I’ve been doing some form of hair removal for as long as I can remember. Since I hit puberty, I was always told that shaving would leave me with darker and thicker hair (spoiler alert: it’s a myth), so at some point I turned to waxing. I got so close with my waxer that she knew (and saw) more about me than some of my closest friends. She would tell me that the dozens of ingrown hairs I had were from years of shaving, and waxing would help eliminate those. Her advice went along with what I was told as a pubescent 12-year-old, so I kept going back to her. But finally, after calculating how much I spent on waxing every damn month, I decided to switch to a more permanent hair removal method—laser hair removal. There, the Esthetician told me that waxing is what was causing all my ingrown hairs, and the laser would help eliminate them since I was only allowed to shave from then on.

So now I’m f*cking confused. Does shaving cause ingrown hairs or not? Why was I still getting ingrown hairs when I waxed? This article will break down the truth of whether waxing or shaving is better for you, and for getting rid of those pesky ingrown hairs.

Contents

The Basics

To start things off, no matter what form of hair removal you use, you are susceptible to ingrown hairs. But some people (like me) are more prone to them than others. When you shave, you are cutting the hair at the base of your skin (which is the thickest part), which is why it can appear that it is growing back thicker and darker. While this tends to be a less expensive option, you can be left with the dreaded razor bump that is v itchy. (Don’t lie that you haven’t tried to scratch your recently shaved bikini line in public and been scared someone thinks you have crabs.) On the other hand, waxing uses hot wax that is pulled away from your skin and removes the hair from the root. Because of this, results can last longer and you don’t have that 5 o’clock shadow some get from shaving.

The Pros & Cons

There are many upsides to waxing and shaving. They both remove the hair and can leave you with super soft skin. While shaving is cheaper, it does not last as long. And if you have dark hair like moi, you can still see the shadow of the hair follicle immediately after shaving. Shaving tends to last 2-3 days, whereas waxing can last 3-6 weeks. So while waxing is more expensive, you don’t need to do it as frequently. Finally, the pain. Before my first wax, I was sacred from that scene from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I’m not going to lie, waxing can be painful, but (for me at least) the more you do it, the less painful it is. However, shaving is no walk in the park, either. Like, I still have a cut on my ankle from when I shaved my legs in the sink in college…

Ingrown Hairs

Now, for the reason you’re all here. Those stupid little red bumps that call out to you, “pick me! pick me!” but when you do, you’re left with even more unattractive red bumps. So what is causing them? An ingrown hair is when a hair starts to grow underneath the skin. It can happen with any hair removal technique on any part of your body. Grool. But remember, places with thicker, curlier hair (aka your bikini line) are the most at risk. When you shave, you create sharp edges at the end of the hair strand that makes it more likely to curl into the skin. However, while waxing completely removes the hair from the follicle, you cannot guarantee that it will not curl back under the skin when it grows back.

Waxing vs. Shaving: The Verdict

So when it comes to preventing ingrown hairs, should you wax or shave? Honestly, neither. The best treatment plan is to let everything grow, but if that isn’t your style, it isn’t hopeless. Laser hair removal is a permanent way to remove hair. Since, in the long run, it will eliminate your need for waxing or shaving altogether. However, it’s pricy. So as long as you take the proper precautions when you’re waxing vs. shaving, you’ll be fine. Make sure to exfoliate before whatever hair removal you use and moisturizer after. And whatever you do, do NOT pick at your skin.

Images: Taylor Hernandez / Unsplash; Giphy (2)

Author:

Carrie Betchshaw

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What Causes Ingrown Hair: Waxing or Shaving?

To know exactly when I had my last bikini wax, I’d have to check my calendar-my leather-bound calendar, where I used to write my appointments in ink. It’s been that long.

But there are two things I remember vividly: First, the searing pain that kept me from doing that again. (I subsequently lasered off anything that would poke out of a swimsuit.) Secondly, the guilt inflicted upon me by the waxer for having shaved between appointments. “Shaving causes ingrowns!” she reprimanded. (Related: 7 Laser Hair Removal Questions, Answered.) Apparently nothing much has changed, since my younger Shape colleagues tell me that professional wax wielders haven’t let up on their tsk-tsking of at-home groomers.

But does shaving really encourage ingrowns? I asked someone who would know: Kristina Vanoosthuyze, global shave care scientific communications manager for Gillette Venus, who explained that it’s not really a shaving vs. waxing issue but largely a genetic one: “Hair grows in a hair follicle, a little tube that opens up at the surface of the skin. For some people, that follicle wall is weaker, and the hair pierces the wall before it reaches the exit.” Ta-da: ingrowns! The other ingrown path is through the exit and back in through the skin, which happens more in the bikini area because the hair there grows at a fairly flat angle against the skin. (Mind blown? Here are 4 Waxing Myths to Stop Believing.)

To minimize ingrowns, Vanoosthuyze suggests:

  1. Wash the bikini area with warm water before shaving to gently loosen trapped hairs.
  2. Use a sharp blade, so less force is required to cut the hair and less stress is put on the follicle.
  3. Moisturize after shaving to reduce follicle-disrupting friction from your underwear.

Thinking of doing a bikini wax at home? Try these 7 Pro Tips for DIY Bikini Waxing. And if you can’t bear the pain, we’ve got you covered with tricks to avoid razor burn when shaving.

  • By By Cheryl Kramer Kaye

Skin Care

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Hair Removal

The ingrown hair battle rages on. For years, many have argued the cause of these painful little guys. Some say hair that’s plucked in the bikini area comes back with a new wiry twin. Others claim that the more you wax, the less hair will grow back over time. And many swear that ingrown hairs are just a fact of this cruel, cruel world if you wax your bikini area.

We talked to two experts, and the news—much like an ingrown hair—isn’t pretty. Brace yourselves, ladies: According to New York dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD, while it’s possible to get ingrown hairs with any hair-removal method, waxing is one of the worst culprits for causing them.

Ingrown Info: Why Does Waxing Make it Worse?

