Treating and Preventing Ingrown Hair

Ingrown hairs not only hurt but are embarrassing as well. The painful follicles can make your ‘beach look’ less attractive. Nevertheless, it is not just about looking attractive. If you have ingrown hairs, we don’t need to tell you how annoying they are. Pain, itchiness, and irritation are a few of its complications.  

The sad part is that these pesky little things can occur all across your body, whether you are a man or a woman. Yes, ingrown hairs can crop up anywhere, from the jawline to the armpits, legs, pubic areas, back, nose, and wherever there is hair growth on your body.     

They are most common in people who shave, wax, or pluck their body hair. So, basically, you will encounter ingrown hair one way or the other. The majority of the people are troubled with ingrown hair and are looking for remedies. While they can heal on their own and spontaneously dislodge, they can be tough to get rid of in some cases.  

This is the reason why we have created this e-book. This e-book is dedicated to all those who are experiencing ingrown hair growth and even for those who might get one.  

After thorough research and study, we were able to bring you a complete handbook that includes everything you need to know about ingrown hairs. From  what are ingrown hairs to their treatment and prevention, and a lot more, each chapter in this e-book focuses on specific aspects of ingrown hair.    

So, keep reading on to get the best guidance in the treatment and prevention of ingrown hair.  

What do you need to know about ingrown hair? 

Practically everyone has experienced the irritating and painful red lumps on their skin. These are caused by an ingrown hair. Ingrown hairs are a curse for shavers everywhere, and except if you are completely hairless (which you are not), you have probably noticed your skin filled with the unsightly red bumps, especially in the pubic areas. 

They can be super uncomfortable, particularly when they occur in areas that are less exposed, like the pubic regions and armpits. The sweat and moisture, and the regular contact with the skin can make things worse for you, even leading to infection. But what actually are ingrown hairs and why they need to be treated?  

What is Ingrown Hair?  

An ingrown hair appears when the sharp, pointed tip of the hair grows laterally or coils back into the skin of the hair follicle. That is, the waxed, tweezed, or shaved hair grows back into the skin rather than up to the surface.  

Ingrown hair is a benign condition that usually appears as a pink bump or sometimes a small tan under the skin. In most cases, a dark, pinpoint the part of the underlying hair can be seen under the bump.

If the condition worsens, multiple pink or red little bumps at the follicles can be seen in areas that you regularly shave or wax. You may also notice tiny pus-filled bumps, known as pustules, which can be insanely irritating, particularly if they are in the pubic regions or the armpits.   

It is a very common skin condition, especially in women, and hits primarily after puberty. Essentially, ingrown hairs are more common in areas that tend to have coarse hair growth, like the neck and beard in men and bikini regions in women. On the other hand, it has been found that people with tightly curled, thicker hairs, like the African Americans, have a higher rate of ingrown hair problems.  

While ingrown hairs are most common in areas like the armpits, beard area, back, pubic area in both men and women, and nose, in rare cases, they can appear in other skin parts, such as the thighs, under the knees, eyelids, and the brows.    

Medically, ingrown hairs are harmless, but they can cosmetically spoil the appearance of an individual and lead to skin disfiguration, skin discoloration, scarring, keloid scar formation (rare), and skin infection.  

Thus, it is critically important to get rid of ingrown hair as soon as possible before it starts causing problems. So, it is important that you understand the signs and symptoms of ingrown hair as they can easily be confused for acne and blemishes.   

What are the Different Ingrown Hair Types?  

From different types, we mean the areas on your body where ingrown hairs are most prone to occur. As said earlier, they often pop up in regions where you often wax or shave. So, for women, this is a serious problem because they like to keep their skin hair-free. The following are the types of ingrown hair that you currently have or may experience:  

