I have admitted many things publicly throughout my career as a writer, but perhaps most embarrassing is that I used to date a guy who had a goatee. To my credit, I eventually convinced him to grow a full beard, which is a much better look. (I also taught him to dress well and, ahem, do certain other things well, and then he dumped me—and now he has a new girlfriend.) This is a long way of saying that I prefer men with facial hair; even ill-advised facial hair patterns render a man approximately 50 percent more attractive to me. Yet as anyone who has ever had a makeout session with someone sporting any amount of facial hair knows, it is hot but also it can hurt. (Coincidentally, this is how I would describe my love life overall.)
Often you don’t even realize it’s happening until after you get home, when you look in the mirror to see a face that is raw and scratched, but beard burn is real. Oh, and then of course you’ll probably break out because life is—and I cannot stress this enough—not fair. I do not do a 10-step skincare routine every night so some guy can come along and give me beard burn and not text me the next day. This is not my America.
Speaking from personal experience, this can happen with any sort of facial hair but it is most common with stubble. Dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, backs me up on this. “The little spiky hairs, those one day hair growth guys are the worst culprits,” she says. Dr. Gohara recommends “lubing up your face with a little barrier cream, like Vaseline, to help strengthen the skin.” I mean, you’re going to want to give it enough time to absorb of course, or things could get slippery but not in a fun way. If you plan on smooching a facial hair-having suitor, proceed with caution if you have recently used any retinol or AHAs, as these can make your skin sensitive, says Dr. Gohara. Also proceed with caution if they have any Machine Gun Kelly artwork in their bedroom. Wow, that was specific and totally not based on my reality.
Okay, but let’s say your decisions have been made and now you have to live with the consequences of your actions—i.e., you met a stubbled stranger at a bar last night and ended up making out with them, and now you need to heal your face because you have to leave your house at some point today. Again, definitely not based on my reality.
“If you develop mild redness on the skin, try a light moisturizer that contains skin protecting-ingredients like colloidal oatmeal,” says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. He recommends Aveeno Ultra-Calming Nourishing Night Cream ($11). “If you have any areas of skin that are open, raw, or sore, apply a topical antibiotic ointment like bacitracin to protect the skin and prevent infection,” he says. (Dr. Gohara also recommends a little bit of topical hydrocortisone cream.)
It’s not just you—those makeout sessions can definitely lead to breakouts. (Can I have just one nice thing, please?) “Dryness and irritation caused by beard burn can increase your likelihood of breaking out,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Inflammation around the follicles lead to blockages and pimples. Make sure to use a gentle cleanser and apply a light moisturizer after a makeout session to keep the skin barrier in as good shape as possible.” You can also use a glycolic wipe post-makeout to help keep pimples from showing up, Dr. Gohara says.
Related: I guess I’m carrying around a small tube of Vaseline with me at all times now.
Here, a kissing expert shares three major takeaways you can get from a first kiss. Also your (my) lips are probably chapped from all that making out, so it’s time to get one of these super-hydrating hyaluronic acid lips balms.
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