October 26, 2021
Sometimes the tiniest ailments are the most painful and uncomfortable, like a pesky paper cut. Ingrown hairs are a similar, pore-sized problem that can put a damper on your day. Or, a few days. That said, this issue is preventable and easily treatable. In most cases, it won’t require any expensive or hard-to-kind remedies. Treating and preventing ingrown hair can also save you from further complications like cysts or infections.
Read on to learn more about how to continue taking great care of your skin.
What is ingrown hair?
An ingrown hair occurs when a hair becomes trapped inside the hair follicle (or base of the hair inside your pore) and grows in the wrong direction. Instead of growing out, it grows inward, hence the name. There are a few reasons that hair starts moving in a wayward direction, and we’ll delve into those below. However, the common denominator is a clogged pore, which can become infected. Ingrown hairs usually occur in sensitive spots, like the beard area and armpits.
What causes ingrown hair?
There are several common causes for ingrown hair, and some are easier to prevent than others.
The top reasons include:
- Clogged pores, like acne
- Curly hair (which naturally can grow inward)
- Shaving (against skin that pulled too tight, causing hair to retract inward)
- Tweezing (tweezers can break hair and cause it to recede)
Symptoms of an ingrown hair
If your skin feels achy or otherwise painful in a concentrated area, it could be an ingrown hair. Here are some signs that you may have one:
- Small red bumps or blisters, also known as razor bumps
- Pores that look darker than others
- Pain in specific areas of the skin
- Hairs that look ingrown to the naked eye
Ingrown hair prevention
Exfoliating your skin, especially your face, can help keep hair from going down the wrong path. You can exfoliate by rubbing your skin in a circular motion using a washcloth as you cleanse, or you can use a gentle exfoliating scrub. You can use the towel as a warm compress to open pores and calm skin. Another option is using a chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid or glycolic acid. These acids are usually used to treat acne by removing dead skin cells and can ensure that your pores are open and healthy.
Use a sharp blade, lather the surface of your skin with cream or gel before starting, and be sure to never dry shave (ouch!). It also helps to shave in the direction of hair growth, not against it. If your razor blade quickly fills up with hair, rinse and tap it out to better expose the blade. Also, try to not over-shave; go over each area as few times as possible — ideally only once. An electric razor works by cutting the hair between two blades, instead of one, like a traditional razor — but the key factor in shaving properly is not holding the blade (or blades) too closely to your skin.
Keep it loose: Pulling your skin taut while shaving or tweezing can cause short or broken hair to recede and lodge itself under the skin.
Ingrown hair treatment options
If you feel you may have an infected cyst, you should see a dermatologist. If left untreated, it could become a cyst or a case of folliculitis. But if you have a mild case and want to try treating it yourself, you can experiment with the remedies and products below.
Ingrown hair home remedies:
- Stop hair removal: If possible, stop shaving, tweezing, waxing, or otherwise removing hair until the ingrown hair rights itself out. In many cases, it’s just a matter of time. While taking a break from shaving, you may want to consider alternative hair removal methods that aren’t as irritating, like depilatory creams or professional laser treatments.
- Wash up: Using a wet washcloth or soft toothbrush, rub your skin in a circular direction two times a day to try to work ingrown hair out of its current position. Soaking a washcloth in warm water to act as a warm compress can also help ease irritation.
- Extraction: It may sound painful and risky (and it just might be, so proceed with caution) but you can try extracting an ingrown hair with a sterilized needle. Experts recommend trying this technique on easy-to-grab hair loops. The idea is to extract the buried tip of the hair.
- A permanent solution: Look into laser hair removal and see if it’s right for you. This could be a long-lasting solution that will make your self-care rituals a bit easier.
Best products for ingrown hair
- Hair removal creams: Chemical depilatories—which is just a fancy way of referring to common hair removal creams like Veet—may be a better way to remove hair than shaving, tweezing, or waxing, which can aggravate an ingrown hair skin condition.
- Antibiotic creams: Be sure to get a doctor’s approval, but over-the-counter topical antibiotic ointments or creams can help combat mild infections due to ingrown hair.
- High-quality shaving products: As mentioned above, a lot of the science behind preventing ingrown hair relies on shaving properly. Help yourself do right by your skin by investing in sharp, quality razors with fresh blades, a good exfoliant, and shaving cream and gel for sensitive skin.
- Moisturizer: Staying hydrated is essential to general skin health and keeping your body hair from breaking. Small dry or pointy strands of hair are big offenders when it comes to ingrown hair. Be sure to lotion up after getting out of the shower or shaving.
- Acne products: Ingrown hairs and acne have something in common: clogged pores. Therefore, sometimes products made for acne can help. Acne creams and cleansers often contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid that unclog pores and wash away dead skin cells. This approach stops pores from clogging—and, potentially, ingrown hairs.
It’s time to up your self-care game with Gopuff. Stock your bathroom and medicine cabinet with all of the essentials you need to take exceptional care of your skin. You can order beauty and pharmacy items in seconds and have them at your door in a matter of minutes. So, run a bath and start pouring a relaxing glass of wine; tonight is all about treating yourself.