What is an ‘Ingrown Hair’ all about ?

The Whys, the Impacts and the Fixes.

Ingrown hair is a condition that is exactly as it sounds – a hair that has either failed to pierce through the skin as it grows out from the follicle, or, is a hair that has emerged through the skin, as it should, but then, for a number of possible reasons, pierces the skin again and grows sideways under the skin. When this happens, there is often a ‘loop’ of hair exposed above the skin.

In both cases, the hair becomes ‘ingrown’ – into / below the skin.

Ingrown hairs are characterized by being coiled under the skin, forming a small lump. In turn, this can become an irritation, pus can form, and in extreme cases, lead to a cyst.

Should I be Concerned if I get an Ingrown Hair?

Typically, No, you should not become concerned! An Ingrown hair for the most part will resolved by the body and heal on its own over time. However, there are times when ingrown hair becomes infected and does not improve even as time passes. In that case, some form of intervention may be required …. right through to seeing an MD who may refer you on to a dermatology specialist. A medication may be prescribed as a remedy or, if necessary, it may be removed using a simple, relatively non-painful procedure.  

Who Can Suffer from Ingrown Hairs?

Well, basically anyone can! Some ethnic groups such as Asian and African American, can be more prone to ingrown hairs as a result of naturally very curly or coarse (strong) hair.

Whilst men and women with curly hair may be more prone to ingrown hair, it can happen to any person who uses any hair removal technique – such as shaving, both with a razor and electric shavers, waxing or tweezering.

Of course they can occur even without any hair removal procedures, eg in areas where clothing may be in contact with the skin for prolonged periods of time. There is increased ‘pressure’ on the hair onto the skin, increasing the chances that a ‘stray’ hair, naturally pointed towards the skin, will begin the burrow into the skin.

Ingrown Hair Infection 

Hair ingrown are the result of adult hair that has regrown and buried itself in the skin, thereby causing inflammation and infection. 

Dermatology professionals call it folliculitis – an inflammation or infection that affects one or several human hair follicles.

It usually occurs in places where hair grows (including the scalp) and appears in areas where friction is most common, such as the thighs, armpits, and neck. 

Where can Ingrown Hairs appear? 

  • The face / chin – where the beard grows. 
  • The arms.
  • The armpits.
  • The legs. 
  • The cheeks.
  • The neck. 
  • The pubic area. 
  • The scalp. 

In any part of the body or area mentioned above, ingrown hair can become infected. Hair can be trapped deep in the skin or even close to the bump’s surface, where they can develop a yellow or whitehead (pus). 

The size of the area affected can vary, but generally is relatively small for each ingrown hair. The ingrown hair/s become more of a concern when there are greater numbers of them in a area. An individual infected ingrown hairs are usually small, but can become larger, be a hard or soft lump to the touch, and may be capped off with a small white or yellow pus head. Yum! 

Causes of Infected Ingrown Hair 

Dead cells are a skin problem for everyone. Ingrown hairs can become infected as a result of this, as the cells can obstruct the hair follicles. 

The reason for this is the cut end can be sharper / rougher than an uncut hair. This ‘weaponizes’ the hair and makes it easier for the hair to pierce and re-enter the skin.

The most common areas where infected ingrown hairs originate are hair removal areas, such as the face, armpits and pubic region . It also happens a lot in men, especially when they shave their beards, causing many of their hairs to grow inside the skin generating small lumps. 

from the occurs when hair is removed hairs with a razor, wax, or tweezers from some part of their body. In other words, an ingrown hair appears when it grows in the opposite direction and not upwards (as it usually should), causing it to remain inside the skin and create a small lump. 

How Do I Know That I Have Infected Ingrown Hair? 

It is very easy to recognize when the hair becomes infected. It usually starts as a red bump, and as the infection progresses, you can see that the bump grows further and fills with pus. 

You may also notice the following around the infected follicle: 

  • Feeling of warmth when the bump is touched. 
  • The appearance of redness in the affected area. 
  • Swelling of the bump. 
  • Irritation – y.ou may start to feel itchy around the infected area. 

How are Infected Ingrown Hairs Removed? 

Infected ingrown hairs usually heal on their own without the need to remove them through any natural product or technique. 

It should be noted that in some circumstances, the hair can be removed with sterile needles or tweezers, but only if the hair is on the surface of the skin. Instead, digging too deep into the area is only going to increase the risk of infection. 

It is essential to mention that if you try to remove the hair while it is infected, you may run the risk of further complications. 

Removing infected ingrown hair on your own with tweezers or even your fingers has some risk. There is a chance of infection since it exposes the follicle to the elements. It is essential that control measures are taken to minimize the opportunity for Bacteria to enter. 

You can use soap and warm water while rubbing gently on the infection. If you do this, the bump will weaken, and the hair will heal on its own. 

Other possible complications caused by infected ingrown hairs: 

  • Hyperpigmentation of the skin (in this case, the infected area) 
  • The hair follicle weakens and disappears. . 
  • Permanent scars on the surface. 
  • Hair loss

How Can I Prevent Infected Ingrown Hairs occurring? 

You can decrease the risk of infected ingrown hairs appearing by doing the following :-

Cleansing with Water 

Wash the area you are going to shave very well. Washing before shaving will cleanse the skin and remove any surface bacteria that may be present on the skin. It will reduce the ‘impacts’ of shaving and help give a smoother cut.. 

Frequently Changing Razor Blades 

Use a sharp AND clean razor blade!

Blunt blades cause increased irritation to the skin and do not give as clean a cut on the end of the hair. You know what its like trying to cut a tomato with a dull knife – the result is a hack job! The skin is unnecessarily irritated, the hair end is torn off rather than being sliced cleanly…. increase the chance of hairs becoming ingrown …. increases the possibility of the ingrown hairs becoming infected.

Change your razor blade as soon as any sign appears that the blade isn’t cutting easily (from 5 to 7 shaves). You know, when you can feel discomfort and the shaving doesn’t go a smoothly!

Direction of Shaving

It is very important that you shave the hair on your skin in the direction of hair growth. Again, this improves the cut quality and hence reduces the chance of ingrown hair and, subsequently that hair follicle becoming infected.

Hygiene Products 

Use shaving gel or creams every time you want to shave. It is necessary since it prevents the skin from being irritated and scratched. Also, use these products along with warm water. After finishing the shave, apply lotion or a moisturizer to the area. 

Treatment of Infected Ingrown Hairs 

You can use home remedies if the infection is mild. Tea tree oil is an excellent home remedy to treat infected ingrown hairs on your skin. Mix the oil with a little water and gently rub over the affected area with a small towel. 

You can also use oatmeal-based lotions to soothe irritated skin and repeatedly washing and rubbing the infected area to force hair out of the skin.