  1. Pubic Area: when you go for a bikini shave or wax, there are possibilities that the thick, shortened hair could curl back and grow into the skin in the pubic region.  
  1. Back: it is a rare instance, but you have back ingrown hair, especially near the shoulders and beneath the neck.  
  1. Chest: your chest is also prone to ingrown hairs. They likely occur in the center and near the nipples.  
  1. Armpits: your underarms are the area that you constantly shave or wax. So, ingrown hairs are most common here.  
  1. Legs: you may have seen that the hair on your legs, particularly under the knees are slightly thicker. So yes, you can have an ingrown hair on your legs.  
  1. Nose: the majority of the people nowadays wax their nose as well. Previously, people used to trim down the nose hair with scissors or a nose trimmer. Waxing can cause the hair to curl back into the skin. This can cause some serious irritation.  
  1. Cheeks and Jaw: men can experience ingrown hair on their jaws and cheek. Men are more prone to have facial ingrown hair than women because they shave a lot.  
  1. Scalp: there are instances when you may see ingrown hair on your scalp. This happens when you pluck the hair on your head, like the greys.  
  1. Eyebrows: eyebrow ingrown hairs are common in both men and women because, in the majority of the cases, the hair is plucked.  

When do Ingrown Hairs go Away?  

According to experts, your skin type and how sensitive your skin plays a vital role in determining the longevity of ingrown hairs on your skin. Nevertheless, there is no set time frame for how long it will take for ingrown hairs to grow away.  

Typically, the more you disturb the area, or more you itch, the longer it will take to heal. So, it varies from person to person. You are advised not to touch the affected area continuously.

You may experience constant urges to poke or disturb the affected region because of the itchiness. If that’s the case, please consult a dermatologist for any OTC medications, or you can follow some home remedies that we have presented below.  

What Causes Ingrown Hair?  

You have around 5 million hair follicles peppered across your body, and each follicle contains a hair that grows through your skin. So, even if you remove the hair by means of shaving, waxing, tweezing, or plucking, it will continue to grow through these follicles.  

However, if you get laser removal, it destroys the hair follicles, preventing them from producing hair. According to health experts, ingrown hair occurs when the hair, which should be growing out of its follicle and away from the skin, starts growing inside the skin rather than going out.  

As said earlier, your hair tends to grow back no matter how many times you cut it. Suppose if you shaved, leaving no hair visible on the skin, there are chances that some of the hair that grows back might be diverted towards the skin.  

So, basically, the hair re-enters your skin and continues to grow inside the skin. At that point, the hair might look like both its ends are embedded into the skin.    

Now, when the hair grows underneath your skin, it becomes a problem because it can cause inflammation, leading to pus-filled or solid bumps, itching, pain, permanent scarring, hyperpigmentation, and bacterial infection.  

While any hair you remove from your body has the potential to become ingrown, the hair on and around your pubic regions are particularly vulnerable to becoming ingrown as the hair in these areas tends to be curly and coarse. Hairs that are already curly are more likely to get into your skin when they grow back.  

On the other hand, every time you shave, the razor creates sharp edges on each strand of your hair that can make them more susceptible to revert back into your skin and grow there. And if you pull your skin tight during shaving, it allows the cut hair to draw back into the skin, especially if the hair is dry when shaved.  

Moreover, if you tweeze or wax, it can leave some hair fragments under the skin surface. So, the hair grows inside the skin rather than growing out.  

When the hair starts growing under the skin, your body reacts as it would do to a foreign entity, making the skin inflamed. Here are some of the plausible reasons for what causes ingrown hair:  

  1. Hair that is cut below or close to the follicle opening can have sharp tips, and when it starts to grow, it can pierce the skin and cause ingrown hair  
  1. Friction from tight clothing could also lead to ingrown hair 
  1. Improper and aggressive shaving and hair removal techniques are the primary cause of ingrown hair  
  1. Sometimes, ingrown hair occurs naturally when too much dead skin debris blocks the follicle opening. This makes the hair grow sideways, and eventually, it re-enters the skin 

Who Develops Ingrown Hair?  

Essentially, every individual, whether male or female, will have an ingrown hair at some point in their life. Nevertheless, adults and teenagers are more prone to experiencing ingrown hair growth. On the other hand, people who have coarser and curling hair, like African Americans, tend to have the highest rate of issues with ingrown hair. 

Experts suggest that you should constantly monitor the regions you have shaved, waxed, or tweezed to see any changes in the skin, whether it is bumps or discoloration. The quicker you treat the problem, the fewer complications it poses.   

