Estimated Read Time: 5.5 minutes
Summary: In this blog we detail and explore ingrown hair removal, causes, and prevention techniques. We’ll discuss what an ingrown hair is, what one looks like and why you may have one or be getting them. Read on to discover more about ingrown hair, how to prevent them from occurring and help remove them from under your skin…
Anyone can develop an ingrown hair but however common or universal they are, ingrown hairs can be really uncomfortable, sore and tricky to deal with. They’re typically found to occur on the neck, scalp, legs, pubic area, armpits, back and chest. But, you have about 5 million hair follicles on your body so an ingrown hair could really happen anywhere!
Let’s take a look at what ingrown hairs are and what to do about them…
Ingrown hairs are usually caused by the attempt to remove it (you can think of it as a hair’s very own protest!). An ingrown hair will start growing in the hair bed (follicle) as normal, but then double back on itself and become embedded in the skin. When we shave, every time the razor is dragged over the hair, a sharp edge is created on each strand and that can make them more likely to turn back on themselves.
In addition, if you have curly or thick hair, you can be more prone to ingrown hairs than those with straight, fine hair.
An ingrown hair is usually an irritated bit of skin where you’ve recently shaved/waxed. It will appear to look a bit like a pimple: raised and red or even a larger, boil like cyst.
It can itch and most likely will be uncomfortable. On occasion, pus (white/yellow) might also be present in the bump. You may also be able to make out the hair that’s causing the issue.
Ingrown hairs usually sort themselves out on their own in a few weeks, but others can take up to half a year which can seem an age! Coupled with them usually causing discomfort, you’re probably thinking you can take the matter up yourself, right…?
Attempting ingrown hair removal yourself can result in scarring or infection. In theory, if you can see the hair loop and you’re completely confident that you can sterilise a needle properly and help coax the hair out, then it’s possible. But, you’d be putting yourself at risk of making the issue significantly worse or hurting yourself.
If you have a persistent, painful ingrown hair that is causing you pain, talk to your doctor or dermatologist who can assist in the safe removal of the hair.
Applying a warm compress to the ingrown hair’s follicle and skin surrounding it can be really helpful in softening and soothing the soreness. This will also help speed up the recovery of the area, as well as provide some relief.
After applying a warm compress, you can also attempt light exfoliation as this can help clear any dead skin cells that can clog the hair follicles, allowing the hair to release itself in a more timely fashion. You can use a clean, soft bristled tooth brush and move it in a circular motion over the area.
Salicylic acid cleansers can also aid here as salicylic acid can help in naturally stripping away the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis). This means it assists the removal of dead skin cells and product build up from the hair follicles. Read more about salicylic acid here.
If you are currently dealing with an ingrown hair, it’s advisable to stop hair removal from that area until it’s recovered, as this can make the situation worse and aggravate and irritate an already inflamed area.
The easiest way to not get an ingrown hair is to not shave or wax unwanted hair. Whilst this might be becoming a more popular choice for some, certain body hair really can affect a person’s happiness and thus quality of life, so isn’t an acceptable solution. So, there are other things you can do to help prevent ingrown hair.
If the frequency of your ingrown hairs is getting you down, and you can’t bear to grow your hair in a particular area, it may be worth thinking about laser hair removal. Laser hair removal works to kill the hair follicle and prevent it from growing hair permanently. It’s not 100% guaranteed to stop follicular activity, but it can make the hair that grows from there thinner and lighter.
If you’re a person who just slathers some soap on and runs the razor quickly over, then this may be causing your ingrown hairs to be particularly bad or frequent. You should exfoliate the area you’re intending to shave first, then properly lather the skin with appropriate lubrication (shaving cream or coconut oil) before pulling the razor over the hairs. You should shave in the direction the hair grows. Yes, going against the grain may provide a closer shave, but the closer the shave, the more likely a hair will grow back on itself causing an ingrown hair.
Whilst shaving, rinse the razor between each stroke. This will help with lubrication and removes any hair blocking the blade before your next glide.
And, how old is your razor? How often do you change it? You should be changing the blade after every few uses, as the older and blunter a blade gets, the least effective it becomes and the more at risk you're putting your skin at becoming cut, excessively shaved and thus irritated or infected.
You should always finish a shave with a good moisturiser too!
Some people have more success removing their hair with hair removal creams (which dissolves the hair) or report less ingrown hairs when they wax over shaving. Perhaps it’s worth considering a different method of hair removal too.
Some beauty companies have developed serums that are designed specifically to prevent ingrown hairs. If leaving the razor behind completely is incomprehensible to you, it may be worth researching and trialling out a targeted serum to use before you shave.
If you suspect an infected ingrown hair (it’s particularly pussy or the pus colour is turning yellow or green), check in with your doctor as you may need some intervention and a possible course of antibiotics.