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Stubble bubble and other shaving trouble

This is a microscopic view of what may lurk in your armpit if you're not careful.
This is a microscopic view of what may lurk in your armpit if you're not careful.
CDC / Jeff Hageman, M.H.S. / Janice Haney Carr/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Men have it so easy when it comes to shaving: either shave the face, or part of it, or grow a full beard. There are so many styles available to a man, depending on his individual preference, face shape, hair color, type and thickness. Men can go completely bare-faced, have a mustache, goatee, soul patch (that creepy little fuzzy thing below the lower lip that resembles a mutant paint brush) or cover the entire face, looking like a werewolf.

Women, on the other hand, usually don’t have facial hair to worry about until the post-menopausal years (except for those with adrenal and/or thyroid problems, especially if they have dark hair). Otherwise, however, they have to shave the armpits and legs (well, in this country, anyway); some who dare to bare also choose to eradicate hair in places best described as the bikini zone. No matter where the hair is located, there is often going to be a nasty problem associated with its removal: skin irritations of various kinds. This can range from what males refer to as “barber’s itch”, a red rashy look that gets itchy and inflamed, to boils that need special treatment. It’s bad enough to have something like that occur on your face, but when you get it in certain other locations, especially those prone to dampness, bacteria, and clothing rubbing on them, you may end up preferring to look hairy the rest of your life.

Areas like armpits are more likely to develop such dilemmas due to the heat in such locations. Perfect conditions exist in a sweaty, damp place like this for growth of bacteria. Add delicate skin, abused by a razor or other instrument of torture, and you are asking for trouble. It won’t matter if you used a razor of any sort (disposable or not), electric shaver, depilatory, waxing, or sandpaper—your sensitive skin surface is being scraped or otherwise assaulted. There may be tiny cuts you are not even aware of (until you add a chemical disinfectant such as isopropyl alcohol or go swimming in salt water) which allow bacteria to enter under the surface. Boils are generally from staphyloccal bacteria, and are located in hair follicles in most situations. Thus they are in the perfect place to propagate when you scrape your armpit or other regions where hair, heat and moisture combine.

Today, we have the added danger of MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphyloccal Aureus) infections. These may easily be overlooked by anyone who simply opts to treat a boil at home. To most of us, a boil looks like any other boil, right? They are not only found in nursing homes, hospitals, etc. Many people, especially in families, share razors. Despite the preponderance of the throw-away variety, the fact is, everyone uses them over and over (usually without disinfecting them between uses) until the item no longer is effective. People may hesitate to share a razor with someone they know has HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, or other diseases known to be easily spread by blood, but they may not think twice when it comes to skin infections. It is also common to ask a family member (usually the mother) to lance a boil for one suffering this condition. With or without MRSA, the matter should be treated far from so lightly; staph infections are not to be just zapped and then taped over with a bandage. Mama won’t cure it by kissing the booboo, either.

Whether you knowingly have an infection of any kind that resists antibiotics, or a nasty infected rash of any other variety, gentle disinfectants can be employed. Bathing the skin in mild soap, using hydrogen peroxide, avoiding further irritating chemicals, are a start. On an ongoing basis, the area will need to have some fresh air, which may be a problem depending on the location. Avoid tight, rough fabrics that not only damage the skin more but hold in heat and moisture. Dry the skin thoroughly after bathing. Avoid lotions or other products that will aggravate the infection more. Aloe vera gel, pure and unadulterated, works best. It is also important to thoroughly wash your hands after handling such areas to avoid spreading any germs.

In future shaving rituals, try to keep the area to be shorn clean before the attack. Disinfect the razor blade if using this method; clean your electric shaver after each use, after unplugging and disassembling it, of course (and NOT with liquids that will cause corrosion of metal parts and possible damage to electronic circuitry). It can be done, it merely takes more effort. It’s either that or go wild woman, and hope for cold weather year-round.

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