Ingrown hairs are the worst. They can crop up anywhere hair grows, from your head to your toe. And while they’re annoying, the good news is that they’re generally harmless and usually heal within a few days.
If you want to know how to get rid of ingrown hair, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve rounded up 9 expert tips that will help the ingrown hair heal quickly.
But first … what is an ingrown hair, anyway?
An ingrown hair forms when a hair follicle becomes trapped under the skin, causing inflammation and irritation. A common reason the hair becomes trapped is because the follicle is clogged with dead skin. Thick and/or curly hair is more likely to become ingrown, which is why ingrown hairs commonly form in the pubic area. An ingrown hair looks very similar to a pimple — the ingrown hair is often covered by a red bump, and there can white pus visible below the surface.
Now, on to the tips for dealing with pesky ingrown hairs.
- 1. Avoid wearing any complicated underwear that will further irritate ingrown hairs on your bikini line.
- 2. While you’re at it, skip the skinny jeans, too.
- 3. If the ingrown hair has surfaced, tweeze it!
- 4. Never squeeze an ingrown hair.
- 5. Shave in the opposite direction of the hair’s growth.
- 6. Exfoliate your skin.
- 7. Avoid applying deodorant directly to an ingrown hair.
- 8. Use tea tree shampoo if you have an ingrown hair on your scalp.
- 9. Consider switching from shaving to another hair removal method altogether.
- How to Get Rid of Ingrown Hair without Destroying Your Skin
- Here’s how to treat an ingrown hair, if that’s what you’re dealing with.
- What causes ingrown hairs?
- Where are ingrown hairs located on men?
- Are ingrown hairs preventable?
- What is the most effective way to remove ingrown hairs?
- When do ingrown hairs require a dermatologist visit?
- The Best Treatment is Prevention
- What is an ingrown hair?
- How to prevent ingrown hairs
- How to get rid of ingrown hairs
- Must-Have Preshave Products
- Must-Have Shaving Products
- Must-Have Post-Shave Products
- Put Down the Tweezers: Here’s the Safest Way to Get Rid of Ingrown Hairs
- What is an ingrown hair, anyway?
- What causes an ingrown hair?
- Are there ways to prevent ingrown hairs?
- How can I get rid of ingrown hairs?
- Can an Ingrown Hair Get Infected? How to Minimize its Irritation
- What is an Ingrown Hair?
- What Does an Infected Ingrown Hair Look Like?
- How to Remove Infected Ingrown Hair — Fast
- How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs in the First Place
- How to treat razor bumps
1. Avoid wearing any complicated underwear that will further irritate ingrown hairs on your bikini line.
First things first: Avoid wearing any undies that are lace or embellished (which can irritate the ingrown hair, or even push the hair further under the skin) and opt for plain cotton pairs until it’s healed.
2. While you’re at it, skip the skinny jeans, too.
If your ingrown hair is on your bikini line or somewhere on your legs, it’s also best to avoid any tight pants or hosiery. Let your skin breathe and give the ingrown a chance to heal — constant rubbing in from skin-tight pants is not going to help the situation.
3. If the ingrown hair has surfaced, tweeze it!
If the hair is above the skin and reachable, sterilize a tweezer (use a cotton ball covered in rubbing alcohol), and pluck the hair. If it isn’t pluckable — don’t force it! Jamming tweezers into your skin will only worsen the situation.
If, however, the hair is right under the surface, you can apply a warm compress to soften the skin and then gently prick it with a sterile needle and then proceed to tweeze. When we say gentle, we mean it — the hair should be so close to the surface that the prick is as light as feather, and shouldn’t be deep enough to draw blood. If the prick exposes the hair, you can then proceed to pluck it out with your sterile needle. If the gentle prick doesn’t expose the hair, hands off!
After plucking or pricking the ingrown hair, treat the area with a chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acid. European Wax Center’s Smooth Me Ingrown Hair Wipes are a great fix since you don’t have to touch the ingrown with your fingers (which can possibly lead to infecting it). Follow up with a dab of Polysporin and then leave it alone!
4. Never squeeze an ingrown hair.
If you remember one thing about how to get rid of ingrown hair, it’s this: No matter how tempting, resist the urge to squeeze an ingrown hair. Squeezing ingrowns anywhere on your bod is a no-no (since it can worsen or infect it), and if you get post-inflammatory pigmentation, you may end up with a scar, says Dr. Neil Sadick, a derm in NYC.
5. Shave in the opposite direction of the hair’s growth.
Can’t bring yourself to pluck the hair? If the thought of tweezing the hair is too painful (especially if it’s in a sensitive spot, like your underarm), you can also shave the area. Sadick suggests carefully shaving over the ingrown with a fresh razor, moving in the direction of your hair growth to get the pesky hair out of the way. The part about the fresh razor? It bears repeating. Never use a dull razor — it will only irritate the skin more. And always use a shaving cream made for sensitive skin when dealing with ingrown-prone skin.
