Is there anything worse than an ingrown hair?! Here’s how to put a stop to them for good.
But why do we get them?!
Ingrown hairs occur when hairs have curled round and grown back into the skin, which can lead to itchy spots, redness, pigmentation and even whiteheads. They can also crop up anywhere too — under your arms, bikini line, eyebrows, legs. They’re not fussy.
To put it simply, an ingrown hair is basically a hair that gets stuck growing on the way out. When it gets stuck, it becomes ingrown. So the little spots you get as a result of ingrown hairs are your hair follicles trying to grow out of the skin.
The reason it gets stuck is usually the result of shaving, waxing or plucking. This is because the hair that grows back is more coarse, so it can easily poke back through your skin and get trapped under the surface.
How do I spot an ingrown hair?
When a hair shaft is shaved or cut it usually has a sharp little point or edge to it. That sharp little end can ‘catch’ on the inside of the follicle as the hair tries to grow back in. It will then keep pushing into the skin rather than push out of the end of the follicle, and you’re likely to see a small red bump where the skin has become inflamed.
Sometimes the hair will stay so stuck, yet it keeps growing beneath the skin, so you’ll end up with a tight ball of hair that looks like a little knot under the skin. Or it might even look like a tiny splinter. The skin surrounding often becomes inflamed and in some cases it can even get infected. This is because the body reacts to the hair as if it were a foreign body.
So, the first thing to look out for is inflammation on the skin. If you spot any areas that are red, hot swollen or sore (sometimes even with pus) surrounding a hair, this could mean your hair is stuck and it’s become ingrown.
While anyone can get an ingrown hair, they're most commonly caused by shaving, and more common for those with curly and coarse hair.
What can you do to prevent ingrown hairs?
Unfortunately, the more you shave or wax, the more likely it is you’ll get in ingrown hairs. This is because every time you drag your razor over your hair, or pluck or tweeze, you’re creating sharp edges on each strand that can make the hairs more likely to revert into your skin.
If you really want to stop ingrown hairs for good, the best advice is to leave your hair eu naturel and avoid any kind of hair removal. For some this is a great solution, but for others who like to go hair-free, there are other techniques you can try that reduce your chances of getting an ingrown hair.
Luckily, we know a few tricks that can help put a stop to ingrown hairs for good.
9 Simple Ways to Get Rid of Ingrown Hairs
Exfoliating your skin regularly will help prevent that build up of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. Ingrown hairs can crop up when the hair follicle is obstructed by dead skin cells. This creates a barrier that prevents the hair from growing through. Exfoliating removes these dead skin cells, so there’s space for the hair to grow through, meaning it won’t get stuck.
The fastest and most gentle way to exfoliate is using a chemical exfoliant like lactic, glycolic, or salicylic acid. Acids in topical products loosen the outermost layer of skin cells (they gently dissolve dead skin cells) and work to both prevent and treat ingrown hairs at the same time.
2. Try a hair removal cream
Shaving is the biggest culprit for ingrown hairs. This is because when the hair grows back it’s sharp and can easily poke back into the skin. Try a sensitive skin hair removal cream instead. Hair removal cream dissolves the hair, rather than cuts or pulls it out, so the hair grows back softer, which means there’s less chance of ingrown hairs.
3. Use a sharp razor
If you are shaving, use a new, sharp blade. If you shave every day, you need to change your blade every 1-2 weeks, and if you shave every other day, change every 2-3 weeks.
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4. Lather up with shaving cream
Use a good shaving cream like Gillette Satin Care to avoid any sensitive spots. Shaving cream decreases friction between your skin and the razor, which means it prevents irritation.
5. Shave in the same direction of your hair growth
Shaving in the opposite direction to the hair growth means each hair will be cut at a sharper angle, which makes the hair coarser and more likely to grow back under the skin. Make sure you shave in the same direction as the hair growth to prevent this from happening.
6. Use a post-shave treatment
If your skin is prone to ingrown hairs, try a soothing, moisturising treatment like tea tree oil or a vitamin A cream, to reduce swelling and prevent infection of the hair follicle.
If you do spot an ingrown hair, add a hot compress to the skin and press it firmly against the ingrown hair. Repeat as the compress cools down. This will hopefully bring the hair closer to the surface, then you can use a pair of tweezers to gently pull the hair out. Try not to pop or break the skin if you can, as this could cause an infection.
7. Don’t forget to moisturise
As soon as you shave, wax, pluck or use hair removal cream, be sure to moisturise immediately after. Moisturising keeps your skin smooth and hydrated, as well as reinforcing your skin’s protective barrier, so it also helps to prevent any irritation. You’ll need an extra moisture hit if you’re using exfoliants too, as these can dry out the skin if it’s too harsh, or you use regularly.
8. Try waxing
Although it doesn’t completely eradicate your chances of ingrown hairs, unlike shaving, waxing doesn’t result in those extra-sharp tips that are more likely to curl back into your skin, so you’re less likely to get ingrown hairs. It’s important to exfoliate and moisturise too to avoid any build up of dead skin, and to prevent any skin irritation.
9. Consider laser
If you’ve tried all the above and your ingrown hairs are causing you constant grief, you might want to consider laser hair removal. Laser hair removal targets the root of the hair follicle — the source of the problem. The laser hits the follicle directly, burning away the follicle’s ability to produce hair. In most cases, that prevents the hair from growing back, but in some it just means the hair grows back much lighter and finer than it did previously. Either way, it’s a great solution for ingrown hairs.
It requires several treatments over the course of a few weeks and months, but the results are usually semi-permanent. Laser removal isn’t as effective on blonde or very light-coloured hair, and the procedure can also can be trickier in people with dark skin or those with grey, red, or white hair.
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