If you’ve ever had an ingrown hair, you’ll know they’re unnecessarily difficult to get rid of. Not only can they feel itchy, they cause red bumps to appear on the skin and are often accompanied by spots and pus – not a good look anywhere on your body.
The problem arises especially after shaving, which is why men typically get them on their face and neck, while women find them on legs and armpits and pubic region.
Despite the irritation they cause, an ingrown hair isn’t inherently dangerous – but if they’re left untreated they can become infected.
To get to the bottom of what causes ingrown hairs, how to get rid of them as well as how to stop them for good, we’ve spoken to Chanele Rosa, a Candela Medical Clinical Specialist for UK and Ireland.
An ingrown hair is a common condition where your hair curls back or grows sideways back into the skin, resulting in an inflamed, raised, red bump.
They can be painful, and some may form a boil-like sore. Ingrown hairs can be caused by some methods of hair removal such as waxing, tweezing or shaving, predominantly among people who have dense coarse hair.
In some cases, it may be caused by a lack of exfoliation in the area or a hormonal imbalance.
People often think that if they don’t use any methods of hair removal, they won’t get ingrown hairs but this is not always the case.
Our hairs shed on a regular basis and when the hair grows back the hair follicle may be covered with dead skin preventing the hair from exiting the skin and resulting in an ingrown hair.
People with curly hair are more likely to get ingrown hairs but people with straight hair can also develop ingrown hairs.
It is best to stop waxing, shaving, or plucking your hair until the hair goes away. A warm compress can be applied to help open the follicle and you can gently exfoliate the area to help lift the hair above the skin.
Be careful not to over-exfoliate though. Removing dead skin can help reduce the number of ingrown hairs in an area but frequently exfoliating can also contribute to ingrown hairs because the skin regenerates quickly, and the hair follicles will be covered before they start to grow.
You shouldn’t ever tweeze the hair whilst it is under the skin because this may break the skin in the area and cause an infection.
Once the hair has lifted out, you can use a sterile tweezer to gently pull the hair out. If the ingrown hair is infected, you will need to see your doctor who may prescribe an antibiotic.
Rosa recommends creams with ingredients that exfoliate the skin such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid or lactic acid. You can read more about these ingredients in our guide to the acids in your skincare.
Tea tree oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and aloe vera will help soothe the area.
Do not pick or squeeze ingrown hairs as this may cause an infection and may result in a scar. Laser/IPL is a great solution for preventing ingrown hairs as it permanently reduces unwanted hair.
Victoria is founder and editor-in-chief of mamabella, freelance journalist and Mum. She has a passion for empowering people to feel beautiful whatever their age, size, skin type and budget