The hair follicle has a bulb that it grows from, and attached to the bulb going up into the skin, is a tube. Inside the tube there is a lining that properly guides the hair up to the surface of the skin and out a hole that allows the hair to actually exit the body. “When you wax, you pull the hair out very rapidly and that rapid pulling actually disrupts this very important lining,” says Dr. Schultz. Then, when the hair starts to regrow, it doesn’t have that lining to guide it and it no longer has a way to get out of the skin.

Wax Facts

While ingrown hairs don’t appear every time someone waxes, they remain a painful waxing reality. But, to soothe the sting, we reached out to waxing guru Noemi Grupenmager, founder of Uni K Wax Center, for all the hairy details.

She explains that waxing over long periods can actually slow hair growth, which means less waxing, and in turn, fewer new ingrown hairs. “If you wax consistently, you can change the growth cycle of your hair follicle. Continued waxing will also cause hair growth to diminish over time, weakening the hair follicle with repeated sessions. Even though the hair doesn’t stop growing completely, hair regrowth reduces considerably, allowing you to wax less frequently.”

Tips and Tricks

Grupenmager offered up her to-do list to help lessen the chances of walking away from your next wax with an ingrown hair.

Exfoliate: Regularly exfoliating the areas you’re having waxed is important to buff away dead skin cells and avoid clogged pores and ingrown hair. Your last exfoliation should be at least two days before the wax service.

Hydrate: Moisturize the skin until the day before your wax to keep the area hydrated. Dry skin will cause the hair to break at the surface level rather than be removed from the follicle.

Investigate: Find a wax that is all-natural, which is made for sensitive skin. This moisturizing type of wax is applied at body temperature so it won’t irritate your skin as it gently removes hair.

Medicate: If you do experience ingrown hairs, try Uni K Wax Roll-On ($22). Apply it to the affected area twice a day to buff your bikini line and gently exfoliate the ingrown hair.

And how to treat ingrown hairs after they show up

When you wax your hair or when you use an epilator, you pull it out from it’s root or follicle. Sometimes, when the hair regrows, it can regrow inward rather than outward like normal. This results in an ingrown hair which can be annoying to deal with. So how treat ingrown hairs before they happen?

Waxing Technique

I’m going to assume its not your technique of waxing your hair, and move onto how to prevent ingrown hairs on legs, arms, face, bikini, or other parts your body via exfoliation. But before I do, a quick explanation.

Sometimes if your professional waxer is in a rush or maybe you’re waxing at home
and you haven’t quite figured out the technique, the hair might be breaking instead of being pulled out. This can cause ingrown hairs. Notice if your professional waxer is pulling the wax or wax strips off your skin surface at a 45 degree or lower angle. This means, let’s say your leg is laying horizontal on a table. The waxer should not be pulling the wax strips off in a motion that goes up vertically, but the removing wax motion is also more horizontal like your leg than vertical. I remember when I first started waxing at home, afraid of the pain, I’d pull up towards the ceiling. So bad technique could be a reason for ingrown hairs.

Why Exfoliate?

However, everyone, despite technique, is prone to some (or many) ingrown hairs when the hairs grow back in. So how to prevent them? One word with many methods – Exfoliation.

Exfoliating the top and dead layers of your skin can help remove those layers before they trap hairs underneath and cause ingrown hairs. Rather than waiting for ingrown hairs to happen, and then dealing with them, it’s better to exfoliate as a preventative measure. Exfoliating helps speeds up the shedding of your outer layers, which happens naturally but at a slower pace.

There are 2 types of exfoliation, physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation, that can help prevent ingrown hairs as your new hairs grow back in.

Let’s take a closer look at physical and chemical exfoliation.

Physical Exfoliation for Ingrown Hairs

Physical exfoliation manually rubs off your outer layers of dead skin faster than they fall off so that new hairs do not get trapped beneath those layers of skin.

There are several ways to physically exfoliate and most of them happen during your shower or bath. You can dry brush before showering, but loofas, hand sponges, exfoliating scrubs all help remove dead skin while you are showering or bathing.

Here are some recommendations and short reviews of good physical exfoliators:

1. Exfoliating Gloves

These are gloves that you can wear in the shower and have an abrasive texture. You put the gloves on, grab your body soap and lather up the gloves. Then you rub your soap lathered gloves over your legs, arms, and rest of body like a loofah. While you soap your body, the abrasive texture of the gloves helps exfoliate each limb of your body.

This is a great, lazy man’s way to physically exfoliate in the shower because it combines soaping and exfoliating. We also throw our exfoliating gloves into the washing machine with our weekly laundry to sanitize. It takes a much longer for these to wear out to need replacement than loofas or other sponges.

2. Exfoliating Scrub

Only a few years ago, a lot of exfoliating body scrubs had tiny plastic beads in them that you would feel as the exfoliating beads. Then when you rinsed off in the shower, those plastic beads went down your drain and out into rivers and oceans and started collecting and harming fish populations. Finally, they banned these plastic microbeads. Still, we are not comfortable recommending brands (ahem, rhymes with “hives”) that used to use those beads, but yes those brands do work, and yes they are cheaper. We aren’t about shaming you for your purchases, but we wanted to explain why we aren’t recommending a more obvious brand.

Personally we’ve found that whatever they’re using as the new natural replacement for those beads are still too hard or too big to properly exfoliate. In contrast, charcoal, sea salt, or brown sugar make for a great and natural exfoliant that dissolve after long contact with water.

We can recommend Natural Activated Coconut Charcoal body scrub and Himalayan Salt Body Scrub.

Here are more exfoliating body scrubs. Search for “natural body scrubs” or “exfoliating body wash” to find specific products that might work for you.

3. Loofah

This one you probably already use or know of. Wet and lather your loofah with body soap and then rub your limbs in a circular motion to soap and exfoliate simultaneously.

This is a cheap, economical solution. If you change out your loofah every 3 months like you’re supposed to, this costs you a total of $10-15 per year.

We can recommend this pack of Ecofriendly loofahs. Purchased once a year, they’ll last you a whole year without having to think about buying a replacement.

