Ingrown hairs occur when new hairs bend back into the skin. You may end up with tiny red bumps (aka razor bumps) and even small pustules that look like acne outbreaks. Unfortunately the only way to completely prevent ingrown hairs is to stop removing hair- not usually the best aesthetic solution- however there are ways to treat ingrown hairs and reduce their frequency.

Causes of Ingrown Hairs

Shaving, waxing, plucking, or any other form of hair removal can cause new hair growth to become ingrown. When the hair follicle's shaft gets damaged, new hair can lose its way. Curly hair is the most likely to become ingrown, which is why ingrown hairs often occur in delicate areas. When you wax or pluck hair, the yanking movement can damage the follicle.  When shaving, especially with a double-blade razor, your hair can be severed at an angle and retract into the skin, where it continues to grow - in the wrong direction.

Treating Ingrown Hairs

  • Exfoliate the hair or area twice day to remove excess oil and dead skin. This will also help to abrade the hair and break the infection. Using a rough sponge or warm washcloth and rub it in a circular motion to hel p cleanse and encourage the hair to grow out.
  • Apply a topical antiseptic or even an over-the-counter acne product to help soothe an infected pustule.
  • If you're going to physically remove the hair with a needle or tweezers, be sure the implement is sanitized. Soften the area with a warm washcloth, and then gently unbend the ingrown hair. Don't pluck the hair out entirely or you will further damage the hair follicle.

Tips for Preventing Ingrown Hairs

  • Exfoliate the area before and after hair removal.
  • Use a shaving cream formulated for sensitive skin. 
  • Use a single-blade razor and don't pull skin taught when you shave.
  • Leave hair a little longer when you shave. Be sure to shave in the direction of hair growth and avoid repeat strokes over the same area.
  • Apply an after-shave product that contains salicylic acid that will help exfoliate and clear your pores.
  • Apply tea tree oil or a specialized ingrown hair formula to the site after waxing.
  • Cleanse the area well at least one a day.

Medical Help for Ingrown Hairs

While ingrown hairs rarely require professional intervention, you should see a doctor if they are a chronic or extreme problem since they can lead to infection, skin darkening, and scarring. A doctor can suggest treatment options which include retinoid cream to address hyperpigmentation, antibiotics to combat infection, and steroid creams to reduce inflammation. You may also want to consider a permanent solution like laser hair removal.


Skin Care Guide