You’ve found the perfect outfit. You’ve taken the time to shave, wax, or epilate. The last thing you want to see when wearing a bikini or a short skirt is a big, inflamed ingrown hair.
And men – the last thing you want after taking the time to shave your face is a mass of bumps on your chin and neck.
These type of hairs are not a serious health issue, but then can be annoying and embarrassing. Keep reading for tips on how to prevent and how to get rid of them.
What is it and what does it look like?
The term “ingrown hair” refers to a hair that has curved around and grown back into the skin instead of growing out. When this happens, the skin reacts as if a foreign body had penetrated it. The area becomes inflamed.
It can look like a pimple, a red bump or group of pumps, or even a boil-like sore. Sometimes you can clearly see it growing the wrong way, beneath the skin.
Other times, the bump will be full of pus and can be popped like a whitehead (try to resist). Either way, the strands can be painful, itchy, and uncomfortable.
The two main causes are 1) hair removal techniques including tweezing, epilating, and shaving and 2) having naturally curly strands. Other times, a hair is forced to grow back into the body when the follicle is clogged with dead skin cells.
Anyone can experience having it, but some people struggle with the problem constantly. Those with curly and/or coarse hair are more prone to the condition. Shaving makes it worse.
When you shave, you are giving each individual strand a sharp edge that allows it to easily penetrate the skin and become ingrown. Shaving dry and/or pulling skin taut while shaving will worsen the problem.
“Pseudofolliculitis” (AKA “razor bumps”) is a collection of ingrown hairs that appears after tweezing, shaving, waxing, or epilating. This type of the is most common among Latinos and African-Americans.
Where do they appear and why?
These type of hair can occur on any part of the body, but is most common on the face and in the pubic area (areas commonly shaved).
Men typically experience it as a result of shaving. It appear as a group of bumps on the chin, neck, or cheeks.
Women frequently experience it after removing hair from the bikini line/pubic area. The strand that grows in this region is typically coarse and curly, making it especially prone to growing back into the skin.
Other common places include the armpits, legs, and buttocks.
The only surefire way to prevent it is to let it naturally grow. But for men who want a clean shave or women who prefer smooth legs, this isn’t an option.
Exfoliate regularly to remove dead skin cells and to encourage hairs to break free. Use a washcloth or exfoliating scrub. For women looking to exfoliate legs and bikini line, I recommend a sugar or salt scrub.
When you shave
When it comes to shaving, make sure to choose a sharp, single-bladed razor. Wet the area with warm water and make sure it is properly lubricated with soap or shaving cream before you start.
When you shave, use as few strokes as possible. Rinse off the blade after each stroke. Cool the skin with a washcloth after shaving to reduce irritation. The closer you shave, the higher your chances of an ingrown hair.
When you epilate
Epilation is a common and efficient way to remove hair. Unfortunately, this type of removal method is known to cause unwanted bumps. You can decrease your risk by:
- Epilating in the opposite direction of hair growth
- Using a smooth and consistent motion while epilating
- Hydrating the skin/using an exfoliating cream prior to epilation
When you wax
The all-too-common bikini wax can result in the dreaded ingrown pubic hair. To reduce your risk, make sure to exfoliate the area thoroughly two days before the wax and for three days following the procedure. This will remove dead cells and allow your strands to grow in the correct fashion.
Moisturize the area immediately following the wax with a lotion that includes alpha hydroxy acids.
It may be tempting, but do not pluck them! This can lead to infection and scarring. Instead, treat the area with products containing acetylsalicylic acid (we recommend Tend Skin Liquid).
If you are experiencing inflammation/redness, treat the area with oil or lotion including aloe.
Do all hair removal methods cause ingrown hairs?
If you struggle with these type of bumps, you may want to consider a different removal method. Electrolysis/ laser hair removal/ IPL (intense pulsed light) treatments attack follicles at the root to discourage growth and will not cause ingrown.
For a cheaper alternative, try a depilatory cream that will dissolve the hair.
In many cases, an ingrown hair will disappear all by itself. If it doesn’t, it can become infected. If you pick at it, it can leave a scar. Removing the bumps can be performed by you or your doctor. A doctor will typically use a sterile needle or scalpel. If the strand has grown out of the skin and back into it, you can often tug it out with a sterile pair of tweezers.
Medical treatments include the following:
- Retinoids (Retin A) to clear away dead skin cells and reduce pigment changes that can result from ingrown hairs
- Steroid cream to reduce inflammation
- Antibiotics to treat infected areas
As I mentioned above, the only surefire way to prevent ingrown hairs is to let it grow. For those desiring smooth legs, a clean face, or a neat bikini line, I recommend following the prevention tips outline above.
If you continue to struggle with frequent ingrown, I encourage you to try a new removal method.