4. Dry brushing

Dry brushing is another multi use option for physical exfoliation. It’s commonly used as a preventative for cellulite by stimulating your lymph nodes and skin, and is done before stepping into the shower while you are still dry. Physical exfoliation is actually a side effect benefit of dry brushing.

So if you want to target both physical exfoliation and cellulite, dry brushing is a great option.

We like the dual purpose of this Wet and Dry Brush for days where you don’t have time to do a full body dry brush before your shower.

Downsides of physical exfoliation

It’s very easy to get overzealous about physical exfoliation and end up damage your skin’s moisture barrier. Physical exfoliation gives you immediately smooth skin and so you might be inclined to enthusiastically scrub your skin daily and by the time you realize you over did it, it’s a little too late.

So we highly recommend that you start with a 1-2 times a week schedule. Moisturize once you get out of the shower and pay attention to your skin. Is it feeling tight during the day or visibly showing dry skin? Scale back. No? You could add a 3rd session in the week if you want to, but again pay close attention to your skin.

If you’re using a loofah or a glove sponge, be sure to replace or sanitize them regularly.

Chemical Exfoliation for Ingrown Hairs

Chemical exfoliation uses an acid to help remove a certain layer of outer shedding skin with each use. These acids can include AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acids, BHAs or Beta Hydroxy Acids, or even ASAs or Acetylsalicylic Acids.

There are further types of AHAs or alpha hydroxy acids, BHAs or or beta hydroxy acids, and ASAs or acetylsalicylic acid – like glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid , and even aspirin. Each of these acids have different sized molecules and target the skin in different ways, that we’ll cover shortly.

AHAs are commonly used for antiaging functions because they help increase skin cell renewal, or help remove outer dead skin to show the inner younger skin. Learn more about alpha hydroxy acids via our guide to AHAs.

BHAs are another penetrative acid that helps remove the outer layer of skin. Learn more about beta hydroxy acids via our guide to BHAs.

And ASAs can be used to help unblock pores and reduce inflammation, and act as a painkiller.

Note: This might be obvious to some readers, but we still wanted to make note. Do not use chemical exfoliators immediately after hair removal! It will hurt. Give your skin a chance to heal, at least 24 hours and even 48 hours to be sure. Then proceed with chemical exfoliation.

Here are some recommendations and short reviews of good chemical exfoliators:

1. Amlactin Body Lotion

This is our favorite everyday chemical exfoliator for ingrown hairs because it is a body lotion not just a treatment and so it is easy to use this daily as your post shower moisturizer and ingrown hair preventative at the same time.

It has 12% lactic acid and most people are able to use this lotion every day without over exfoliating their skin. That’s another great thing about Amlactin Body Lotion – it was made for daily use so it’s amount of acid is effective enough to exfoliate but not so high that you could run into problems with over exfoliation. Lactic acid is also considered a mild acid because its molecules are bigger than say, glycolic acid. The smaller the molecule of the acid, the more likely it is to penetrate your skin and the riskier it is to use on a daily basis.

Finally, there is a BIG WARNING about using AmLactin daily we must share: YOU HAVE TO WEAR SUNSCREEN on top of using this lotion. We cannot emphasize that enough! Never use an AHA acid (lactic, glycolic, mandelic acids) on your skin without using sunscreen as well. These acids speed up the turnover of skin cells but also make your newer skin underneath very sensitive to sun damage. You don’t want to be getting rid of the top layers, getting nice young baby skin, only to be aging it faster and causing irreversible damage to your skin. For more on AHAs, check out our skincare guide to AHAs.

So if you do not wear sunscreen or are likely to skip sunscreen, DO NOT USE this. If you plan on using it only in an area that will not see sun (like bikini area), then it’s okay to use.

Read more verified reviews of Amlactin Body Lotion here.

2. Tend Skin

Tend Skin is our favorite ingrown hair preventative and treatment. Unlike Amlactin which acts as both a body lotion and an exfoliator, Tend Skin is specifically an ingrown hair product that can used only on your ingrown hairs or you can treat any larger area that is generally prone to ingrown hairs to get them before they begin.

Tend Skin uses an ASA, or Acetylsalicylic Acid, which is another word for aspirin. Yes, aspirin. It acts as both an anti inflammatory and unclogs your pores and so is highly effective on ingrown hairs, both as an ingrown hair treatment and as an ingrown hair treatment. It’s an industry favorite and for good reason. It does what it says it does!

Read more verified reviews of Tend Skin here.

3. Other AHA acids for ingrown hairs

We like Amlactin but we also wanted to make note that you can use almost any AHA acid or chemical exfoliator that you use on your face as an ingrown hair treatment with the proper care and attention. Amlactin makes it easy to moderate the strength of lactic acid in a formula for everyday use. But if you use lactic, glycolic, mandelic acid at home for your face and skin, you can use it on say, your bikini line, to deal with ingrown hairs as well. For more on AHAs, check out our skincare guide to AHAs.

The key to using these acids for ingrown hairs to make sure you’re not overdoing it. Pay attention to your skin. Is it a extra strong acid that you use once a week on your face, like a 50% lactic acid peel? It might be too strong for as a regular ingrown hair treatment. A 10-15% acid that you use as part of your nightly routine might make for a better regular treatment.

Again, if you’re using an AHA anywhere where it will see the sun, wear sunscreen!

We like Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Lotion with 8% Glycolic acid and CosRx AHA 7 Whitehead Power which also has glycolic acid.

Here are some more of the gentler AHA options. Use keywords like “10% glycolic acid” or “15% lactic acid” to see more specific products.

4. BHA acids for ingrown hairs

Have you tried AHAs and found them to be too hard for your sensitive skin? Or you don’t wear sunscreen regularly enough to use an AHA?

You can use a BHA, beta hydroxy acid, that act as a gentler exfoliator and does not make your skin sensitive to sunlight. You have probably heard of BHAs like salicylic acid and azelaic acid being used commonly as acne medications and in anti aging formulas. Their main role is to penetrate pores and clean them out from the inside, which can make BHAs very effective for ingrown hairs. They can target the ingrown hairs before they become inflamed. Like AHAs, they help speed up skin cell renewal. For more on BHAs, read our skincare guide to beta hydroxy acids or BHAs.

