Ingrown hairs: Everything you need to know
Ever experienced those unsightly and sometimes painful red bumps appearing on your skin after hair removal? These pesky irritations are ingrown hairs – and they’re more common than you think.
Some may resemble pimples, and others can become painful if left untreated. Oh and they definitely don't mind popping up all over the body. Fun, right?
Want help in preventing and treating them? We’ve got the lowdown on how to safeguard your skin against these little nasties.
What are ingrown hairs?
An ingrown hair occurs when a waxed, shaved or tweezed hair curls and grows back into the skin, instead of emerging outwards. It can pop up anywhere you shave or wax, but it’s most common in the area where hair is curly and coarse, such as bikini line, underarms and eyebrows.
It may appear as a red bump (or even just a bump) after a few days or weeks after shaving or waxing, usually whenever the hair begins to grow back. In some cases you may even be able to see the hair under the skin and it's not uncommon to experience itching and pain. In some very rare cases, ingrown hairs can get infected and may need medical care.
What causes ingrown hairs?
When you wax or shave, it can encourage the hair to regrow at an angle (as we often shave or pull out hairs against the direction of hair growth). Instead of growing straight, the hair then pushes back into the skin, particularly if the hair is sharp at the end from shaving.
Can you prevent ingrown hairs?
Yes, there are ways to prevent ingrown hairs from occurring and the first step is to take preventive measures before you shave or wax.
To start, exfoliate or massage your skin with a washcloth or body brush. This exfoliates away dead skin cells and helps reduce the chances of hairs growing back into the skin.
If you’re shaving regularly, use a quality razor and replace the blade every fortnight; and shave in the direction of your hair growth if possible.
bh recommends: Schick Hydro Silk
Post-shaving, wash the area with a cleanser containing skin-calming ingredients such as glycolic acid or Witch Hazel, as these have anti-bacterial properties that can soothe existing ingrown hairs and prevent infection. These ingredients also help clear pores prevent the hair follicles growing inwards. Try Alpha-H Micro Cleanse with 12% Glycolic Acid or Waxaway After Care Lotion with Mango and Witch Hazel. If you're particularly prone to ingrowns and sensitivity, we'd also recommend following with Bump eRaiser Concentrated Serum.
Does laser hair removal cure ingrown hairs?
Some dermatologists claim laser hair removal is a permanent cure for ingrown hair, while others argue the contrary. However, studies conducted by University of Nottingham have shown that laser hair removal makes hairs finer and sparser, resulting in less frequent outbursts of coarse follicles. Laser hair removal also slows down the occurrence of hair, so you don’t have to shave or wax as often.
Can you treat ingrown hairs at home?
Sometimes, simply stopping waxing or shaving the affected area for a brief period can allow the hair to work its way out naturally.
Using cold and warm compresses can also help. Applying a flannel soaked in warm water on your skin can help ease out those existing ingrown hairs, while cold compression is good as a preventative measure after hair removal.
Another handy home treatment is stimulating the skin with a toothbrush a few minutes before and after shaving. Dermatologists in Norway use this procedure to treat patients in their clinics, as they believe the toothbrush will help hair stand upright.
If you're after a treatment product, look for ones containing salicylic or lactic acid to gently exfoliate and decongest the skin. This will help to coax the hair out and reduce discomfort. Try LYCON Ingrown-X-it Solution, which can be used on the face and body.
Another great ingredient to look out when treating the irritation of ingrown hairs is jojoba oil, which can ease redness and pain. Try giving Oil Garden Jojoba Oil a go for smooth, hydrated skin between shaves.
*This article has been updated since its original publication.
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