doing things as cheaply as possible, have so much alcohol, you’d nearly be better off drinking them on a Saturday night. This drying alcohol, that goes by the pseudonyms SD Alcohol, Alcohol Denat and Denatured Alcohol, dehydrates the skin and sensitises it, leading to many more skin problems in the future.
Instead, opt for an oil – whether it be a fully natural one, like coconut oil, sweet almond oil or jojoba oil, or your usual beard oil. An oil will not only provide a slippery enough base to prevent ingrown hairs but will condition the upper layers of the skin also.
Choose your oil wisely though, as some oils do not agree entirely well with some skins… The coconut oil craze of the last few years was a blessing for some but others find that it causes major congestion or just leaves them plain old greasy.
Another line of defense against the dastardly ingrown hairs is a product called Waxperts Wonder Pads (€9.99). Waxperts is an Irish-brand that began as professional salon products for waxers, but their Wonder Pads became a cult product due to their tried and tested healing powers. They contain salicylic acid (like the IMAGE Clear Cell Cleanser), Rosemary Leaf extract and Panthenol (vitamin B5 in its haircare and skincare form) so that they treat the irritated, pus-filled pore whilst soothing the inflammation too. Swipe a pad over the skin post-shaving (admittedly difficult when you have a thicket of beard or moustache over the area) or hold one on to ingrown hairs that have already developed.
The nerdie recap
Treating the skin properly will help to get that facial-hair-related congestion right out of your hair, but for best results, as per the usual lecture, cleanse, serum, treat, SPF EVERY DAY without fail!
- Cleanse properly and thoroughly
- Introduce salicylic-based products to clear the pores
- Shave with the grain, not against the grain
- Ditch the alcohol-filled shaving cream
Best of luck in your Movember journey to all!