What are the Signs and Symptoms that you have Ingrown Hair?  

When the hair grows inside the skin, it causes inflammation that is perceived as pain and swelling redness. The usual symptoms of this condition are multiple pink or red-colored bumps, which can be itchy or tender.  

There are also chances that it could become pustular. In some cases, when you visit a salon or a dermatologist, you may see embedded coiled hair on magnification. An ingrown hair irritates your skin. You might experience:  

  1. Tenderness and itch  
  1. An ingrown hair can lead to an inflammatory reaction caused by a localized foreign-body (hair), leading to the formation of pinpoint pink or red bumps on the skin.
  1. The curled hair can be barely visible at the center of the red bump.  
  1. Sometimes, the bump may have a red-light halo color effect indicating inflammation.
  1. Small dry red bumps are often peppered over a recently shaved area. The bumps start emerging a few days after hair removal, and as the hair grows back, it gets worse 
  1. Formation of pustules – small, blister-like, pus-filled lesions.
  1. Pustules may be caused by common skin bacteria, which can lead to infection. This is a sign of a condition called folliculitis.
  1. Skin darkening, also known as hyperpigmentation .
  1. Solid, round, small bumps, which are called papules that can cause itching and pain.

Are they the Same as ‘Razor Bumps’ or ‘Shaving Bumps’? 

Razor bumps, also known as pseudofolliculitis, is an ingrown hair type in which small red bumps occur on the beard area – underneath the jawline and the neck. These red bumps may aggravate with repeat shaving. 

Razor bumps are most common in men who shave frequently. If you have shaving bumps, you will see pinkish-red-colored bumps with a hair shaft in the center, adjacent to the hair follicle opening.  

Moreover, pustules may occasionally form, particularly if there is bacteria growth on your skin. In case, if it is not treated in a timely manner or is inadequately treated, conditions like a rare keloid, scarring, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation may occur.  

As per the health experts, shaving bumps or razor bumps are most common in darker-skinned men, especially African and African American skin with facial hair. This is because they tend to have thick and curly hair, and there is also a natural curvature in their hair follicles.    

This section covers everything you need to know about ingrown hair. In the next section, we will be focusing on the treatment and prevention of ingrown hair.  

Getting rid of ingrown hair 

Ingrown hair is not a serious issue. Therefore, doctors recommend people with ingrown hair to follow natural home remedies to effectively get rid of the hair. However, in some cases, the doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medications and creams to remove the sideways or inward growing hair in the skin.

In extreme cases, you can opt for laser hair removal or electrolysis that destroys the hair follicles, preventing the growth of hair.  

Many believe that by improving your shaving techniques, taking precautions while shaving or waxing, wearing loose clothes to let the skin breathe, and using natural skin care products to exfoliate the skin can help in treating and preventing ingrown hair.

On the other hand, many beauty experts and influencers say that anti-inflammatory treatments can also help in lowering the inflammation after the ingrown hair occurs.  

All in all, it is important to look into the root cause of ingrown hair if you want to prevent it completely. Let’s discuss each one of the remedies one by one and in detail.  

Is there a treatment for ingrown hair?  

The majority of the people who suffer from ingrown hair fear that there is no treatment for ingrown hair since they have seen nothing like that before or use incorrect treatment. That is, many confuse ingrown hair with acne or blemishes. So, they follow treatments meant to treat acne, pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads.  

It is important that you consult your doctor or a beautician regarding the confusing growth of red bumps on your skin. They will be able to tell you whether they are ingrown hair, pimples, or any other skin condition. So, to your question – is there a treatment for ingrown hair – the answer is yes.  

And the best part is that there is no one treatment but many. If taken care of properly, ingrown hair can heal on its own and dislodge without creating any fuss.  

Cosmetic Treatment for Ingrown Hair 

If you are willing to break the bank and want to treat ingrown hair for good, there are a couple of treatments available at beauty clinics. But please note that these procedures are going to be insanely expensive, and you may have to visit the clinic a couple of times to complete the treatment.  