Pregnant women should not use BHAs. Unlike AHAs, BHAs are most effective at low dosages.

We like CosRx BHA Blackhead Power and Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Gel with 2% Salicylic Acid.

Here are other BHA options. Use keywords like “2% BHA” or “2% beta hydroxy acid” to see more specific products.

Treatment: How to treat ingrown hairs after they show up?

In an ideal world, you stop getting ingrown hairs altogether. But sometimes all of our best efforts to prevent ingrown hairs, you wake up with an angry red spot marking the beginnings of a hair that didn’t grow up and out.

To treat ingrown hairs that are already showing, we recommend more of the preventative measures – physical or chemical exfoliation. If you’re using chemical exfoliation, you could also spot treat.

Once the ingrown hair’s head starts to show (it will start to look darker because the hair is visible), you could also use an extractor to encourage it come out altogether. Use this very gently however. Press the looped oval around the hair and if it doesn’t come out easily, leave it, spot treat and try again the next day.

The solutions for preventing and treating ingrown hairs are mostly the same. But its better to start before they appear. It is a bit more effort but make it a routine and it will be worth it long term to not have to treat ingrown hairs.

Home Remedies for ingrown hairs

Alright, so it’s late at night and there is nothing you can buy that will show up immediately. What to do? Here is how to treat ingrown hairs after waxing with home remedies in a pinch.

1. Aspirin

As we mentioned, in the industry favorite ingrown hair preventative and treatment – Tend Skin – aspirin plays a major role. Do you have any aspirin laying around? Crush a tablet of aspirin on a flat hard surface using the back of a spoon. Gather up the powder and add a few drops of water. Mix until it forms a paste.

You can apply this paste on your ingrown hairs to help reduce redness and encourage the pore to open up. Is this recipe a total replacement of the benefits of Tend Skin. No, but this great for reducing irritation right this minute.

2. Witch Hazel

Some people swear by witch hazel as an ingrown hair treatment. So how does this work?

Witch hazel is an astringent. It helps shrink your skin and pores and by forcing this constriction, it helps the pore push the irritating hair to the surface.

So this is another great way to treat ingrown hairs after waxing with home remedies. It may not be strong enough but it is worth a shot if you have some witch hazel at home.

Try a Different Method of Hair Removal

Sometimes no matter what we do, the ingrown hairs do not lessen or go away. If that’s the case, it’s worth considering a different method of hair removal. Other than waxing, you can look into using an epilator. Or you can look into a more permanent method of hair removal like IPL or laser hair removal.

An ingrown hair is what happens when a hair curls back and grows into the skin. It’s a red, raised bump that looks like a pimple. They can be itchy and uncomfortable and in some instances, they can become infected and turn into painful sores. No one wants that. Even if you can’t feel your ingrown hairs, they’re frustrating to look at, especially when you want to show off your smooth, newly shaven skin!

We’re here to help. In this epic guide for preventing and treating ingrown hairs, we walk you through what causes them, how to treat them, how to prevent them, and what products to use in your hair removal routine.

What Causes Ingrown Hairs?

Although anyone can get ingrown hairs, they’re most common among people with coarse or curly hair. They often occur when a hair follicle becomes clogged with dead skin cells. We shed about 600,000 particles of skin every hour. If those particles – also known as the “dead layer” or the stratum corneum – aren’t removed, they trap hairs under the epidermis, causing ingrowns.

(Here’s what an ingrown hair looks like via SheFinds in case you’re not sure.)

Various forms of hair removal are also responsible for causing ingrown hairs. Shaving is one such culprit, hence the reason they’re often referred to as razor bumps. Hint: we’ve got something to help with that.

Shaving

Advertisers often tell us that the more blades, the better. That first started when plastic manufacturing was introduced. Companies realized they could produce more low-quality products for less that had to be replaced more often. Because of that trend, two billion plastic razors end up in landfills today.

In order to give you the smooth shave razor companies promise, multi-blade razors are designed with a “lift and cut” system. One blade lifts the hair, the next cuts the hair below the skin line as you shave. The problem occurs when your hair starts growing back. It can become trapped below the skin, causing dead skin cells to find their way into the hair follicle. The result is an ingrown hair that’s painful and inflamed.

Aggressive razors with multiple blades were designed for coarse facial hair so they’d achieve a smoother shave with fewer passes. In other words, they’re better designed for men’s faces, not women’s bodies.

Dull blades can cause the same problem. When you shave with dull blades, they leave the end of the hair jagged as opposed to a clean cut, resulting in irritation as the hair grows back.

Waxing

Waxing pulls hairs directly from the root. Each hair follicle is connected to a small tube, which is responsible for guiding the hair to the surface when it grows back. Waxing pulls the hair so quickly that the follicle and tube become damaged. When the tube’s lining is damaged, it can’t guide the hair. The hair becomes caught under the skin, causing ingrowns.

Epilating

A similar occurrence happens when epilating. An epilator is similar to an electric shaver. It has a rotating head of tweezers that traps hairs and pulls them from the root as it is run across the skin. This creates the same damaging effect as waxing.

Tight clothing

Finally, tight clothing can cause ingrown hairs, especially tight underwear. Skin is its healthiest when it’s allowed to breathe. The elastic in tight underwear presses into the skin, trapping hair as it begins to grow back and giving way to bothersome ingrown hairs. Try wearing loose boy shorts or soft 100% cotton underwear.

How to Treat Ingrown Hairs

Ingrown hairs will typically go away on their own if you leave them alone. But if they don’t or if you have a fabulous beach day ahead of you, here are four steps to speed up the process.

Step one: Stop all hair removal attempts. Don’t try to pluck, pull, shave, wax, or cut hair in the area where ingrown hairs are. Don’t try to squeeze it out either. You’ll only make your skin angrier and possibly introduce an infection.

Step two: Apply a warm compress and gently exfoliate. Using a soft washcloth soaked in warm – not hot – water, gently press into the irritated area for 10-15 minutes to soften skin. Then use slow, circular motions to very gently exfoliate for only 10-15 seconds. Skip exfoliating if it hurts or makes your skin more irritated.

