Ingrown hairs can be painful and a nuisance. They typically affect people with thick, curly hair, and can become infected if left untreated.
This article explores ways to treat and prevent ingrown hairs, to reduce discomfort for people who experience them.
What are ingrown hairs?
An ingrown hair refers to a hair follicle that is unable to push through the skin. Dead skin, oils, and dirt clogs the area right above the hair follicle, causing hair to get stuck.
An ingrown hair ends up growing beneath the skin instead of pushing up and out like normal. Since the hair can’t grow up, it proceeds to grow sideways. As you might imagine, this is less than ideal and can cause some real problems.
Ingrown hairs happen more often to those with naturally curly hair or coarse hair. Sometimes, a hair will become trapped under the skin before it leaves the follicle, resulting in an ingrown hair. Other times, a hair will grow out of the follicle and curl back to reenter the skin.
Ingrown Hair Symptoms
Generally, you’ll see one or more little red raised bumps on your skin. They look like little pimples. You could also see something bigger that looks like a sore or boil. Your skin will often itch badly in that area, or it might be sensitive to touch and uncomfortable.
- A raised red bump (or group of bumps) that’s like a little pimple
- A boil-like sore
Common Areas for Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs often pop up in areas where you shave, including your:
- Face and neck
- Pubic area
What causes ingrown hairs?
Anything that does not let the hair grow normally can cause ingrown hairs, and it is usually for one of the following reasons:
Improper hair removal
The most common cause of ingrown hairs is an improper shaving technique. Cutting hair very close to the skin creates a very sharp tip on the end of each of the hairs.
Most of these hairs will grow back out without a problem. However, some hairs can curl back on themselves and grow into the skin. When this happens, the body responds to the hair as if it were an intruder, causing inflammation, which is the typical symptom of an ingrown hair.
Shaving is not the only way ingrown hairs occur. Waxing and plucking hairs out also commonly cause ingrown hairs.
Plucked hair grows back through the follicle. As such, it may not make it all the way to the surface of the skin before turning and clogging the follicle.
It is also possible for hair follicles to become clogged by:
- dead skin
- dirt and debris
When this happens, the hair in the follicle can become stuck or grow sideways into the skin, causing an ingrown hair. In some cases, the hair can be seen growing under the surface of the skin.
Friction caused by wearing tight clothing for extended periods of time can also cause ingrown hairs.
The friction caused by body movement throughout the day can also rub hairs against the skin continuously. This causes the hairs to turn around and push back into the follicle.
How to do ingrown hair removal at home?
Ingrown hairs are irritating, but most of the time they can easily be treated in the home, here are some Ingrown hair removal tools:
Using a warm washcloth or soft toothbrush
Applying a warm washcloth to the ingrown hair and rubbing in a circular motion may help to uncurl the hair
If waiting it out is not an option, there are other methods people may want to try. Hairs that have grown back into the follicle can be gently coaxed out using a warm washcloth and soft toothbrush.
After soaking a washcloth in warm water, apply it to the ingrown hair to warm and relax the pores and follicles. Rubbing the washcloth in a gentle circular motion may help uncurl the hair.
If this does not work, rubbing a very soft toothbrush in a similar motion over the area may help unclog the follicle and release the trapped hair.
The first step to treating an ingrown hair is to stop doing things that may irritate it. People may need to stop shaving, waxing, or plucking the area around the ingrown hair.
Scratching an itchy ingrowing hair should also be avoided. Also, people should wear loose clothing on areas surrounding the hair to avoid friction.
These simple practices are often enough to make the ingrown hairs go away on their own. When a hair grows to about 10 millimeters in length, it will usually release itself from the follicle.
Once any part of the hair appears above the skin line, a sterile needle or tweezers can be used to pull the hair straight.
Only do this once the hair is above the skin. Digging into the skin to pull the hair out can cause an infection.
It is also important not to pluck the hair out, as this increases the chance that the hair will be ingrown again as it grows back. The inflamed area surrounding the hair needs time to heal completely before removing the hair again.
Use gentle soaps to clean areas around the ingrown hair and prevent infection. Using natural exfoliates around the hair can also help remove dead skin cells. Exfoliating also helps clear the inflamed and irritated skin around the hair.
How to get rid of ingrown hair?
Ingrown hairs are irritating, but most of the time they can easily be treated in the home.
IPL/Laser hair removal with ingrown hairs
Laser hair removal is the best and only real effective choice for getting rid of ingrown hairs quickly. This is because laser hair removal goes straight to the source of the problem, the root or hair follicle. The laser hits the follicle directly, burning away the follicle’s ability to produce hair.
Once the follicle can no longer produce hair, an affected area will begin to heal. It’s important to remember that the problem with ingrown hairs isn’t just the one-time production of hair that pierces back into your skin causing irritation. The real issue is that the hair will keep coming back and continuing to grow while stuck underneath the dermis.
A hair follicle is like a weed that will grow until you stop it. By using IPL/laser hair removal, you’re stopping the hair follicle from producing hair now and in the future. This will put an end to irritation, pain, infection, and further damage to your skin.
Over the counter products
Diluted tea tree oil may help to kill the bacteria and bring down the swelling of an ingrown hair
There are also some over the counter products that may help stop or treat ingrown hairs.
Using creams with salicylic acid can help open the pores and follicles, preventing them from clogging.
Some reports note that diluted tea tree essential oil may help ingrowing hairs by:
- killing bacteria
- reducing redness
- bringing down swelling
Hope all you could say goodbye to ingrown hair.