The cosmetic treatment uses state-of-the-art technology to improve your overall appearance. If you are considering this solution, you have the following two options available:  

1. Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal is an expensive yet long-lasting solution to ingrown hairs. Laser technology is used to destroy the hair follicles. This prevents the hair from growing back. It removes hair at a deeper level but may require numerous treatments over the course of a few weeks or months, depending on how quickly your skin heals after each laser therapy session. 

The laser damages the roots of the hair, preventing unwanted hair from growing. Please note that many will say it is a permanent solution, but it isn’t. While your skin will not see any growth of hair in the treated area for months, once the follicles heal, it will start producing hair.  

Once you start the treatment, make sure that you complete it as missing the sessions may lead to quick regrowth. It is also said that laser treatment won’t work on light-colored or blonde hair.  

While the theory behind it is unclear, salons and clinics state that laser therapy works well on light hairs containing dark pigment. But it has no effect on light hairs that are white, grey, red, or blonde in color as they don’t contain enough pigmentation for the laser to absorb into.  

2. Electrolysis

Electrolysis is a cosmetic hair removal procedure that disrupts the growth of hair. It works in a way that an experienced practitioner inserts an epilator device into your skin and uses shortwave radio frequencies to destroy the hair follicles. As a result, it causes the existing hair to fall out while preventing new hair growth.  

However, like laser treatment, you will need to undergo multiple procedures that can last for months to get the best results. The best part is that unlike laser treatment, electrolysis is backed by the US FDA as a permanent solution. Nevertheless, it is an expensive procedure. So, this decision has to be taken carefully. But as compared to laser therapy, electrolysis carries fewer side effects and risks.    

The choice between laser hair removal and electrolysis is totally up to you. However, it may depend on how quickly you want to achieve complete hair removal.  

Most importantly, going for one cosmetic procedure and then for the other isn’t a good idea. Getting laser hair removal done after electrolysis will disrupt the effects of the first procedure and may increase the chances of side effects and other skin-related risks. So, choose wisely.  

Over the Counter (OTC) Remedies for Ingrown Hair  

Chemical hair removal is another option you have where you will use certain products meant for hair removal. However, you will have to be cautious as they can irritate sensitive skin.  

Before you take up OTC remedies, you are advised to consult a dermatitis specialist and get your skin tested. Based on their prescription, use certain products. Or, if you don’t want to consult your doctor (which we don’t recommend), you can first test the hair remover over a small portion of your skin before real application. Wait for at least 24 hours to see how it goes. 

If you don’t have any reaction, it should be safe to use. But knowing the sensitivity level of your skin is important before you use any chemicals, especially in the pubic areas. The skin in the pubic regions is more sensitive than the skin on your leg or arm. But the best part about using over the counter remedies is that they encourage the hair to naturally come out.  

1. Exfoliating Creams

Exfoliants can prove effective for some people in their overall skincare routine. They may reduce the chances of developing ingrown hair. Exfoliating creams, as the name suggests, may help exfoliate and shed the upper layer of your skin so that the trapped hairs can break through.  

Your doctor may prescribe you for creams containing exfoliating ingredients like alpha hydroxy acid, namely lactic acid or glycolic acid, or a type of beta hydroxy acid, known as salicylic acid. These creams can help you prevent and treat ingrown hairs.  

2. Soothing Serums

As we discussed earlier, if you have ingrown hairs causing red bumps and filled with pus, these are the early signs of folliculitis, an infection of the hair follicle. To treat this issue, you need to soothe your skin. Even if there isn’t any infection, you need to soothe the irritated skin in order to prevent any infection from occurring.  

There are creams available in the market for ingrown hairs that can potentially reduce the inflammation and irritation. We advise that you choose a soothing cream that contains ingredients like tea tree oil, colloidal oatmeal, chamomile, or aloe vera.  

On the other hand, since you are dealing with inflamed and irritated skin caused by ingrown hair, it is better to avoid creams that have fragrances, dyes, and alcohol. These ingredients can make your symptoms much worse, probably leading to more ingrown hairs.  