6. Exfoliate your skin.
Stay on top of your exfoliation routine, even when you have ingrown hairs present. Dead skin is one of the causes of ingrown hairs, so regularly exfoliating will help heal your skin. Slone Mathieu, spa director and medical aesthetician at Dream Spa Medical in Massachusetts says that a gentle scrub or glycolic cleanser (we love Mario Badescu’s) will do the trick. Exfoliate once a week for the best results!
7. Avoid applying deodorant directly to an ingrown hair.
Try to apply deodorant around (not on) the affected area since the chemicals that keep your pits dry may irritate the ingrown.
8. Use tea tree shampoo if you have an ingrown hair on your scalp.
If you have an ingrown hair on your scalp, we recommend gently washing your hair — and making sure to massage your scalp — with tea tree shampoo (try Paul Mitchell’s)! Tea tree oil is nature’s salicyclic acid and has antiseptic properties, so it will gently exfoliate the ingrown and prevent it from getting infected. Be careful not to brush or apply product to the ingrown. If ingrown hairs on your scalp don’t clear up in about a week, Sadick suggests seeing a derm.
9. Consider switching from shaving to another hair removal method altogether.
Of all the hair removal methods, shaving is the most likely to cause an ingrown hair. For that reason, switching to waxing or using depilatory creams can be a good solution for preventing future ingrown hairs. Waxing can be especially effective, since the new hair follicle will come in finer and weaker (and finer hair is less likely to turn into an ingrown hair).
- 7 Things You Should Do If You Want a Painless (and Infection-Free) Bikini Wax
- How to Shave Your Pubic Area Safely in 6 Steps
- How to Treat Vaginal Pimples and Acne
There are some vitamin capsules and other medications that will help you to deal with scalp ingrown hair in a better way. But remember one thing that do not use any medication without your doctor’s permission. Otherwise, you may face some severe scalp condition. So talking advice is better instead of taking the risk. The doctor will understand the scalp type and condition and will recommend the medication according to your scalp type. They will check that either you have an oily scalp or dry scalp. These two types are really essential to recognize before getting any treatment.
Home Remedies For Ingrown Hairs On Scalp:
Home Remedies are a great solution to get treatment without going anywhere. You can use natural ingredients on your scalp when you will feel that you are dealing with ingrown hairs on scalp.
Lemongrass is the best home remedy that is essential to clean your scalp skin naturally. Steaming of your scalp with lemongrass will help you to deal with the issue of ingrown hairs and your skin will become smoother.
These steps will help you to implement this home remedy.
- Prepare an amount of lemongrass and crush it in a water then boil this water.
- When the water will boil take a towel and cover your head that will help to absorb the steam on your scalp. Which is healthy to stop ingrown hairs.
- Leave it for 10 to 15 minutes and then remove the towel from your scalp and wash your hairs with water.
Use Sugar Scrub:
Sugar is considered one of the best hair scrubs that will keep your scalp smooth and healthy. It is a natural ingredient to stop the ingrown hairs. It will help to exfoliate your skin, remove the dead skin cells and the ingrown hairs will easily come out form your scalp.
Here are the steps that you need to follow to get your healthy skin back.
- Mix a cup of white sugar with one and a half cup of olive oil, tea tree oil or coconut oil.
- Apply this mixture on the infected area of your scalp and scrub it gently in a circular motion.
- Do it for few minutes and then wash your hairs with water and use an organic or medicated shampoo. You will see the results in a few days.
Rice Water & Aloe Vera Gel:
Rice water contains high vitamins that will make your skin more smooth and flexible. To apply it please follows the given steps.
- Take rice water in a pot and leave it for few minutes to set then remove its upper part an keep the settling under the pot.
- Use the Aloe Vera gel and mix it with rice water it will become the best scalp mask.
- Apply it on your scalp and leave for at least 30 minutes after that wash your hairs with shampoo and water.
- Must apply this remedy until you do not get rid of it.
These home remedies will help you a lot to solve the issue of ingrown hairs on scalp. But if you feel that the situation is getting worst then you should concern with your doctor,
How to Get Rid of Ingrown Hair without Destroying Your Skin
Razor bumps, ingrown hairs, the curse of the wax strip–whatever you call them, ingrown hairs suck. And trying to get rid of them can end up leading to more irritation. You don’t have to choose between hair removal and bump-free skin, though. With the right strategies, you can prevent future ingrown hairs and even get rid of existing ones. (Related: Why You Keep Getting Ingrown Hairs from Waxing)
So what are ingrown hairs, exactly? When your hair grows in normally, it grows from the follicle through the surface of your skin. If it doesn’t grow straight up, it can start to grow into your skin, causing redness and bumps. “Our skin sees the hair shaft as a foreign object and it starts to attack it, and inflammation occurs,” Sandy Skotnicki, M.D., author of Beyond Soap, explains. Hair is more likely to grow in at an angle after being plucked or waxed.
