Ever noticed a discolored spot on your skin after hair removal? That is what ingrown hairs look like. Ingrown hair is a strand of hair that grows in an inward direction of your skin, causing pain, itchiness, and a certain level of discomfort. Most commonly, ingrown hairs are found around your face, legs, chest, pubic area, and armpits.
Ingrown hairs are also known as razor bumps or shave bumps. However, sometimes even dead skin can clog a hair follicle and force the hair strand to grow sideways under the skin rather than up and out. And that is another way how ingrown hair occurs.
Generally, every individual occurs ingrown hair multiple times in a lifetime. And in most instances, ingrown hair gets better without any treatment. But since the condition is followed by swollen bumps on the skin that may hurt, many people try to find ways to prevent ingrown hairs.
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If someone faces recurring occurrences of ingrown hair, they must know the right way to treat it at home. In this article, we will discuss everything about ingrown hair, including the methods of treating it at home and how to lessen the risk of developing it.
Read this article till the end so that you don’t miss any single detail that might help you deal with ingrown hair.
What Is Ingrown Hair?
Hair is a natural part of our appearance. Our body hair covers our skin, especially our hands, legs, underarms, and pubic area. The amount of hair an individual has on their body usually depends upon their genes. When some people notice very little body hair, which is very light in color and texture, others may have more body hair that may be darker and coarser.
People who are uncomfortable with their body hair remove hair by shaving, waxing, or tweezing. All the above-mentioned hair removal methods successfully remove 100% of body hair, leaving the skin soft and smooth.
But sometimes, a few hair strands are left behind as they are not visible on the skin surface for being curled back into the skin instead of going out of it. It mostly happens with people with thick, curly, and coarse hair types. Those inward growths are known as ingrown hairs; in medical terms, they are called pseudofolliculitis barbae.
The most common areas where ingrown hair occurs include:
- Under arms
- Pubic area
The site where ingrown hair occurs forms a raised bump on the skin that looks similar to a pimple. The bump turns red in color and becomes sensitive and irritated, and may also fill with pus.
What Are The Causes Of Ingrown Hairs?
There are multiple causes behind the occurrence of ingrown hairs. Though we will talk about all of them below, the causes of ingrown hairs to be defined in one line is anything that does not let your hair grow causes ingrown hairs.
Usually, one of the following reasons are to blame when ingrown hair occurs:
Improper Hair Removal
The most common cause of ingrown hair is improper shaving techniques. Most people who remove hair at home are likely to cut hair very close to the skin, creating a very sharp tip on the end of each hair. Most of those hairs grow back out without any problem. However, some hairs may curl back and grow into the skin.
When such a thing happens, our body responds to the hair differently and treats the hair as an intruder. As a result, it causes inflammation, the most common symptom of ingrown hair.
Shaving is not only the reason for the occurrence of ingrown hair. Waxing and plucking, too, cause ingrown hairs. When a hair grows back through the follicle and cannot make its way to the skin’s surface, it clogs the follicle and turns into an ingrown hair.
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Clogged Hair Follicle
Sometimes dead skin, dirt, and debris clog our hair follicles. And when this happens, the hair follicle becomes stuck and grows sideways into the skin. And that is how ingrown hair occurs. In some cases, one can notice the hair’s growth under the skin’s surface.
Wearing too tight clothes for extended periods can cause ingrown hairs. Our body movement causes friction throughout the day, and our body hair rubs against the skin continuously. The phenomenon causes the hairs to turn around and push back into the follicle.
How To Diagnose Ingrown Hair?
One does not need to have any medical degree to recognize ingrown hairs. So you don’t necessarily need to go to a health care provider to diagnose them. However, a healthcare provider can identify your ingrown hairs during a physical exam. They even can note the appearance and symptoms and ask questions about your skin and skincare routine, including:
- When did you start noticing the symptoms?
- Do you generally encounter ingrown hair bumps repeatedly?
- Do you shave or wax your hair more often?
- What is the frequency of your shaving?
- What type of razor do you use?
- How do you prepare your skin before shaving?
However, most people treat ingrown hairs at home as it is easy.
How To Treat Ingrown Hair At Home?
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Using A Soft Brush Or Warm Clothes
In most cases, ingrown hairs reverse on their own. But if you are not willing to wait for that, there are other methods that you may want to try. The hairs that have grown back into the follicle can be pulled out using a warm cloth or a soft toothbrush.
Soak the cloth in warm water and then apply it on the ingrown hair to relax the pores and follicles. Now gently rub the cloth against your skin in a circular motion to unclog the hair.