3. Depilatory Creams

Depilatory creams are often used for hair removal since they contain chemicals that dissolve the hairs from their follicles. While it may make sense to use a depilatory cream for removing ingrown hairs, it is not a good idea. These creams don’t work that way. They can elevate the inflammation and irritation on your skin. In fact, the FDA advises not to use depilatory creams on inflamed or irritated skin.  

Although they are great at preventing ingrown hair, they might not be the right solution for treating ingrown hair. Since depilatories contain harsh chemicals that can cause side effects like blisters and burning, it is important that you consult with your concerned doctor. But never use the cream on areas where you have ingrown hair.     

Home Remedies to Treat Ingrown Hair 

While cosmetic and  OTC options may give you quick results, they are risky and can cause severe side effects if not done/used carefully. This is where natural home remedies can be your best bet for treating and preventing ingrown hair.  

There are plenty of home remedies that are backed by professionals. They are easy to follow and only use natural ingredients that can be easily found in your home. Below given are some easy fixes that can help you banish red, swollen bumps and keep the ingrown hairs at bay. 

Let’s get started.  

1. Aspirin-Honey Treatment  

This is the most preferred solution by many individuals, including doctors and professionals at salons and clinics. Aspirin naturally contains salicylic acid, and honey is known for its antibacterial properties. The combination of these two can help in reducing the infection and inflammation while treating ingrown hair.  

Take three uncoated aspirin tablets (crushed) and mix one teaspoon of honey and then add one teaspoon of warm water. Your mixture is ready. Apply the paste on the affected area and leave it for 10 minutes. Finally, wipe it off using warm water. Do this every day until you see results (only recommended once in a day).  

2. Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub  

If you don’t want to use a chemical-based exfoliating cream for treating ingrown hair, you can make yourself one with natural ingredients. DIY scrub can be easily made from ingredients available in your home. All you need is a mild granular ingredient (edible) and mix it with a carrier (something that won’t quickly dissolve the granules).  

This DIY scrub we are going to make helps in keeping the follicles clear of any blockages. It also helps massage the ingrown hairs before they become infected or inflamed. Coconut oil is a great hydrating agent that keeps the skin moisturized and decreases inflammation.

Sugar, on the other hand, acts as an exfoliator or a scrubbing agent that gently works on your skin to remove any dead skin debris and give your skin an improved look. 

You can make this DIY recipe by mixing one cup of raw sugar with half cup coconut oil in a bowl. To give your exfoliator some soothing fragrance, you can add ten drops of your preferred essential oil, like tea tree oil or lavender oil, etc.

Gently scrub the mixture over the affected area and let it sit for a couple of minutes before rinsing it off with warm water. Pat dry with a clean towel. You can use this DIY exfoliator daily until you see an improvement.      

3. Aloe Vera Baking Soda Treatment 

Aloe vera contains a salicylic acid in abundance that helps in soothing the inflammation and preventing bacteria and infection. Overall, aloe vera is a natural ingredient that aids proper skin turnover and avoids the blockage of hair follicles.

When mixed with baking soda, it acts as a natural exfoliator. The solution travels into the pores and works deep within the epidermis for keeping the pores clear and unclogged.  

The best part is that aloe vera contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are two primary components in fighting against ingrown hairs. To make your mixture, combine two tablespoon aloe vera gel with one tablespoon baking soda. Let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes and apply directly to the affected areas.

Once the mask is completely dried out, rinse it off with lukewarm water. And if there is excess mixture left, you don’t have to throw it away. It won’t spoil for weeks if you store the mixture in an air-tight container and put it in the refrigerator.    

4. Tea Tree Oil and Witch Hazel  

Tea tree oil is a great antiseptic that can help you reduce the symptoms of ingrown hair while treating it. Witch hazel, on the other hand, acts as a toner that improves the appearance of your skin while preventing inflammation. Witch hazel is a natural plant with antiseptic and antibacterial properties and is renowned in the beauty industry for being a great natural skin toner.  

Tea tree oil helps in loosening the hair and flush out any debris in the pores and follicles. Add ten drops of tea tree oil in one cup of warm water. Use cotton to gently apply the solution over the affected areas. Once applied, dab with witch hazel. 

The best time to do this is before you go to bed. Letting the solution sit overnight on your skin can have some amazing effects. Or you can use it whenever you want, but make sure the solution sits on your skin for some hours so that it can be completely absorbed into the follicles.     

