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The Way We Were Taught to Shave Our Armpits Is Actually What’s Causing Our Ingrown Hairs

We’ve all dealt with ingrown armpit hairs, and let’s be honest: They’re totally annoying. Sometimes they itch, sometimes they hurt, and sometimes they itch and hurt. Why is it that they always appear in the same spot, too? According to a dermatologist, the way we were taught to shave our armpits could actually be causing our ingrown hairs. Here’s how to prevent them in the future.

When we shave, most of us pull the razor either upward or downward — but dermatologist Alicia Barba, MD, says that’s all wrong. Dr. Barba recommends making sure your armpit skin is taut before taking your razor and shaving in an “X” pattern.

Why? Unlike hair on your legs or arms, armpit hair grows in swirls. This basically means that the hair grows in all directions rather than just one. If you shave in an “X” shape, you can trim more hairs in fewer strokes, reducing your chances of skin irritation or ingrown hairs. (Click through to our sister publication to learn how ingrown hairs can cause itchy armpits.)

Other Ways to Prevent Ingrown Armpit Hairs

To save yourself the future pain of an ingrown hair or razor burn, here are a few helpful tips to make shaving your armpits hassle-free.

  1. Make sure your armpit is wet. Trying to shave skin that’s dry or just damp means there will be more friction when you pull the razor. This is because there is no water there to act as a lubricant. Dry hair is also stronger than wet hair, meaning you have to tug harder when you shave. Friction plus sharp razors equals a bad idea.
  2. Opt for a shaving gel over a cream. What’s the difference between shaving gel and shaving cream? When it comes to shaving your armpits, you want to go for a shaving gel, because it’s less drying. There are even shaving gels made specifically for people with sensitive skin ($3.96, Amazon).
  3. Replace your razor blades often. One surefire way to give yourself razor burn or an ingrown hair is to shave with a dull razor. With less sharp blades, you have to apply more pressure to get a closer shave, which can cause irritation. A good rule of thumb is to replace your razor or razor head every one to two weeks.
  4. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate. It might seem weird to exfoliate your armpit, but it shouldn’t! You exfoliate other parts of your body, right? A gentle armpit scrub will slough away dead skin and leftover deodorant, giving you a smoother surface to keep the razor from dragging.

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