Step three: Remove the ingrown hair. This step only applies if you can see the looped hair growing into your skin. Don’t go digging for treasure or you’ll cause dark spots or scarring. If you can’t see the tip, skip to step four. If you can see the hair, use a clean, sharp tool like pointed tweezers to remove it. Free it from the skin first. If it comes out easily, gently pull the entire hair out. Make sure your tweezers are strong enough to get the whole hair so you don’t have to repeat the process all over again. If it doesn’t come out easily, leave it be. It’ll be ready soon. After the hair becomes free, the redness and swelling should subside quite quickly.

Step four: Apply an exfoliating and anti-bacterial oil. Now that you’ve dealt with the hair itself, use a topical exfoliating oil to calm and soothe the skin while helping to prevent more irritation.

Other herbs that can help with inflammation include primrose oil, fenugreek, and turmeric, according to this Livestrong article. We personally just love the smell of lavender. This Healthline article claims that tea tree oil and lotions with oatmeal calm irritated skin as well.

Is It Infected?

Your ingrown hair will likely only become infected if you continue to irritate it with hair removal or by picking at it. You’ll know you have an ingrown hair infection if it gets progressively more red and irritated, if it swells, itches, or feels warm to touch.

(We were going to post a photo of an infected ingrown hair but they can be pretty jarring. We suggest Googling it and checking out a medical website you trust.)

If those symptoms apply to you, try taking the treatment steps above. If your symptoms don’t get better, see a doctor.

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs

Preventing ingrown hairs is all about removing dead skin and removing hairs in a way that won’t cause them to curl back. Here are simple steps to prevent ingrown hairs.

Shave With a Sharp, Single-Blade Razor

The National Health Service of UK says a single-blade safety razor is the best razor for ingrown hairs. In fact, switching to a sharp, single-blade razor is the most important thing you can do to prevent ingrown hairs.

A sharp and clean safety razor will cut off the hair bluntly in one pass without catching or dragging hairs. The razor won’t clog (because it’s one blade!), meaning less bacteria buildup.

Exfoliate

Another effective thing you can do to prevent ingrown hairs is to exfoliate. Exfoliating removes the dead skin cells that could potentially clog pores and helps lift the hairs away from the skin, allowing the razor to cut closer to the skin. It’s important to exfoliate no matter what, but especially before you shave.

To exfoliate, use a washcloth if your skin is extra sensitive and a hydrating scrub if it’s extra dry.

Another option is dry brushing. It’s an ancient ayurvedic technique and in addition to removing dead skin sells, it also kick starts your lymphatic system, which helps remove toxins from the body.

Adopt a new shaving technique

Exfoliate first then soften your hair with water. A warm shower helps soften hair, making it easier to remove.

Moisturize. There should always be a hydrating barrier between your skin and the blade to cushion the contact when the razor meets your skin. Try a shaving oil or cream. Using just water or even soap and water can cause the razor to drag on your hairs and skin. Shaving oil lubricates your skin and blade and softens your hair, creating a smoother surface for your blade to glide over. It protects your skin and leaves it super moisturized. For the more budget conscious, we also really like using coconut oil as a shave cream. Just make sure it’s organic!

Press lightly. We’ve been conditioned to press the razor into our skin to get the closest shave. Don’t. Pressure contributes to the irritation we experience after shaving. The handle of the Oui Shave razor is weighted so you don’t have to apply pressure.

Shave with the grain. If your skin is extra sensitive, start by shaving with the grain (the direction in which your hair grows). Shaving against the grain seems intuitive to get the closest shave but it can cause irritation. When shaving with the grain, there’s less risk of cutting hair below the skin. Make sure to rinse your razor often so there’s no gunk or hair on it.

Pay attention to your razor angle. If your skin is less sensitive, there’s less need to focus on which direction you’re shaving in. When shaving your underarms, stretch the skin taut by placing your arm high above or behind your head. Shave up and down, but also try an X pattern. Since our hair grows in multi-directions, this helps to catch every little bit. When shaving your legs, make sure the razor is at the 30-degree angle so the blade gently grazes your skin. Take short strokes and keep your touch light. To get the knees, bend your leg to tighten the skin.

Change your blade often. Once you feel like the razor is tugging at your hairs rather than cutting them quickly and sharply, it’s time to change the blade. Everyone’s hair is different (fine, coarse, thick), so the timing will vary for each individual.

Peep this short video demonstrating the most effective way to shave:

Alternative Hair Removal Options

Depilatory (it means ‘removing the hair’) creams are less likely to cause ingrown hair than other hair removal techniques available but they’re chock-full of chemicals. We don’t like putting anything on our skin that we can’t eat.

Electrolysis or laser hair removal is another option if you can afford it. If there’s no hair growing, no ingrowns can occur. However, it’s pretty painful and a large investment up front.

Avoid Tight Underwear/Clothes

We already explained why tight clothes cause ingrown hairs. Try to avoid them, especially right after shaving or waxing. Let your skin breath, baby!

Final Thoughts

Summer is around the corner and now is a great time to get your skin sundress ready. Start by giving your skin some time to breath. Try going a few days or longer without shaving. Then ditch that pink, plastic razor and show your skin the respect it deserves!

Have questions? We’re happy to nerd out about natural skin care any time. Shoot us a note at [email protected] or DM us on Instagram.