If the previous technique does not work, you can do the rubbing part with a soft toothbrush instead in a similar motion over the area to unclog the follicle and release the trapped hair.
The first thing to do before you try any treatment for ingrown hair is to stop doing things that irritate your skin. And for that matter, you must stop shaving, plucking, and waxing the area around the ingrown hair.
Though the area surrounding the ingrown hair feels itchy, scratching and itching should always be avoided. Also, you must wear loose-fitting clothes surrounding ingrown hair to avoid further friction.
These simple practices can help you enough to make the ingrown hair go away on its own Because when a hair becomes about 10 mm in length, it usually releases itself from the follicle.
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If you notice a small part of the ingrown hair above the skin line, you can use a sterile needle or tweezers to pull the hair straight. Remember, you can only take the plunge when the hair is above the skin. Many people prefer digging into the skin to pull the hair out, but that step involves the risk of infection.
Also, remember that you must not pull the hair out if it is under the skin, which can increase the chance of the hair being ingrown again as it grows back. The area surrounding the ingrown hair needs some time to heal completely before the hair becomes ready to be plucked again. Use gentle soaps to clean the area around the ingrown hair to prevent infection.
Using natural exfoliators such as sugar and honey, bathing salt, etc., can also help to remove dead skin cells. Exfoliation helps clear out the inflamed and irritated skin around the hair, causing the ingrown hair to come out and fall.
How To Prevent Ingrown Hairs
Unfortunately, the best way to prevent ingrown hairs is to stop removing your hair. While some people might be okay with that idea, others might do some hair removal. In that case, there are still some things that you can do to reduce the chances of getting ingrown hair.
- Lubricate Your Skin Before Shaving: Since ingrown hair is caused by the sharp edges created during shaving, shaving dry hair is a complete no-no. We recommend always using shaving cream or aloe Vera gel while shaving to soften the hair. You can also use a warm compress before you shave.
- Use A Sharp Razor: A blunt razor is more likely to need to go over the skin multiple times, raising the risk of cutting yourself, irritating your skin, and getting an ingrown hair and infection. After a few uses, your razor might feel less effective, which is when you need to change the blades or the razor completely.
- Shave In The Direction Of Hair Growth: Shaving against your hair’s growth may allow you a closer shave, but the closer the shape, the more the chance for your hair to curl back into your skin. So shaving in the direction of your hair growth is one easy way to prevent ingrown hairs.
- Rinse Your Razor After Every Stroke: Since you require lubrication during shaving, rinsing the razor blade after every stroke can help you achieve that. It also helps you eliminate any shavings clogging the blades that might make it less efficient to remove hairs with the first pass. That is how you can make it less likely for an ingrown hair to pop up.
- Avoid Tweezing: When you spot straight pubic hair on your bikini line, it can be tempting to look for your tweezers. But take a pass. Tweezing the hair might leave a fragment of hair under your skin’s surface and result in ingrown hair and cause inflammation.
- Don’t Pull Your Skin While Shaving: Many YouTubers and Instagram influencers, during their shaving tutorials, might teach you to stretch your skin tight during shaving. But by doing so, you give enough room to the tips of the remaining hair to shrink back into your skin and grow there. That can quickly turn into an ingrown hair. It’s better to let the skin sit naturally when you shave.
- Exfoliate Before You Shave: Using chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and lactic acid can help dissolve dead skin cells that trap ingrown hairs. Therefore you can use a chemical exfoliant before removing hair to prevent ingrown hairs from occurring. Many serums are available in the market to prevent ingrown hairs, and those products contain exfoliating ingredients.
- Moisturise After You Shave: Your skin also needs hydration to stay smooth. Therefore moisturizing is a common practice, especially after shaving your skin. It also reduces the chance of irritation by reinforcing the skin’s protective barrier. If you are using an exfoliating treatment before shaving, moisturizing is more important because your skin might get dried out if it is too harsh for your skin or if you use it too frequently.
- Prefer Trimming: You don’t necessarily have to choose between shaving wholly or letting things go wild. There is a midway that can also save you from unwanted ingrown hairs. Undoubtedly we are talking about trimming. Trimming is the middle ground that removes your hair halfway instead of completely removing it. The hair that is left remains long enough and does not grow back into your skin.
Try Laser Hair Removal Instead:
Laser hair removal may be worth considering if you continuously face ingrown hair problems with shaving or waxing. Laser hair removal is one of the most common cosmetic procedures in which highly concentrated beams of light are used to target and damage the hair follicles.