Now for some bad news: Ingrown hairs are much easier to prevent than to get rid of. If you catch one early and you can still see the hair easily, you can remove them with tweezers, Dr. Skotnicki says. However, “once the ingrown has been in place for awhile the skin grows over, a hard bump will form.” Once that happens, you’ll have to wait for the ingrown hair to resolve itself naturally during your skin’s renewal cycle, which can take weeks or even months. (Related: What Causes Ingrown Hair: Waxing or Shaving?)
Alternatively, a doctor can make an incision in your skin to remove an ingrown hair, but it isn’t typically recommended, especially if you have a lot of them, Dr. Skotnicki says. Instead, your best bet is to switch from waxing or shaving to laser hair removal. “Laser hair reduction can destroy the hair follicle and therefore the ingrown hair,” Dr. Skotnicki says. That can also help prevent new ingrown hairs from forming in the future, she adds. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About Laser Hair Removal, According to the Professionals Who Do It)
If laser is out of the question, go with shaving over waxing, since waxing tends to be the worst offender when it comes to ingrown hairs, Dr. Skotnicki says. No matter how you remove your hair, exfoliation is key for preventing future ingrown hairs. “After shaving, use gentle mechanical exfoliation, then after a few days, use a product with either an AHA or BHA, which help chemically exfoliate and prevent hairs from getting stuck on the way out of the skin,” Dr. Skotnicki suggests.
For mechanical exfoliation:
- Frank Body Original Coffee Scrub contains coffee, sweet almond oil, and brown sugar, so it smells like Starbucks.
- If you have a heavy hand with the dry shampoo, consider Ouai Scalp & Body Scrub, a 2-in-1 scrub that, as a bonus, you can also use on your scalp to remove product buildup.
- Fur Silk Scrub is a mechanical and chemical exfoliant thanks to jojoba beads and lactic and glycolic acids. It’s intended to be gentle enough for your pubic area.
For chemical exfoliation:
- Another vulva-targeted option, The Perfect V VV Cream Gentle Exfoliator combines natural AHAs lemon, sugar cane, maple, and orange extracts with jojoba oil to soften skin.
- MALIN+GOETZ Ingrown Hair Cream contains glycolic and salicylic acids as well as oatmeal and chamomile extract, which both soothe inflammation.
- AmLactin Alpha Hydroxy Therapy Moisturizing Body Lotion is made for extremely dry skin, and contains a 12 percent concentration of lactic acid.
Moral of the story? You can get rid of ingrown hairs or let them run their course, but in the long run, prevention will be your strongest defense.
Symptoms of an epidermoid cyst include a small, firm bump under the skin, a visible blackhead at the top of the bump, expulsion of a thick, yellow, smelly material, and possibly redness, swelling, and tenderness, the Mayo Clinic says. However, in most cases, epidermoid cysts are painless, the Mayo Clinic says, while an ingrown hair is usually tender to the touch and causes other uncomfortable issues like itching.
A sexually transmitted infection: Sexually transmitted infections don’t always cause symptoms, but when they do, there’s a chance they could affect your bikini line, not just more obvious areas like your vagina.
For instance, if you’re dealing with molluscum contagiosum, which is an infection caused by a poxvirus, you may see small, raised, and usually white, pink, or flesh-colored bumps with a dimple or pit in the center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. When this infection is sexually transmitted, the bumps typically sprout up on the genitals, lower abdomen, and inner upper thighs—right around the bikini line—according to the Mayo Clinic.
HPV is another STI that can cause bumps on or close to your bikini line. These genital warts also tend to be skin-colored, Dr. Hsiao says. They can show up as a small bump or group of bumps, can be flat or look bumpy like cauliflower, and can appear on the groin, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
With that said, STIs can present in a ton of ways depending on what you’re dealing with. If you think you may have one, see your doctor as soon as possible for testing.
A tumor: We put this last because it’s your least likely option here, but let’s walk through it just in case.
A tumor is any abnormal growth of body tissue, and it can be benign (meaning not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), the U.S. National Library of Medicine says.
The thing about tumors is that they can vary pretty widely in presentation, so it’s hard to say you can look for certain signs that you definitely have one, Cynthia Bailey, M.D., a diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology and president and CEO of Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology Inc., tells SELF.
The real point is that you don’t need to immediately worry that any bump you see on your bikini line is something as potentially serious as a tumor. Again, look for those ingrown hair symptoms: Does the bump have a tiny hair if you look really, really closely? Is it persisting or growing over time, whereas ingrown hairs tend to heal themselves? Did you remove hair recently or try out a new hair removal method your body may be less used to?
Asking those kinds of questions may offer some relief. With that said, if you’re at all concerned, seeing a doctor is a good idea.
Here’s how to treat an ingrown hair, if that’s what you’re dealing with.
If you have an ingrown hair, you can take steps to ease irritation and maybe even speed healing.