5. Oil-Based Serum  

If you have sensitive skin, we recommend that you avoid overly harsh scrubs. While salt and sugar scrubs are excellent exfoliators, but for sensitive skin, they can cause excess skin irritation. And instead of using gentle chemical exfoliation that may pose some side effects, you can use this oil-based recipe, which is completely natural and effective against ingrown hair.  

To create your own oil-based serum for ingrown hair, take a reusable glass bottle and one tablespoon of castor oil, one tablespoon of hemp oil, and ten drops of tea tree oil, and mix well. Apply the serum on the shaved area to prevent irritation and loosen up the embedded hair. This is a simple yet effective remedy to soften the beard or hair.  

6. Black Tea Bag Treatment    

Tea is celebrated for its numerous healing properties. Tea, black, in particular, has anti-inflammatory properties in abundance that can help you soothe your skin and reduce inflammation and swelling.  

Therefore, tea bags can help you reduce the symptoms of ingrown hair and treat it completely. All you need is a tea bag and some hot water. Dip the tea bag in hot water to moisten and apply it directly to the affected area. Let the tea bag sit for 5-10 minutes before you remove it.  

If you drink tea daily, then this is an easy process to do. But make sure that you only add sugar or any other ingredient to the water after removing the tea bag. A tea bag contaminated with ingredients like sugar etc. is not that effective. So, keep this in mind.     

What happens if the ingrown hair gets infected? 

While an ingrown hair infection doesn’t pose any serious harm to your body, it can be very painful and irritating. And if not treated early, the infection can cause severe damage to the skin to the extent that it may leave permanent scarring.

The red bumps formed on the affected area may be filled with pus and blood. And if the bumps are in the region that is too sensitive, like the pubic or the armpit, or even groin, it can be a painful as well as an annoying experience.  

So, if your ingrown hair is infected, the only thing you should do is consult your doctor. Your doctor may suggest you antibiotic wash and ointments to clean the infection. And if the infection has spread and is quite severe, you may need to take the medication orally. It is better that you address this issue as soon as possible to avoid any infection.      

Things to avoid if you have ingrown hair 

There are plenty of things that you should avoid doing if you have ingrown hairs- 

  • Avoid digging under the skin. Only allow a professional to do it if you are trying to remove the hair. A professional will have the right tools and experience to do it gently  
  • Don’t squeeze the bumps. Doing this can leave a scar or cause an infection  
  • Do not pick at or pull the ingrown hair. It can be painful and could cause an infection. Seek professional help  
  • Avoid shaving or waxing in the affected area.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothes, especially if the ingrown hairs are in the pubic region. Let your skin breathe, wear loose clothes 
  • Do not allow sweat to accumulate in the affected areas. Keep yourself clean all the time  
  • Avoid using harsh chemical-based OTC medications unless the doctor has prescribed 
  • Avoid using a multi-blade razor. Instead, use a single-blade razor. It will be easy on your follicles   

When should you see a doctor? 

If you get ingrown hair occasionally, you should not be alarmed about it. By following the prevention and treatment methods mentioned, it will be easy for you to tackle ingrown hairs. However, you might want to consult your doctor:  

  • If you have unusual hair growth on your body. Unusual or abnormal hair growth could worsen the problem.  
  • If you often get ingrown hairs. If you are frequently experiencing ingrown hair, especially in a particular part of your body, then it should be discussed with your doctor.  

Some ingrown hair facts 

  1. Always use some lubrication before you perform shaving  
  1. Always shave in the direction that your hair is growing  
  1. Only use a sharp, single-blade razor  
  1. Keep your razor sanitised after every use 
  1. Avoid tweezing 
  1. Prefer electric clippers or razors  
  1. Exfoliate your skin before you shave  
  1. Always apply moisturizer after hair removal  

Conclusion  

That’s it! Here is everything you need to know about ingrown hair treatment and prevention. We have tried to cover all the aspects regarding ingrown hair in this e-book. Please go through it thoroughly to get better informed about this skin complication so that you can avoid it in the future.