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People who want to remove hair from their underarms, back, legs, hands, and bikini area can use laser hair removal treatment. Though it is not permanent, the results achieved from laser hair removal last longer than waxing, shaving, or tweezing. In general, 4 to 6 treatments can bring commendable results; the number of sessions may increase or taper off depending on the past sessions’ results.
How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?
In laser hair removal, a process called selective photothermolysis is used. The laser heat destroys the cells with much pigment named melanin. Since dark hair has lots of melanin, they absorb the most heat. The heat is transferred to the hair follicles through the hairs and destroys them from the roots so they cannot grow again.
A hair follicle must be in its growth stage for the procedure to work. And anyone with excessive body hair can have laser hair removal treatment. People who don’t prefer to shave regularly and want to improve their appearance and self-image can also go for laser hair removal.
How To Prepare For Laser Hair Removal?
- Before the procedure for a few weeks, you must avoid tanning beds and stay in the sun as much as possible. Tanned skin can make laser hair removal less workable and may also lead to severe side effects.
- The last time you need to shave before laser hair removal is 2 or 3 days before the treatment. That is because laser hair removal treatment does not work well in areas with hair longer than the size of a grain of rice.
- Once you start going for laser hair removal sessions, you must avoid tweezing, waxing, and plucking hair, especially in the treated areas.
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What Is The Procedure Of Laser Hair Removal?
Laser hair removal is a multi-step procedure, and the healthcare provider or the aesthetician:
- Cleanse the area
- Gives you a protective pair of glasses or goggles to wear during the procedure
- Treats the targeted area with a laser device that might feel like a series of stings. Some people feel like a rubber band snapping against their skin during laser hair removal.
- Laser hair removal treatment takes up to 60 minutes per session, and the time depends upon the size of the area being treated. Experiencing the smell of smoking and burning hair is expected since the heat derived from the laser device burns the hair.
What Happens After A Laser Hair Removal Session?
It is natural for your skin to look red, swollen, or a little painful after laser hair removal. However, applying ice can help you reverse those symptoms. You must not expose the treated area to artificial or natural sunlight, and you can return to your normal activities immediately after the treatment.
What Are The Benefits Of Laser Hair Removal?
Besides getting rid of ingrown hair, laser hair removal has many benefits. Some people prefer laser hair removal because the results of laser last longer than waxing, shaving, plucking, or tweezing. Moreover, the treatment is less painful than other hair removal methods. It is a cost-effective hair removal method compared to the total investment made in buying products for other hair removal methods.
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What Happens When An Ingrown Hair Gets Infected?
If your ingrown hair gets infected, the bump might be painful and filled with pus. And if that happens, you must not try to pull the hair out with a tweezer or any other device. By doing so, you might worsen the condition of the bump.
It is better to see a doctor. Your doctor may prescribe you some antibiotic ointment or wash. If the infection is severe, you might also be prescribed to take antibiotic medicines by mouth.
A few over-the-counter remedies that can help you by relieving the pain caused due to ingrown hairs are:
- Use exfoliants with salicylic acid or glycolic acid to keep your hair follicles open so the hairs don’t get trapped again. But you must not use those products if you already have ingrown hair because those content can irritate the area.
- Moisturize to eliminate dead skin cells that often clog follicles and contribute to ingrown hairs.
- Use benzoyl peroxide cream to dry up the affected area and reduce redness.
There Are Also Some Home Remedies, Including:
- Tea tree oil kills the bacteria in the affected area and brings down swelling. Tea tree oil is also used to treat acne and may work wonders for ingrown hairs. You can take a few drops of the oil, dilute it and apply using a cotton ball.
- Sugar and olive oil moisturize the skin and kill the bacteria. You can make a paste of sugar and olive oil and then apply the paste in a circular motion and then rinse with warm water.
- Baking soda exfoliates and brings down inflammation. Mix in one tablespoon of baking soda with one Cup of water and then apply it on your skin using a cotton ball. After a few minutes, you can rinse it with cold water.
Occasional ingrown hair is nothing to be alarmed about. We already told you about the prevention steps that may help you avoid ingrown hairs in the future. But if the ingrown hair on your skin is infected, it is better to see your doctor. We have also told you how beneficial laser hair removal is helpful to get rid of ingrown hair forever.
Find a certified laser hair removal clinic and get the treatment done to eliminate unwanted body hair and the risk of ingrown hair.
I hope this article helped you know many things about ingrown hair that will help you deal better with ingrown hairs when or if they occur. Keep following us for many such articles.