What to Do After a Bikini Wax

  • Avoid the sun. Stay clear of the sun’s direct rays for at least 48 hours or until the redness has gone away. Waxing exfoliates, removing skin cells that offer protection from the sun. I know you’ve just had the hair removed so you can rock the bikini, but two things can happen. First, burning is easier than before because of the exfoliation combined with the removal of the hair that would provide somewhat of a physical block. Second, you can be more sensitive to the sun and end up with dark skin spots, (also called hyperpigmentation) especially if you’re taking certain medications.
  • Let your skin breathe. This is very important. Do not slip on skintight clothing because this will cause upset skin at the very least, and possibly ingrown hair. Also, don’t touch the area. Yes, we know, it’s very tempting to touch our hair-free skin. However, we use our hands to do almost everything and those germs would love to jump onto our freshly waxed skin and live happily causing irritation, pimples or infection.
  • Soaking and steam isn’t good. When hair is removed, the empty follicle is more prone to bacteria entering. Shower, but please do not take a bath or get in any type pool for the rest of day after the service, as any bacteria or chlorine in the pool water can cause irritation. The extreme heat of saunas and steam rooms can also disturb skin and need to be avoided for at least the next two days. It might be wise to stay away longer if you have extremely sensitive skin or it was your first bikini wax.
  • No body lotion until the redness goes away. Redness is a sign of sensitized skin. If you have a problem with overly red or stinging skin try Relax and Wax No Trauma Momma. It’s specially made to be used post-waxing to help soothe skin. Regular lotions can irritate your skin more than it already is — especially if it’s fragranced. So wait until the redness disappears, which varies from person to person. And be sure to keep all lotions on the outside of your body only when applying in the bikini zone.
  • Exfoliate. The bikini area is notorious for getting ingrown hairs after waxing. Keep that dead skin from ruining your bikini wax by clogging pores and causing ingrown hair. Exfoliating also helps skin look healthy and encourages hair to point up, growing in the correct direction.
  • Have products ready. If you have a problem with ingrown hair, keep a bump-fighting product on hand, like Relax and Wax Get the Bump Outta Here, Shobha Ingrown Relief Lotion or GiGi No Bump Rx Skin Treatment. You can use these products for prevention and treatment of the bumps.

Summertime is synonymous with swimsuit season, and you want your bikini line to look its best! Yet, common hair removal methods leave irritation, bumps, and ingrown hairs in its wake. Today, we are going to walk you through the common causes and symptoms of ingrown hairs, how to treat the ones you have, and how to avoid them coming back!

Causes and Symptoms of Ingrown Hairs

The number one cause of ingrown hairs is hair removal. Instead of growing straight up from the follicle, the hair grows under a layer of skin, causing inflammation, irritation and those noticeable red bumps. Tweezing, waxing, and shaving all greatly increase the risk of ingrown hairs. Yet this can be exacerbated by poor hair removal methods. Waxing or shaving in the wrong directions is an easy way to irritate your bikini line.

A few other ways you put yourself at risk of ingrown hairs is using a dull and old blade and wearing tight clothing or rough fabric that rubs and chafes your bikini line in the summer. Both are bound to cause irritation, red bumps, and cause unwanted attention near your bikini line on a pool or beach day.

Treating Existing Ingrown Hairs

If you suffer consistently from ingrown hairs, try one or a number of these methods to treat and heal your skin.

1. Soften with a warm washcloth
Using a wet, warm washcloth helps soften your skin, opening up the pores and hair follicles. This is not only soothing to your painful ingrown hairs but also helps prep your skin for exfoliation.

2. Gently exfoliate
As ingrown hairs grow under the skin, removing layers of dead skin can help you find and remove the hairs. You can use something as gentle as a wet washcloth, rubbing in circular motions on your bikini line, an all-natural sugar body scrub, or a body brush. If this exfoliation isn’t strong enough, you can get a retinoid prescription from your doctor to quicken the process.

3. Pull out any visible ingrown hairs carefully
Once your hairs are softened and your skin exfoliated, you can take a pair of clean, sanitized tweezers and extract the ingrown hairs. Avoid digging in or breaking the skin to get to a hair. This is what the warm washcloth and exfoliation should help with. You will want to gently pull the hair out of the skin, but not pluck it. This will cause the skin to just grow over the new hair again. Wait until the skin has healed to remove hair if possible.

4. Use creams and lotions to reduce inflammation
If your bikini line is uncommonly sore, irritated and bothersome, talk to your doctor about a steroid cream to help with the swelling.

5. Stop shaving altogether
If push comes to shove and your ingrown hairs are not improving, go longer in between shaves or stop shaving altogether until your skin is healed and not irritated. This may not be the short-term answer you are looking for, but it will improve your skin and bikini line in the long run!

Preventing New Ingrown Hairs

Once you have tackled all of your current ingrown hairs, and your skin is in a good place, you will want to have every tool in your toolbox for preventing another ingrown issue. Here are a few tips to get your best bikini line!

1. Prep your skin properly
Before shaving, be sure to gently exfoliate and cleanse your skin. Make sure you find a shaving cream that works for your skin as well. If you are very prone to ingrown hairs, look for something made for sensitive skin types.

2. Shave at the end of the shower
Waiting to shave at the end of a shower may not seem like it would do much, but it does! The longer you spend in the shower, the softer your hair becomes and the more your pores open. This makes it easier to shave with no tugging or pulling and allows for a closer, smoother shave.

3. Go with the hair, not against
We are taught to shave our legs against the grain, so to speak. When it comes to your bikini line, shaving in the direction the hair grows is an easy way to avoid irritation and bumps. If you wait until the end of the shower to shave as well, you will still get a close, clean, bump-free shave!

4. Post shave care is key
How you care for your skin after hair removal is vital. Be sure to start exfoliating the bikini area around 48 hours after hair removal to keep ingrown hairs at bay. Applying a non-scented, natural moisturizer daily also helps keep the skin and hair soft.

5. Avoid irritating clothing and undergarments
After hair removal, do your best for the first few days to avoid tight clothing or itchy undergarments. Soft, stretchy clothing and underwear are key to avoiding unwanted irritation!

Don’t be bashful about your bikini line! Prep for summer with a bikini laser hair reduction session!

The easiest and most effective way to avoid ingrown hairs altogether on your bikini line is investing in laser hair removal. This is a safe and effective option that saves you money in the long-run, once you can ditch your razors, creams, lotions, and more! Call us today to schedule an ICON laser hair removal consultation or visit our website to learn more.

If someone told me that Beyoncé’s song “***FLAWLESS” was actually a four-minute long description of her bikini line, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash.

Just look at an un-retouched picture of Beyoncé in a leotard–or any female celebrity in a swimsuit, for that matter–and you’ll see what I mean. Study your subject’s inner thigh and pelvic region. Go ahead! Don’t be shy. Look closely and tell me what you see.