If you don’t want to wait for your ingrown to go away on its own, applying a warm compress to the area may help. The heat can soften and relax your skin cells which could theoretically increase the odds that they’ll release the embedded hair, Dr. Goldenberg says.
You can also take measures like exfoliating gently with a soft, unused toothbrush or using a cream with an exfoliator such as salicylic acid, which sloughs off dead skin cells and may allow the hair to break free. Here’s more information on the best ways to handle an ingrown on your own. Just definitely resist the urge to squeeze or pop the bump—that can lead to infection or scarring, Dr. Hsiao says.
What causes ingrown hairs?
Words by Kathy Iandoli
They’re unsightly and painful, and when they get infected they are a follicle disaster. You’ve no doubt heard of them; ingrown hairs, and they must be stopped. The good news is they can be, sort of. What is an ingrown hair? It’s quite simply a hair that grows back into the skin. Forming a curl, the ingrown hair often grows sideways instead of upward, causing skin irritation. While many ingrown hairs clear up on their own, sometimes the pain (and unsightly appearance) is too much to handle. And the problem is far worse when they get infected.
A simple solution for preventing ingrown hairs is to allow some regrowth in between shaves. However, if you’re a clean-shaven guy, that’s an impossible feat, especially when the 5 o’clock shadow rolls around. We consulted a professional, Sarah Naviwala, PA-C of Gables Skin Center in Coral Gables, Florida, who broke down the science of the ingrown hair.
Ingrown hairs are caused by a curved hair follicle, which produces tightly curled hair—causing the hair to reenter the skin once the hair is cut and starts to grow back. A curved hair follicle may be produced secondary to tweezing, dry shaving, or shaving while pulling the skin tightly. When hair enters your skin, it has a foreign body effect, causing inflammation at the site.
Where are ingrown hairs located on men?
Typically in areas where they shave most often: the face and neck.
Are ingrown hairs preventable?
The only proven way to stop ingrown hairs is to stop shaving/tweezing altogether. There are options like laser hair removal or topical creams like Vaniqa which permanently decrease hair regrowth. But since that is not an option for most, it is recommended to take some precautions before and after shaving to help decrease the likelihood of ingrown hairs. Always wash the face using a cleanser before shaving. Use a cream or gel to lubricate the area, and do not hold skin tightly. Always shave in the direction of growth. Rinse after each stroke and apply moisturizer once finished.
What is the most effective way to remove ingrown hairs?
The most effective way is with a sterile needle and tweezers. Just use a needle to create a small opening, and the tweezers to pull the hair out. A blackhead removal tool can be used to get under the loop of hair and free it from the skin, but it’s usually not recommended. We also recommend using a toothbrush or a Clarisonic-type tool to help exfoliate the problematic areas daily.
When do ingrown hairs require a dermatologist visit?
Recurrent ingrown hairs with secondary scarring or signs of infection (pus, pain) require a visit to the dermatologist. The dermatologist can prescribe a variety of creams including retinoids (to exfoliate), topical/oral antibiotics (to drain any bacteria), and topical steroids (for inflammation at the site). The dermatologist can also offer laser hair removal, as a strong treatment option if that is something the patient would consider.
The Best Treatment is Prevention
To get the smoothness we all know you deserve, think of making the final switch to a single blade razor. With skin that’s a lot more sensitive and prone to breakouts and razor burn, less pulling and tugging during the shaving process can ease the onset of ingrown hairs. Bevel does the job of not only cutting coarse, curly at the surface, but when used correctly , you can see significant improvement in skin over time. The key takeaway is always the right dose of patience & a smart game plan!
Shaving is tiresome enough without having to worry about pesky side effects like ingrown hairs. Luckily, there are a few easy ways to avoid this beauty mishap before it rears its ugly head.
TODAY Style consulted top dermatologists to find out the most common causes of ingrown hairs, and help determine the best course of action for getting rid of them. Oh, and they’ve also shared some shaving tips to help prevent ingrown hairs in the first place!
Ingrown hairs grow sideways or under the skin.Getty Images
What is an ingrown hair?
If you’ve never had an ingrown hair, you might not know how to spot one. But they’re pretty easy to recognize.
“Ingrown hairs can closely resemble pimples: They are red, raised bumps on the skin that may also have white dots of pus. You may also be able to visualize hair within the bumps,” said Dr. Hooman Khorasani, chief of the Division of Dermatological and Cosmetic Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Hair typically grows upward from the follicle and through the skin, but ingrown hairs grow sideways or under the skin.
“Dead skin cells can accumulate on the surface of the skin and block the hair follicle, preventing its normal growth up and out of the skin,” said Dr. Maral Skelsey, director of the Dermatologic Surgery Center of Washington and clinical associate professor of dermatology at Georgetown University.
On their own, ingrown hairs don’t typically hurt, but when they become inflamed they can cause irritation.
“When ingrown hairs cause an infection in the hair follicles (folliculitis) and resemble an acne pustule, they can be painful,” said Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologist.
