Almost everyone has been plagued by at least one ingrown hair in their lifetime.
Ingrown hairs are red bumps that appear on the surface of your skin, most often after engaging in some sort of hair removal. Unfortunately, pesky ingrown hairs are a common ailment, but luckily, they’re quite easily treated.
Here are some strategies for treating and preventing ingrown hairs at home, according to the experts.
What causes ingrown hairs?
Ingrown hairs happen when a growing hair follicle meets a blocked pore and ends up growing into itself or sideways, which results in an uncomfortable red bump that can be prone to infection or scarring.
The issue most often develops on the areas of your body that you wax or shave the most. Hair texture can also be a contributing factor, as those with curly or coarse hair tend to develop ingrown hairs more often, because, according to the Canadian Dermatology Association, curved hair naturally grows toward the skin instead of out.
How do you treat ingrown hairs at home?
Dr. Marlene Dytoc, a clinical professor of medicine that the University of Alberta Division of Dermatology says that the first step is to avoid irritation. “Wash the skin with a mild, gentle cleanser,” then once you’ve cleansed, use a shaving cream or gel before going at your skin with a razor. This “gives some lubrication so that you can soften the hair when you’re shaving.” Avoid shaving over an area where you have ingrown hair until it heals.
How can you prevent ingrown hairs?
Dytoc says that using new, clean tools and shaving in the direction that the hair grows rather than against the grain will help prevent ingrown hairs from appearing. She also recommends avoiding pressing hard into the skin and rinsing the blade after every stroke.
If the ingrown hairs remain persistent, then you should try to practice a thorough weekly skincare routine.
“To start, we always recommend exfoliating two to three times a week,” says Rachel Kerr, the director of brand and marketing for Ottowa-based company and product line Bushbalm. This will help soften body hair and smooth skin to prep it for hair removal.
When should you consult your doctor?
Ingrown hairs normally don’t require a visit to the doctor, however, if you see signs of infection like pus build-up or an increase in size or pain that endures for more than a few days, it may be a good idea to consult a medical professional.
Ingrown hairs can develop into a cyst known as pilar if the first layer of skin breaks. If this happens, the inflamed ingrown hair can fill with keratin (the protein found in nails, hair, and skin) and create a “bag” around the affected area. These cysts have to be extracted by a dermatologist, so don’t try to squeeze it out yourself, which may only worsen the problem.