Waxing hurts, threading is too much of a hassle, and shaving gives me stubble. So what’s a hairy girl to do? Pluck of course. After all, plucking is the easiest way to tackle a mustache. Except for one thing—sometimes I end up with a stache full of pimples.
And if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you feel my pain.
The good news is that there are a few things you can do to prevent these types of pimples from forming. The next time you pluck try: washing your face beforehand, sterilizing your tools, toning/soothing your skin with the right products, and avoiding anything that’s even mildly pore-clogging.
1. Wash Your Face Beforehand
To prevent pimples from developing, it’s essential to keep your skin clean. The thing is, your face is covered in natural oils and, throughout the day, it attracts dirt, bacteria, and even pollution. If you don’t cleanse properly, you’re opening the floodgates and welcoming these nasties (oil, dirt, bacteria) into your freshly plucked follicle. And you know what that means—yep, a pimple covered upper lip.
Sure, you can wash your face and get the job done. But plucking after a shower has an added perk. The steam from your shower loosens the hair follicle, so your hairs will come out that much easier.
Of course, if you can’t shower beforehand, the very least you can do is sterilize your skin. Applying rubbing alcohol to your upper lip won’t loosen the hairs, but it will clean the heck out of your skin’s surface.
2. Sterilize Your Tweezers Before (and During) Your Pluck Sesh
Okay, so you washed your face. But you’re not out of the woods just yet. Plucking a clean face with dirty tools is just as bad as plucking a dirty face with clean tools. Actually, judging by the emergency room horror stories floating out there, using dirty tweezers might be even worse.
Tweezers are breeding grounds for bacteria. Especially if you throw them in your grubby makeup bag after every use. Again, since each plucked hair creates an open wound, it’s important to sterilize your tools so that you’re not introducing bacteria into your follicle.
Most people sterilize their tools with rubbing alcohol beforehand. But it’s also important to sterilize your tweezer during your pluck sesh. Personally, I feel like my tweezers get dirty after every 10-15 hairs, so I re-clean with rubbing alcohol.
Some people go the extra mile and boil their tweezers to kill off the germs. I think this would be a great way to get a deep clean.
3. Tweeze in the Direction of Hair Growth
With waxing, you pull against the grain, but with tweezing, you place your tweezers close to the base and pull with the grain. This way, the hair won’t break mid-shaft, which can save you from developing ingrown hairs down the road.
4. Tone Immediately Afterwards
At this point, you already cleansed your skin and sanitized your tools. But to prevent pimples from forming, you need to be ultra-meticulous. After you’ve plucked your upper lip to perfection, get a cotton ball and wipe down your upper lip with a toner.
Different skin types require different products. Most people prefer using witch hazel because it has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
Read my review of Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel here.
Other people (like the acne-prone) sometimes do better with a salicylic acid toner. Just a head’s up: When you’re choosing this type of toner, go for something gentle. SA formulations are notorious for drying out your skin.
5. Soothe Your Skin
As soon as your toner dries down, you’ll be ready to move onto your next step.
The best (and least irritating) way to simultaneously soothe and moisturize your skin is to apply an aloe vera gel. Aloe vera will cool you down and reduce inflammation. And that’s not all. Aloe vera also contains salicylic acid, which can help minimize breakouts.
Again, you want to be careful with the gel you choose. Ideally, you’d choose a 100% aloe vera product. If you can’t find one, try something that doesn’t contain fragrances and/or oils (because these two things can irritate and clog skin).
6. Ice It Down
Some people have sensitive skin. So when they pluck (or engage in any other hair removal method), they’re upper lip will inevitably be covered in red, bumpy skin.
It sucks. But it happens.
To bring down the swelling, you can wrap ice in a towel and hold it to your upper lip. Theoretically, this reduces inflammation by constricting skin.
Just don’t apply the ice cube directly to your skin. Remember your skin doesn’t like extremes. Anything too hot or too cold will be too damaging.
7. Keep Your Hands Off Your Face
Think back to all the things you touched today—a doorknob, a toilet seat, an elevator button, etc. The one thing you don’t want to do is introduce your hand bacteria into your open follicle—the one you created when you ripped the hair out of your skin.
If you have a picking problem, try to keep your hands busy by any means necessary.
8. Avoid makeup for 24 hours
Makeup isn’t inherently bad. Some people can (and do) tolerate makeup after plucking. But others—like people with sensitive and/or acne-prone skin—can’t. Since most liquid foundations are oil-based, they can clog your freshly plucked pores.
Just to be sure, wait a day before using foundation in order to give your skin a chance to return to normal. Then again, if you do decide to use foundation, make sure that your brushes/beauty blenders are squeaky clean.
Plucking is a pain. And developing breakouts after plucking is an even bigger pain. That’s why it’s so important to keep your skin clean, keep your tools clean, and only touch your face—with clean hands, mind you—to apply skin-soothing toners and moisturizers. Pretty much, do everything in your power to protect your pores from accumulating dirt, oil, and bacteria.
If you do develop a stubborn pimple from plucking, you might want to read this guide (What to Do When Your Pimple Won’t Come to a Head) to learn how to whip your pimple into shape.