Shaving is the main cause of ingrown hairs.Getty Images
Ingrown hairs are more prevalent in folks with coarse or curly hair since these hair types are prone to growing sideways or into the skin. For instance, when curly hair is cut too close to the skin’s surface, the sharp end of the hair burrows its way back into the skin, according to Khorasani.
Ingrown hairs are also more likely to appear in areas of the body with thicker hair, such as the legs, underarms, the pubic area and in beards, according to Dr. Noelani González, director of cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai West in New York City. It’s also not unusual to find them on the face or the back of the neck.
Last but not least, the way you shave may also be causing ingrown hairs.
“When shaving, hair can get cut at an angle, and this causes it to grow into the skin. Very close shaves can cause this too since once the hair is shaved, skin goes over it and traps it,” González said.
“Laser hair removal is the best way to permanently avoid ingrown hairs,” said Dr. Hooman Khorasani.Getty Images
How to prevent ingrown hairs
While there’s no fail-proof method, you can typically prevent ingrown hairs by following these good skin care practices before, during and after shaving.
1. Prep the skin.
“Prior to shaving, use warm water to rinse the skin followed by a moisturizing shaving cream or gel,” Khorasani said. González also suggests exfoliating often before shaving.
2. Use the right tools.
“Remember to change your blades often. A dull blade can cause more inflammation and increase risk of infections,” González said.
3. Follow shaving best practices.
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“Use as few strokes as possible and try to avoid shaving too closely,” Khorasani said. González also recommends shaving in the direction of hair growth.
4. Help skin recover.
“Moisturize right after you’ve shaved. Try moisturizers with salicylic or glycolic acid, and a toner with anti-inflammatory ingredients like aloe or tea tree oil,” González said. If need be, you can also apply cool compresses after showering to calm any irritation.
You can also avoid shaving entirely by using alternate hair removal methods.
“Laser hair removal is the best way to permanently avoid ingrown hairs. Electrolysis, another hair removal method, has a greater risk of ingrown hairs. However, for patients with very light hair, laser hair removal may not work and electrolysis is the best option,” Khorasani said.
In general, Engelman suggests avoiding waxing if you’re hoping to prevent ingrown hairs. “It disrupts the superficial epidermis when the hair is pulled from the follicle. When the skin regrows it can grow over the follicular opening and cause hairs to grow underneath the skin. This can manifest as red bumps and can get infected, causing a flare-up,” she said.
Is it safe to remove your own ingrown hairs?Getty Images
How to get rid of ingrown hairs
Unless you’re a pro like Dr. Pimple Popper, you know you should never pick at your acne. And the same rule of thumb applies to ingrown hairs.
“Avoid picking at it! I don’t recommend attempting to remove it at home because it can potentially cause an infection, scarring or discoloration,” González said.
Luckily, ingrown hairs typically resolve on their own, but if you simply can’t resist speeding up the process, here are a few ways to get rid of that pesky ingrown hair:
Try a chemical exfoliant like apple cider vinegar, acetic acid or retinol to break down skin cells above the hair.
Use a topical antibiotic lotion or a short course of topical steroid cream to reduce inflammation.
And as always, the best solution is to check in with your dermatologist.
“Your (dermatologist) will use a sterile needle or scalpel to make a tiny incision in the skin to free the hair from the skin that is trapping it beneath the surface,” Khorasani said. “After releasing the hair, your provider may give you a steroid cream or a retinoid to reduce swelling, irritation or pigment changes. If the ingrown hair was infected, your provider may also prescribe you an antibiotic.”
Must-Have Preshave Products
1. First Aid Beauty Cleansing Body Polish with Active Charcoal, $13, Amazon
Regular exfoliation can help prevent and treat ingrown hairs, so reach for a refreshing body polish like this one from First Aid Beauty every few showers.
2. Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment, $13 (usually $15), Amazon
This acne-specific treatment is also great at preventing and treating ingrown hairs, and exfoliates the top layer of the skin, the epidermis, to help loosen skin over the ingrown hair.
Must-Have Shaving Products
1. Flamingo 5-blade Razor, $10, Target
Get an even, safe shave with the help of this razor that features a weighted, ergonomic handle. It’s also got an aloe vera hydrating strip to help prevent irritation.
2. Gillette Venus Extra Smooth Sensitive Razor, $10, Amazon
Sensitive skin, rejoice! One of Venus’ latest innovations is a razor targeted specifically toward easily irritated skin. And when it comes to preventing ingrown hairs, you need all the help you can get!
3. Eos Ultra Moisturizing Shave Cream, $3 (usually $6),Amazon
Don’t forget the shaving cream, ladies! Help lubricate and protect your skin with a moisturizing formula like this one from Eos.
Must-Have Post-Shave Products
1. Lalicious Sugar Coconut Velour Body Melt, $38, Amazon
Right after shaving, treat your skin to some much-needed moisture to prevent irritation. This indulgent formula melts right into the skin!
