A Complete Guide to Getting Rid of Ingrown Hairs (And Preventing Them!)
Ingrown hair removal and prevention just got simple! Here's the best way to keep your skin smooth after every shave.
There’s nothing like that silky feeling after a clean, smooth shave. But for many people, this delicious sensation is all too often destroyed by itchy, red bumps in the form of ingrown hairs.
As the name implies, ingrown hairs are hairs that have grown into the skin and gotten trapped underneath the skin’s surface. This commonly happens when hair that has grown out of the skin curls back and re-enters the skin. Sometimes, ingrown hairs arise when hairs get trapped in the hair follicle before they’ve even had a chance to exit the skin.
No matter how or why an ingrown hair occurs, most of them share a similar appearance. When a hair becomes ingrown, the body responds by sending white blood cells to the area, which results in inflammation that causes the area to look red or inflamed. Meanwhile, because ingrown hairs block the hair follicle, they can trap tiny substances in the pore and cause it to balloon into a little cyst, or bump. This means ingrown hairs tend to take on the appearance of pimples.
Because hair removal is a common cause of ingrown hairs, these “pimples” often show up in areas where people tend to remove their hair, such as the armpits, legs, bikini area, and/or face. Ingrown hairs can also crop up anywhere else on the body.
Ingrown hairs are harmless, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t annoying. They can be irritating, itchy, and even a little painful. In rare cases, they may become infected and develop into pus-filled sores. Additionally, their inflamed appearance may make people self-conscious.
Luckily, there are plenty of natural strategies for ingrown hair removal and prevention. Read on to learn what causes ingrown hairs in the first place—plus how to deal with these little vanity stealers once and for all.
Anyone can develop an ingrown hair at any time, but some factors may make their development more likely. For example:
- Improper hair removal techniques. These are one of the primary causes of ingrown hairs. That’s because they can cause new hair to grow back sideways, making it more likely to re-enter the skin. Shaving may also sharpen the edges of hairs on their way out of the hair follicle, which makes it easier for them to poke into the skin. Some of the most common hair removal mistakes include waxing or shaving against the direction of hair growth, pulling the skin taught while shaving, scraping the skin with a razor, or digging into the skin with tweezers.
- Curly hair. People with curly hair may be more prone to ingrown hairs, because curly hair is more likely than straight hair to bend back toward and re-enter the skin. This is especially common after someone with curly hair shaves their hair.
- Coarse hair. People with coarse hair may also be more prone to ingrown hairs. That’s because coarse hairs tend to have a pointier edge, which enables them to easily work their way under the surface of the skin.
- Hormones. People with high levels of certain hormones may experience excessive hair growth, which can increase the likelihood of developing ingrown hairs.
- Clogged skin. Failing to exfoliate on a regular basis can allow hair follicles to get clogged up with dead skin cells, which increases the chance that a hair will get trapped underneath the surface of the skin.
- Tight clothing. Wearing tight clothing in the form of leggings, tight collars, belts, and so on can cause chafing of the skin. When clothing chafes skin that is already inflamed from hair removal, IT can increase irritation that may lead to ingrown hairs.
No matter the cause, hairs that become ingrown can be a real pain. Luckily, there are several natural strategies for both the treatment and prevention of ingrown hairs.
In many cases, ingrown hairs will gradually go away on their own. If you’re looking to speed up that healing process, you might consider one or several of the following treatment techniques:
- Apply a warm compress. Placing a warm compress over the ingrown hair for 10 to 15 minutes multiple times a day can encourage pores to open up, potentially freeing the hair.
- Keep the area clean. The warm compresses described above should help with this. You might also consider applying a natural antiseptic solution such as our Tea Tree Cleanser or witch hazel. This can help ward off infections and speed up healing.
- Don’t pick at it. Tempting as it may be to dig at the ingrown hair with tweezers or squeeze open the top of the cyst, this will only make the area more susceptible to an infection or scarring. One possible exception here: If part of the hair is above the surface of the skin and you can easily grab it with a pair of sterilized tweezers, you might give that a try. Otherwise, leave it be.
- Don’t shave over the ingrown hair. As with tweezing or picking at the ingrown hair, shaving over it can cause further irritation and increase the risk of infection or scarring.
