Hair normally grows out of a pore called a follicle. An ingrown hair occurs when the tip of the hair is caught in the follicle, but the hair continues to grow. This can cause inflammation, pain, irritation, and in some cases, infection.
Ingrown hairs are commonly linked to “razor bumps” or “shaving bumps” is a type of skin irritation that occurs after shaving. People of African descent have an increased risk for ingrown hairs, But anyone can develop an ingrown hair almost anywhere on the body. Chins, legs, armpits, and bikini lines are all places where ingrown hairs frequently occur in women and men. Aside from shaving, tweezing, plucking, and waxing also can cause ingrown hairs.
How to Treat and Prevent Ingrown Hairs
Getting proper treatment for ingrown hairs is the best way to relieve associated pain and aggravation, since most ingrown hairs will not go away on their own. It’s important to visit your family doctor or dermatologist to have the ingrown hair removed. Your doctor can release the hair from under the skin with a needle. Some aestheticians, or beauty experts trained in services including facials and waxing, can also release ingrown hairs. If the ingrown hair becomes infected, you may need an antibiotic cream or a prescription antibiotic and you can also find relief from over-the-counter steroid creams.
Prescription remedies for ingrown hairs include glycolic acid creams and cortisone creams, but laser hair removal is the best choice for treating and preventing ingrown hairs, says Heather Woolery-Lloyd, MD, of the University of Miami Cosmetic Center.
Laser hair removal helps reduce the number of hairs that can become ingrown. Laser hair removal does not permanently remove hair, but it can provide relief for months and, for some people, years.
Shaving Tips to Reduce Ingrown Hairs
One of the best ways to avoid ingrown hairs is to let your hairs grow. However, not all men want to grow out a beard, and many women prefer to remove hair from their legs and underarms.
Since shaving is linked to the development of ingrown hairs, Dr. Woolery-Lloyd advises, “If you have to shave, look for razors [such as electric razors] that are designed to prevent bumps.” These are easier on the skin and don’t cut hair as close as a regular razor. It also helps to:
- Shave after a warm shower so it’s easier to remove hair from the follicles.
- Use a lubricating shaving gel or prescription shaving foam.
- Shave downward, in the direction of hair growth.
- Avoid shaving the same area repeatedly.
- Avoid tugging or pulling when you shave.
- Shave less often.
Instead of shaving, you may also want to try depilatories, or creams that remove hair. Just make sure to test the product on a small patch of skin first to find out if you are sensitive to any of the chemicals used.
If you still find yourself struggling with ingrown hairs, review your hair removal strategy with your family doctor, dermatologist,or your aesthetician to see what other steps you should try.