2. Bacitracin First aid Antibiotic Ointment, $4, Amazon
If your attempts to prevent an ingrown hair fail, reach for a topical antibiotic lotion like Bacitracin to reduce inflammation.
3. Cortizone 10 Maximum Strength, $15 (Pack of 2), Amazon
A topical steroid cream like Cortizone 10 will also do the trick and help calm down any inflammation.
Looking for more summer tips and tricks? Check out:
- How to get rid of razor bumps for good
- The dermatologist-approved body washes that banish acne
- The miracle solution to stop thigh chafing
Put Down the Tweezers: Here’s the Safest Way to Get Rid of Ingrown Hairs
We’ve all been there—you’re admiring a silky smooth shave or wax job when suddenly, there it is. A red, raised, (often painful) bump, ruining the landscape of your otherwise flawless skin. Ingrown hairs happen, but before you reach for the tweezers or get to squeezing, read this. We asked top dermatologists for their best advice on how to get rid of an ingrown hair, and, more importantly, how to prevent these pesky bumps from cropping up in the first place.
What is an ingrown hair, anyway?
As hair grows, it’s supposed to leave its follicle (the area that surrounds the root) and exit the skin, growing straight up and out. But in the case of an ingrown, the hair gets all turned around and grows back into the skin. “When a hair reenters or gets trapped under the skin, you end up with an ingrown,” says Dr. Devika Icecreamwala, a dermatologist in Berkeley, CA. So why the big unsightly bump? “The skin now sees this hair as an ‘intruder,’ and reacts, causing redness, swelling, and even pus,” explains Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon, a dermatologist in Raleigh-Durham, NC, who adds that this is why an infected ingrown hair bump often doesn’t look that different from a pimple.
What causes an ingrown hair?
There are a few different things that cause ingrown hairs, some of which you can’t control, some of which you can. On the first list—the texture of your hair. “Ingrown hairs are more common in those with curly hair. As the hair curls, it can easily get redirected and start growing back into the skin, rather than up out,” explains Dr. Gretchen Frieling, a Boston-based dermatopathologist. If it seems like there are more ingrown hair bumps on your bikini line than anywhere else, that’s not your imagination. Because pubic hair is more coarse and curly, you’re more likely to develop ingrowns in this area, adds Dr. Icecreamwala.
As far as things that you can control, this is where your preferred method of hair removal comes into play. Shaving can be potentially more problematic than waxing, particularly if you’re trying to get a super close shave. “If the hairs are shaved too close to the skin, they tend to have a sharp edge which can reenter the skin and cause an ingrown,” says Dr. Icecreamwala. Tweezing, especially along your bikini line, can lead to bumps too, since it can leave a fragment of hair under the skin surface and lead to inflammation, notes Dr. Frieling.
RELATED: The 7 Most Common Hair Removal Mistakes
Are there ways to prevent ingrown hairs?
In a word, yes. If you want to stick with shaving, do so in the direction of the hair. “Going against the grain may allow for a closer shave, but the closer the shave, the easier it is for your hair to curl back into your skin,” says Frieling. And when you do shave, make sure the blade you’re using is fresh and sharp; the duller the blade, the more you’re scraping the skin, upping the likelihood of irritation and ingrowns, she adds.
No matter your hair removal method, exfoliating regularly is a surefire way to help prevent dead skin cells from blocking the hair follicles, says Dr. Icecreamwala. Swipe-on pads make daily exfoliation easier and faster than ever. Try SweetSpot Labs Buff & Brighten Body Exfoliating Pads ($25; ulta.com), which work well on the bikini area, legs, and underarms.
How can I get rid of ingrown hairs?
All the derms we spoke with advise against popping or tweezing an ingrown hair bump, warning that this ups the likelihood of infection and isn’t a guaranteed way to remove the hair. Patience is a virtue when it comes to ingrown hair removal; your best bet is to simply do a few things that will help the hair come out on its own faster.
Start by applying a warm compress to the area, since the heat will soften the skin, says Dr. Solomon. Then, very gently, exfoliate the skin trapping the hair. “Move a washcloth or clean, soft-bristled toothbrush over the area in a circular motion for several minutes,” she suggests. “This helps remove dead skin cells so the hair is more likely to emerge.” You can also double this up with chemical exfoliation, using an ingrown hair treatment that contains salicylic acid, a choice ingredient for dissolving the dead skin cells that would otherwise keep that ingrown hair submerged under the skin for longer, says Dr. Solomon. We like Jack Black Bump Fix Razor Bump & Ingrown Hair Solution ($27; sephora.com).
Also important: If you’re dealing with a very inflamed, painful ingrown hair bump, avoid tight clothing and synthetic fabrics. Nylon leggings, skinny jeans, and polyester underwear can rub against the skin, further exacerbating the irritation, points out Dr. Frieling.