Oh, just some skin. Just some skin?!

Well, cue the alarm bells, pervy Nancy Drew, because “just some skin” is not a universally applicable description for a woman’s bikini line.

My bikini line looks more like…stucco walls. It doesn’t matter if I’m 48 hours post-wax or two weeks out. I’m plagued with an unrelenting colony of ingrown hairs and scars from the ghosts of ingrowns past, resulting in a motley constellation of pinkish dots that decorate the borders of all my bikini bottoms like sad notebook doodles.

I seem to be particularly ingrown-prone, but I’m certainly not the only sufferer. Any time I bring up the topic of bikini ingrowns to a group of female friends, family members or coworkers, I’m greeted with groans of empathy (a.k.a. in-groans of empathy! Ba-dum-chh.)

Given the apparent ubiquity of this affliction, ingrowns should be a non-issue–just another aesthetically uninviting yet logistically unavoidable physical characteristic. Like heel calluses or belly button lint.

Except…what about Beyoncé? Miley Cyrus? Lady Gaga? Rihanna? Helen effing Mirren? We’ve all seen pictures of these women’s bikini lines, whether in high-definition concert screen close-ups or creepily voyeuristic beach vacation shots in The Daily Mail. The angles aren’t always flattering–but the bikini lines? Totally ***FLAWLESS.

The way I see it, there are two plausible explanations for this clear discrepancy between the bikini lines of famous people and those of the masses. Either celebrities are commissioning celestial creatures to come pluck their pubic hairs out one by one and massage each freshly emptied pore with a thimble of unicorn saliva, or…there is a Great Ingrown Hair Conspiracy afoot.

Since unicorn saliva is super hard to come by these days, I’m banking on explanation #2.

I know what you’re thinking right now: these celebrities have perfect bikini lines because they did laser hair removal. They paid thousands of dollars for a professional to direct a concentrated beam of light at each of their hair follicles, thus killing them and permanently eliminating the problem of ingrown hairs forever and ever amen.

Well, I’m calling B.S. on that assumption. Based on conversations with women who have paid for this very service, I know for a fact that laser hair removal doesn’t always permanently eliminate hair growth. And if the hair is still growing, ingrowns are still a factor.

It’s possible that every time a woman reaches high-profile celeb status, she receives a Paperless Post from her country’s leader inviting her to a classified convention at which the secret to eliminating ingrown hairs is finally revealed. But just in case the secret lurks among us commoners, I decided to do some crowdsourcing.

To start, I investigated a juicy bikini line maintenance rumor overheard at Man Repeller HQ: Apparently strippers don’t wax–they shave. I hate bikini waxes with a fanatical passion, so the prospect of solving my ingrown woes by ditching this medieval practice in favor of a pain-free razor blade infused my entire being with unadulterated joy. But I was a little nervous about negating the benefits from my consistent waxing routine (e.g. sparser hair). As a precaution, I vetted this concern with Kavita Rawat, an esthetician at Eve Salon in NYC with over 12 years of waxing experience. Alas, she confirmed my fears: “With shaving, you get razor bumps and ingrowns and sometimes get cut. With waxing you avoid most of these while also reducing hair growth and having your hair grow back softer.” Does waxer trump stripper? I’m not sure. But I decided to stick with my regular waxing routine for the time being.

If you’re curious where waxing ranks from 1-10 on my Ingrown Prevention Success Scale (patent pending), I’d give it a solid 4. Definitely room for improvement.

Smooth bikini lines seem like a part of the ballerina aesthetic, too, so I asked for advice from former New York City Ballet dance and founder of NYC’s Refine Method, Brynn Putnam. Instead of shaving, Putnam recommended tackling my post-waxing ingrowns with regular exfoliation–specifically Dr Lancer’s “The Method: Body Polish” or Stridex pads, which many of her dancer friends use. I went out and bought both of these items immediately. She also divulged that her friend who is a Vegas showgirl swears by stick deodorant post waxing or shaving. I already own deodorant. Eureka.

I’ve been using all three of these products in tandem for the past few weeks, and I do think they’ve helped. Ingrown Prevention Success Scale ranking: 6.

But “helped” isn’t what I’m going for here. I want my bikini line to look perfect. Like the skin of an airbrushed baby, you know? I decided to get down to business and glean wisdom from someone with legitimate medical expertise in the epidermal arena: a dermatologist, Dr. Melinda Longaker.

“Exfoliants (physical and chemical) only help a little by roofing the hairs as they grow in. Once a hair is ingrown and snaking under the surface of the skin, only laser or tweezing will help,” said Dr. Longaker. “Laser hair removal is the only way to look like Beyoncé and you can bet that every celebrity is virtually hairless due to laser.”

Despite my former misgivings, I was mentally Yelping laser hair removal places near my apartment when she added, “One caveat is that sometimes laser doesn’t seem to work. In that case, if the technician is experienced, it may be due to a hormonal imbalance–often Spironolactone can help in these cases.”

And there you have it. Dr. Longaker basically confirmed what the entire universe has always assumed: Queen Bey is blessed. She’s one of the Chosen People with perfect hormones for whom laser hair removal works like a charm, and I? I am simply a plebeian ingrown sufferer with as-yet undetermined hormone (im)balance in search of concrete answers, preferably ones that don’t involve spending thousands of dollars on an uncertainty.

But now it’s your turn to talk. How do you deal with ingrown hairs? Are you pro-laser? Pro-unicorn saliva? Pro-conspiracy theory? I think this one goes higher up than the moon landing hoax.

Feature collage by Lily Ross.

What Are Ingrown Hairs and How to Prevent Them

To protect skin from ingrown hairs, each area of the body requires some different steps when shaving, but below are best practices to follow regardless of where you shave.

1. Change your razor blades frequently Using dull razor blades cause skin irritation, razor burn and ingrown hairs. If you feel your blade pulling at your hair or if it feels rough on your skin, it is most likely dull and should be replaced.

