Ready to get down and dirty with one of life’s most unglamorous, yet essential tasks? That’s right, we’re talking nose hair removal. When it comes to men’s grooming, there are a lot of freebie cards. Bald guys don’t need to worry about hair care, baby-faced guys don’t need to worry about beard maintenance—you get the picture. But nose hair is something we’re all born with. In fact, we grow over six feet of nose hair over the course of a lifetime. The good news is, if nose hair is problematic for you, there are a few ways to take care of it. The bad news is, you’re probably doing it wrong. But not to worry: we’ve hit up two experts with plenty of experience on all things nose hair—board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick and Jane MacKinnon, licensed aesthetician at the Shafer Clinic in NYC—to divulge their wisdom on what it does as well as their knowledge on how to safely remove it (if, in fact, you feel the need to).
Meet the Expert
What’s the purpose of nose hair?
Nose hair is like an air filter for the body, our first line of defense against environmental pollutants such as dirt, airborne debris, dust and pollen, Dr. Garshick explains. They feature a thin coating of mucus which helps to trap particles before they can enter our respiratory systems. Considering the amount of smog we face on a daily basis, that’s no small task. In fact, Dr. Garshick mentions a study that showed that a higher presence of nose hairs could actually reduce the risk of asthma.
There are two basic types of nose hair: vibrissae, which are the longer hairs that act as a primary filter for larger particles, and cilia, which are deeper inside and designed to catch particles in their mucus coatings, which they move to the throat, where they can be coughed up or swallowed.
Basically, we’re all equipped with the same types of nose hair, however Dr. Garshick says that as we get older, around our 30s or 40s, the longer vibrissae hairs can become coarser and longer.
Is it safe to remove nose hair?
For many of us, that lengthening nose hair can extend well beyond our nostrils, becoming instantly noticeable and, by today’s standards, not an attractive thing. But while this may be a cosmetic issue for us, Dr. Garshick says even long nose hair isn’t inherently problematic. “Overgrown nose hair tends to be more of a cosmetic and aesthetic concern. Typically the greater the hair density and number of hairs, the better job it can do at protecting you,” she says. So, is nose hair removal safe?
The simple answer is yes, MacKinnon says, however it’s important not to remove it at the root. Dr. Garshick further explained that you also need to be careful not to get overzealous, as removing too much nose hair can infringe on their function in protecting hazardous particles from entering the body.
Nose hair removal methods
Due to the tiny size and delicateness of the area, there aren’t a whole lot of options available beyond traditional snipping away of excessive nose hair, whether by scissors or electric shaver with nose hair attachment, but even so, there are important tips to follow.
Scissors: MacKinnon recommends those tiny grooming scissors that often come in men’s grooming kits, as they feature rounded edges that help prevent you from poking yourself in the nostril.
Dr. Garshick points out the rounded blunt tip of these scissors can help minimize the risk of injury to hard-to-reach areas, such as the inside of the nose. Plus, the rubber grip handles give you even more control.
Nose hair trimmer: Available in both manual and electric versions, these genius little devices have small, circular blades that spin inside the nose and cut the hairs without pulling on them. However, Dr. Garshick advises to focus only on the thickest and longest hairs, rather than try to attempt to shorten every hair, and when you’re sticking a mechanical trimmer up your nose, it’s easy to just go wild. So, don’t. Just stick to the edges of the nostrils and you’ll be good to go.
This safe and travel-friendly nose hair trimmer is operated by a simple pinching motion of your fingers, making nose hair removal quick, easy and painless.
The easiest to use of the bunch, Dr. Garshick says this trimmer excels at trimming the hairs more precisely, as the ergonomic design matches the contours of the nostrils better. Plus, its wet/dry design means it can be used in the shower.
Laser hair removal: Even though laser hair removal technically can be used to treat the hairs that line the inner edge of the nostril and, as such, the most visible, Dr. Garshick says there’s also an increased risk of sensitivity, given the delicate nature of the skin in the inner nose. If you’re considering a more permanent method of nose hair removal such as laser, it’s best to consult with a board-certified dermatologist to discuss your treatment options.
Methods to avoid
Plucking: We’ve all been there: tweezers in hand, sharpening up our eyebrows, and the urge to just yank out those unruly nose hairs hits. Both experts agreed that you should never give in. “Not only can [plucking] be painful and uncomfortable, it can lead to inflammation and irritation in the nose area," Dr. Garshick says. "Similarly, by creating injury to the skin in the area, it can also increase the chance of infection and ingrowns."
Waxing: Besides the logistical challenges of targeting a tiny, highly-sensitive area with a ball of molten wax, waxing can also lead to irritation and even infection of the delicate inner-nasal lining. In short, don’t do it.
Depilatory creams: An absolute no, says MacKinnon. “Depilatory creams are not intended for inside the nostril. They consist of strong chemicals that could burn the mucous membranes.”
Nose hair removal risks
Not only is your nose at the center of your face, it’s also literally an inch away from your brain, so you don’t want to take any risks when it comes to nose hair removal.
Ingrown hairs: Just like the rest of your body, removing hair the wrong way such as plucking or waxing can lead to the formation of painful ingrown hairs, which, in the nose, can appear as red bumps filled with pus. Just don’t risk it.
Nasal vestibulitis: Another side effect of plucking, Dr. Garshick explained that nasal vestibulitis is an infection of the nasal cavity. She even cited a study that showed nasal hair plucking was a risk factor for nasal vestibulitis, occurring in 14% of those who experienced it.
The Final Takeaway
While looking our best takes precedent, it’s also important not to mess with those parts of our bodies which serve essential functions, such as the role nose hair plays in blocking out pollutants. MacKinnon chimed in with a reminder that, with all the viruses making their way around the world nowadays, we need our nose hair more than ever. So, if you decide to make the cut, make sure you do it the smart way.
The Cleveland Clinic. Everything You Need to Know About Nose Hair.
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Lipschitz N, Yakirevitch A, Sagiv D, et al. Nasal vestibulitis: etiology, risk factors, and clinical characteristics: A retrospective study of 118 cases. Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 2017;89(2):131-134.