RELATED: I’ve Tried Tons of Hair Removal Products and Procedures—This One Beats Them All
How to Identify an Ingrown Hair Cyst:
An ingrown hair cyst refers to an ingrown hair that turns into a cyst — a large bump that extends between the skin’s surface and deep underneath it. Ingrown hair cysts can be quite painful if not identified properly and provided appropriate treatment. Usually, ingrown hair occurs to people who do shaving, waxing or any other conventional hair removal techniques. An infected ingrown hair can cause a lot of problems which can turn from a minor infection to major. Therefore, one must know to identify ingrown hair properly.
- Improper Shaving
- Improper Waxing
- Increase in Hormones
- Severe Acne
Many African-Americans, Latinos, and people with thick or curly hair develop a type of ingrown hair cyst called pseudofolliculitis. More commonly known as “razor bumps,” this collection of little bumps is common on the beard area after you’ve shaved, waxed, or tweezed to remove unwanted hair. The hair that grows back has a sharper edge, so it can more easily poke back through the skin and get trapped under the surface.
Treatment of Ingrown Hair Cysts:
Ingrown hair cysts can become extremely dangerous if left untreated. Infection can spread and create permanent scarring. It’s best to stop by your local dermatology clinic and get treatment right away. The procedure is very quick and will keep your skin looking it’s best. Your dermatologist will use a sterile instrument to cut a very small incision that releases the hair as well as prescribe the following medications to reduce swelling and infection:
- Steroid medicine that you rub on your skin to bring down the swelling and irritation.
- Retinoids (Retin A) to remove dead skin cells and reduce the skin pigment changes that can occur from ingrown hairs.
- Antibiotic that you take by mouth or rub onto your skin to treat an ingrown hair infection.
How to Prevent Ingrown Hair Cysts:
The prevention of ingrown hairs that could lead to dangerous cysts includes creating a daily routine that has a strong skincare regimen. Proper shaving technique and proper tools can also significantly reduce the occurrence of the cysts. Some razor companies may advertise multiple-blade “close shaving” razors that will actually increase the occurrence of ingrown hair cysts. Single-bladed razors are actually a much better option and leaving a small amount of stubble will significantly help your hair from slipping back into the skin.
- Use an exfoliating scrub to tease out any ingrown hairs on a daily basis.
- Shave with a sharp SINGLE BLADED razor.
- Wet your skin with warm water and use a lubricated shaving gel before shaving.
- Shave with the grain of your hair, not against it.
- Use single strokes, do not go over your hair multiple times to keep it from slipping back under the skin.
- Rinse the blade after every stroke.
- Don’t shave too closely. Leave a bit of stubble if possible.
- Apply a cool towel to your skin after your shave to reduce irritation.
For more information be sure to contact Dr. Vitaly Blatnoy for an appointment at the Orlando Dermatology Center.
Can an Ingrown Hair Get Infected? How to Minimize its Irritation
Posted on August 09 2019
Most people have had an ingrown hair at least once in their lives, and it’s safe to say no one enjoys them. The lucky few get them occasionally, while some of us struggle with this problem on a regular basis. Ingrown hairs can be oh-so-frustrating, and you probably have a few questions about them.
We’ve talked about what causes ingrown hairs in previous blogs, and also shared our best tips for preventing ingrowns before shaving and waxing. But what if it’s too late?
And worst case, can an ingrown hair get infected? What does an infected ingrown hair look like?
In this post, we’ll break down why those pesky ingrown hairs appear, why they get inflamed and infected, and what to do about it. But first, let’s recap how to avoid ingrown hairs in the first place!
What is an Ingrown Hair?
Usually, hair grows straight up from a hair follicle, making its way through your pores and to your skin’s surface. But if the pore is clogged by dead skin cells, the hair won’t be able to make it to the surface of the skin. Instead, your hair might grow sideways or down into the skin. The result is—you guessed it—an ingrown hair.
If the hair stays close to the skin’s surface, it shouldn’t bother you too much. It might look like a tiny bump on your skin and will likely work its way out naturally in a few days as the skin cells around it slough off.
If the hair grows deeper into your skin, though, it can get embedded and start to cause issues. If you pick or scratch at it, which can break the skin above the hair, this increases your risk of infection.
What Does an Infected Ingrown Hair Look Like?
If you notice a large, painful bump, chances are your ingrown hair is infected. The bump might be yellow or red; unlike a pimple, your infected ingrown hair won’t have a white head, although it may have a dark spot in the middle. This should answer your question of “what does an ingrown hair look like” without having to look at a photo (which, trust us, no one wants to do!).
In most cases, an infected ingrown hair will go away on its own within a week or so. You can use a handful of home remedies (more on that below) and over-the-counter medications to help speed things along.
If your ingrown hair is infected and doesn’t seem to be getting better, you might want to consider seeing a doctor—especially if the infected ingrown is in your armpit or bikini area. These areas have lymphatic nodes under the skin and are close to large blood vessels, meaning the infection can spread from the infected ingrown hair to any place in the body. Badly infected ingrown hairs may need to be taken care of with the help of a professional.