- See your dermatologist. If your ingrown hair is painful, becomes red or inflamed, begins oozing pus, or simply won’t go away, then it’s probably time to consult a professional. They’ll be able to assist you in determining the most effective approach to ingrown hair removal.
Note: There’s some evidence products containing salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or Retin A may be helpful in speeding up treatment of an ingrown hair. However, these ingredients can be quite harsh and may come with their own set of negative side effects. Talk to your dermatologist if you’re not sure of the right treatment option for you.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to deal with ingrown hairs is to take steps to avoid getting them in the first place. Luckily, several natural strategies can help you do just that.
1. Exfoliate on a regular basis
One of the easiest ways to prevent ingrown hairs is to discourage hair follicles from getting clogged with dead skin cells. And one of the best ways to do that is to incorporate exfoliation into your skincare routine.
Aim to use an exfoliating scrub once or twice a week. Use gentle, natural ingredients to reduce the risk of irritation. (Our Raspberry Lemon Sugar Scrub and Revive+ Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Facial Scrub are both great options.) Follow up each exfoliating session with a gentle moisturizer to reduce the risk of irritation.
2. Avoid hair removal whenever possible
Because hair removal is a top cause of ingrown hairs, another easy prevention tactic is to avoid hair removal entirely. That means ditching the tweezers, wax, and razor.
Sound impossible? If you must continue to shave, learn how to shave in a way that helps discourage ingrown hairs. (More on that below.) If you can’t give up tweezing, tweeze only in the direction that the hair naturally grows. If you want to keep waxing, allow your hair to grow back a bit longer between each session.
3. Invest in a good razor
High-quality razors are worth the investment in the fight against in-grown hairs. Avoid dull blades at all costs, because they’re notorious for failing to cut hair straight—which can result in the hair curling back into the skin. You might also consider an electrical razor, which won’t cut as close to the skin—thereby reducing the risk of ingrown hairs.
4. Utilize a soothing shave soap
Sure, it’s cheaper to ditch the shaving soap in favor of plain old water. But your skin will suffer for it. Shaving soap helps ensure the razor glides over the skin instead of dragging across it, which reduces the risk of irritation.
It’s a good idea to avoid foaming shave creams, as these can dry out the skin and increase the risk of irritation when you shave. Check out our Moisturizing Natural Shave Soap for a close, smooth shave that also promotes healthier skin.
5. Don’t skip the aftershave
The right aftershave can help soothe post-shaving inflammation and ward of infection, which will reduce the risk of developing razor bumps that can promote ingrown hairs. Our Natural Moisturizing Aftershave Serum helps prevent razor bumps, soothe irritation, and prevent nasty ingrowns.
6. Avoid clothing that can cause chafing
Unbutton your collar and avoid wearing tight clothes over areas of the skin that are feeling irritated or have recently undergone hair removal. This will help reduce the risk of further irritation in those areas.
One final prevention strategy? Learn how to shave in a way that minimizes the risk of ingrown hairs. This one is so important, we’ve devoted a whole section to it below.
Proper shaving techniques may take more time and focus than simply hacking away at your hair, but they’ll go a long way in preventing ingrown hairs. For best results, follow these steps:
- Before shaving, make sure the area you’re going to shave is clean.
- Start every shave with a clean, sharp razor blade.
- Begin every shaving session by wetting your skin with warm water and applying shaving soap.
- Always shave in the same direction that your hair naturally grows.
- Avoid shaving over skin that is already red or irritated.
- Limit the number of strokes you take with the razor blade as much as possible.
- After every stroke of the razor, rinse the blade before taking another stroke.
- Avoid shaving very close to the skin. Don’t tug your skin taut as you shave, and let your hair (or stubble) stay as long as you’re comfortable with.
- Once you’ve finished shaving, rinse off and apply a cool washcloth to the shaved area to minimize inflammation. Follow this up with a soothing aftershave.
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Ingrown hairs may be uncomfortable and unsightly, but the good news is they aren’t permanent.
While most ingrown hairs go away on their own, there are several natural strategies you can employ to speed up ingrown hair removal.
What’s even better than treating ingrown hairs naturally? Preventing them in the first place! By exfoliating often, shaving correctly, and utilizing natural products such as shave soap and aftershave, you can greatly increase your chances of enjoying silky-smooth skin.