2. Hydrate your skin Soak the area you plan to shave in warm water via a shower or bath for at least three minutes. Hydrating your skin helps the hair cut more easily.

3. Exfoliate regularly Since ingrown hairs are commonly caused by dead skin cells that obstruct the hair from breaking through the skin’s surface, exfoliating regularly will help remove these dead cells.

4. Always shave with shave gel Shaving dry skin can cause razor burn, irritation and ingrown hairs. Always hydrate your skin before you shave, use shaving gel and apply moisturizer post-shave to keep skin hydrated.

5. Be consistent To better protect your skin from ingrown hairs while shaving, it’s important to be consistent and know how to shave each individual area.

Waxing your nether regions is agonizing enough without ingrown hairs and irritated skin wreaking havoc between appointments. If you’ve accepted ingrown hairs as inevitable, it’s time for a reevaluation — baby-soft, bump-free skin is possible with these bikini-wax insider secrets.

1. Exfoliate before and after.

Slough the area two days before and the first three days after a wax to aid in removing dead cells on the skin’s surface and allow hairs to push through easily, suggests Cindy Barshop, a waxing expert at VSPOT Medispa in New York City, which specializes in down-there waxing.

Joshua Zeichner, a New York City-based dermatologist, recommends using physical scrubs, which will help separate the free edge of hair from the skin, making them easier to remove during the waxing process. “Stay away from strong chemical exfoliators, as they can cause skin irritation and increase your risk of a burn from the hot wax,” he says. “Instead, stick to mild scrubs that contain hydrating ingredients that keep the skin barrier as healthy as possible.”

Our recommendations? The Tata Harper Smoothing Body Scrub and First Aid Beauty’s KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub with 10% AHA .

2. After your wax, moisturize.

Smooth on a lotion that includes alpha hydroxy acids, because they can loosen dead skin that could create ingrowns, says Stephen Webster, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota. Try Eucerin Intensive Repair Very Dry Skin Lotion. You can also try applying a cream that inhibits hair growth, such as Jergens Naturally Smooth.

3. OK, after all that, you still got ingrowns. Now what?

Repeat after us: I will not pluck my ingrown hair. You could get scarring or an infection if you do. Instead, treat the ingrown hair with Tend Skin Liquid. It contains acetylsalicylic acid, which will exfoliate the skin around it and allow the hair to be set free.

4. Calm redness and inflammation.

If your skin is irritated, douse it in a lotion or oil that has aloe in it to soothe and moisturize the bumps, like Johnson’s Baby Oil Gel With Aloe & Vitamin E, Parissa Azulene Oil, which has a calming chamomile derivative, or Ouai’s After Sun Body Soother. After that, if your bikini line is still angry as hell, try skim milk — the lactic acid in it helps soothe skin. Soak a thin cloth or a paper towel in a mixture of half skim milk and half cold water, and hold it on your skin for ten minutes. Repeat this every few hours. If that doesn’t help, try hydrocortisone cream on the area twice a day until it’s healed.

Now read more about hair removal:

  • Tweezist Instagram Account Shows Ingrown Hairs Being Extracted
  • The 10 Biggest Hair-Removal Mistakes
  • I Tried a Bikini Facial So You Don’t Have To

Done reading? Now watch every method of leg hair removal:

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How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs on Legs: A Go-To Guide Before Your Next Waxing Appointment

Aimee Werner

If you’re going the professional route, then it’s key to find a licensed and experienced esthetician to wax your legs. Do yourself a favor and stay away from getting waxed at nail salons! These places often don’t employ professionals who are experienced with waxing, which can lead to a variety of things going wrong when it comes to your waxing (double dipping, lack of sanitization of tools, etc.).
A seasoned pro will most likely apply a hot wax to your legs since it’s much more effective in removing even the shortest leg hairs; followed by removing the wax in the opposite direction of hair growth or using strips to do so.
If you are not a licensed professional and opt to wax at home, then you’ll most likely be using an at-home waxing kit with cold waxing strips. These strips are not as effective at removing leg hair, which can result in ingrowns. Be sure to keep some ingrown hair product on-hand.

Post Wax

Expect skin to be slightly red after your leg wax—this is normal and can be remedied by applying our ingrown hair serum. This treatment for ingrown hair is formulated to clean out pores, replenish moisture, soothe, and prevent future ingrown hairs. In fact, after a four week double-blind clinical study, users saw a 34% decrease in the appearance of ingrown hairs! This stuff should be your first line of defense in the quest of how to prevent ingrown hairs on your legs.

Avoid Tight Clothing

After you’ve applied your serum, be sure to avoid restrictive clothing that can rub against freshly waxed skin and cause irritation and ingrowns. Trust us on this one, skip the spandex and go with loose clothing.

Keep On Moisturizing

Next, keep legs nice and moisturized post-wax by continuing with a routine of using a hydrating body lotion. We’re in love with our Rice Milk + Rose Body Serum With Hair Inhibitor. Not only does this serum smooth and hydrate skin, it makes for the perfect skin refresher for days when you need a little pick-me-up. The best part of this product though is that it inhibits and slows hair growth, so your chances of ingrowns and hair growth in general will diminish with regular use.

Exfoliate a Few Days After Your Wax

We definitely don’t recommend exfoliating after waxing since skin can be a bit red and irritated. Give yourself about two days to recover, and then resume your buffing schedule. Exfoliating after waxing is an important part of how to prevent ingrown hairs on your legs and other parts of your body, as this helps with skin cell turnover, and prevents clogged pores.

Create a Waxing Schedule

Waxing doesn’t have to just be for special occasions or vacations! Once you get into a waxing routine, try sticking to waxing legs every two to three weeks, depending on how fast your hair grows.
Getting into a regular waxing schedule will help slow the hair growth cycle and the more times you experience waxing, the less painful it becomes.
Follow the above tips on how to prevent ingrown hairs on your legs and in no time you’ll be able to experience the satisfaction of a great waxing and see gorgeous results!
Now that you how to deal with an ingrown hair, shop our all-natural skin care products to keep your skin flawlessly finished, as featured on broadcast television and in publications such as People, Marie Claire, and US Weekly.

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