If you shave or wax, you’re probably no stranger to ingrown hairs. These inflamed red hair follicles are unsightly and sometimes even painful, which can cause some insecurity and discomfort. Not to worry – they’re totally normal and there are ways to treat and prevent these pesky bumps.
The direction that hair is supposed to grow in is up and directly out of your skin from its root. Ingrown hairs occur when the hair grows back into your skin and becomes trapped underneath it. This can cause swelling, redness and sometimes even pus as your skin tries to protect itself from what it perceives to be a foreign object. Ingrowns aren’t too different from pimples, but they shouldn’t be treated the same way.
When it comes to the cause of ingrown hairs there are a few factors, some of which include your method of hair removal. Luckily, this is easy to change. Shaving close to the skin leaves your hair with sharp edges that make it easy for the strand to pierce and re-enter your skin as it grows. Tweezing, another popular method, often leaves fragments of hair under your skin if you’re unable to pull out the whole strand, including the root. This leads to inflammation that irritates the follicle.
Other factors are things that you unfortunately have to accept. Ingrowns are far more common for those of us that have curly hair, as the shape makes it easier for the strand to be redirected back onto the skin instead of growing straight out. The location of the ingrowns is also significant – they’re more common around the groin and pubic area as the hair that grows there is coarser.
The good news is that ingrowns are somewhat preventable if you put a little effort in. When you shave, it’s best to do so in the same direction that the hair grows. This may not give you as close a shave, but it’s safer as it doesn’t sharpen the edges of your hair as much as shaving against the grain would. Always make sure that you’re using a fresh and sharp blade, as blunt blades scratch the skin which leads to irritation.
Old blades also carry bacteria that increase the risk of inflammation and infection. A great preventative measure is exfoliating on a regular basis. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells that might block your hair follicles and prevent the hair from growing out properly.
Even in taking these precautions, it’s natural that we’ll sometimes get ingrowns. When they occur it’s best to have patience and just wait for them to go away, as hard as that may be. Popping or tweezing them increases the likelihood of infection and isn’t even guaranteed to remove the hair, which will result in an even more irritated ingrown than before. If you simply can’t wait, here’s the safest and most effective method to remove them:
Soak a washcloth or cotton pad with warm (not hot) water. Hold it to the affected area for 30 seconds to a minute. The heat will soften your skin and make it easier to access the hair.
Take a soft, damp washcloth or a chemical exfoliant on a cotton pad (something containing salicylic acid works well) and rub gentle circles over the ingrown. Be careful not to rub too hard or it’ll cause further irritation – you need far less pressure than you may think. This will dissolve the dead skin cells clogging the hair follicle to make it more likely for the hair to emerge.
If you have an ingrown that’s particularly inflamed and painful, stay away from tight clothing and synthetic fabrics (like nylon and polyester) at all costs. This will rub against your skin and cause you more discomfort.
Remember – ingrowns are entirely natural and something that almost all of us experience! Though it’s hard not to be self-conscious about them, they’re not as big a deal as you may think they are.
rubies, do any of you suffer from horrible ingrown hairs?
Let us know in the comments below if you found this article helpful.