How to Remove Infected Ingrown Hair — Fast
If you have an ingrown, you might freak out and automatically think the worst, especially during bikini season. Sometimes it’s hard to know if an ingrown hair is truly infected. In either case, you’ll need to moisturize, soothe, and gently exfoliate the affected area.
Here are some tips for dealing with (and removing) an ingrown hair:
- Applyawarm damp cloth to the area 3-4 times a day to help with swelling.
- Avoid activities that make you sweat, like working out, and wear loose clothing so the bump has space to breathe. T-shirt or sweatpants should do the trick.
- Use an antibacterial soap to wash the affected area daily. Make sure you’re gentle and don’t scrub the area!
- If the ingrown hair is near your armpit, avoid applying deodorant and antiperspirant on the area, as this can irritate it even more.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Using our unique ingrown hair treatment can help heal ingrown hairs faster.
- Use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to help relieve itching and irritation.
- Examine the ingrown hair area every day to check if you can see the tip of the hair. If you can’t see it, keep repeating the steps above.
- When the hair shows through the skin, treat a needle with rubbing alcohol and use it to gently lift the hair from the skin.
How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs in the First Place
Remember: removing an infected ingrown hair takes time and patience. The best advice, of course, is to try to avoid an infection in the first place. Take care of your skin when you see an ingrown, and don’t dig or scratch at it. Doing that will just make it worse!
Daily exfoliation and moisturizing will also help prevent ingrown hairs. And don’t forget to properly treat your skin before and after waxing or shaving! Improper shaving, waxing, or plucking can break the hair under the skin and trigger ingrown hairs to form.
There are lots of details when it comes to preventing ingrown hairs—but the extra effort is totally worth it. Here’s to beautiful skin from head to toe!
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How to treat razor bumps
Razor bumps can range in size from small to large, and they can be red or have a white, pus-filled bump.
Although nothing can make them go away instantly, there are several strategies that can help remove them faster and allow the skin to heal. We discuss these strategies in the sections below.
1. Use salicylic acid
Share on PinterestUsing products that contain salicylic acid can help heal the skin around razor bumps.
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that helps exfoliate, or peel, skin cells. It can penetrate oil glands in the skin to unclog pores as well as fight inflammation.
Salicylic acid works to alleviate razor bumps and slough off dead skin cells. This allows the ingrown hair to make its way out of the pore. It also reduces the appearance of the bump.
Salicylic acid can also help treat acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), so it may be a good option for people who experience both acne and razor bumps.
Various products contain salicylic acid, including cleansers, toners, and lotions. These products are available in drug stores and online.
2. Try glycolic acid
Like salicylic acid, glycolic acid helps the skin peel by removing old cells from the surface of the skin. Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid.
Razor bumps develop when excess skin cells clog the pores and trap the hair inside. Glycolic acid can help get those cells out of the way and allow the hair to come to the surface.
Because it speeds up the skin’s natural sloughing process, a glycolic acid product can help razor bumps clear up more quickly and give the skin a smoother appearance.
Products that contain glycolic acid are available to buy online.
If the ingrown hair is visible, it may be helpful to use sterile, pointed tweezers to pull it out.
Removing the trapped hair could get rid of the razor bump quickly. A person should sterilize the tweezers with alcohol and cleanse the skin and hands with soap and water before tweezing.
If the hair is not visible on the surface of the skin, using tweezers could make the problem worse. The tweezers could injure the skin, causing more irritation and infection.
A person should not attempt to pick or squeeze the bumps, as they could get worse or cause scarring.
4. Use scrubs with caution
Share on PinterestIf a person has sensitive skin, they should use scrubs with caution.
Sometimes, a mechanical or physical scrub can remove dead skin cells that plug the pores and keep hairs trapped inside. These types of skin care scrub may contain sugar, salt, ground up fruit pits, or tiny beads.
Scrubs may remove debris and free ingrown hairs by physically sloughing off dead skin cells.
Some people may have a skin reaction to the rough texture of scrubs, especially those with sensitive or inflamed skin. If the skin is red, irritated, or sensitive, use scrubs with caution.
Skin scrubs are available in many drug stores and online.
5. Gently brush the skin
Another option for removing dead skin cells and debris clogging the pores is using a soft brush in the areas a person shaves. Some people use a skin care brush or a soft toothbrush.
A brush can help guide the hair out of the clogged pore so that it does not become trapped underneath.
Brushing the area each day may help remove current razor bumps and prevent new ones from forming.
People can buy special skin brushes in some drug stores and online.
6. Use a warm washcloth
Applying a warm, wet washcloth to the skin can help soften the skin and draw the ingrown hair out, especially when a person pairs this technique with one of the other treatments above.
Similarly, a person may wish to steam the area in a hot shower or sauna.