Ingrown hairs are truly the worst. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Some of us are blessed with only experiencing them occasionally, while others get them regularly. No matter where they pop up, they’re uncomfortable and unsightly. Not to mention, they require extra attention and care before, during, and after the extraction process. To help you take care of an ingrown hair that has popped up, we’ve reached out to the experts to get their opinion on what to do. Consider this guide the holy grail of preventing and removing ingrown hairs once and for all!
What Is an Ingrown Hair?
Karen Young, founder of Oui the People, defines ingrown hair as “a strand of hair that grows back into your skin after hair removal. As it grows back and dead skin cells collect in the follicle, the hair gets trapped, and it becomes painful and inflamed.” She notes that “curly hair and its natural coil makes it more likely to grow back into the skin.”
These pesky skin ailments can sometimes look like pimples, so what’s the difference. Allow dermatologist, Dr. Tiffany Clay, to explain. “Ingrown hair is actually a hair under the skin which can sometimes be seen whereas a pimple or pustule does not have to have a hair trapped under the skin. A pimple or pustule is a bump on the skin where dead skin or bacteria and pus are trapped in a hair follicle or a pore.” Typically, you should be able to see the hair strand of the ingrown hair. That isn’t something you’d see in a pimple.
Should All Ingrown Hairs Be Treated the Same?
To put it quite plainly, yes. All ingrown hairs can be treated the same, for the most part. The goal is to be very careful with how you handle them, no matter the type. “We always suggest a gentle approach,” says Karen. “Just as we know not to pick pimples, the same can be said for ingrowns when they do develop. That’s the primary approach no matter where they occur on the body. By picking ingrowns, you enter a cycle of inflammation and hyperpigmentation which then becomes frustrating to repair.”
Dr. Clay does note that sometimes they pop up in clusters. One ingrown will be treated different than multiples in one area of the body. “Some people will have one ingrown hair that may be easily seen and expressed or removed with tweezers,” she says. “On the other hand, some people may have several or some which cannot be seen easily and these types should be removed by other means to avoid traumatizing the skin by digging for hairs and attempting to extract each ingrown. If there are several ingrowns in an area, I’d recommend doing some preventive measures to reduce the occurrence of them such as a skin exfoliant and also a treatment to soothe the skin if ingrowns are present.”
How Can You Prevent Ingrown Hairs?
Preventing ingrown hair really comes down to the type of razor you use and how you use it. Before you even allow the razor to pass over your hair, Dr. Clay suggests you “exfoliate the skin to prevent dead skin cells and debris from clogging the follicular openings” and razor blades. “Always use a shaving cream or body wash,” she calls out.
Karen echoes the importance of exfoliation and stresses the need to use a safety razor over a plastic razor. “Plastic razors are designed to minimize the risk of cutting yourself when shaving, but they are actually more irritating than safety razors because they use a combination of dull and sharp blades,” she shares. “The first blade pulls the hairs up and out of the follicle while the other blades cut the hairs so low that they dive back beneath the epidermis. This increases the chance of developing ingrown hairs. Plastic razors also force you to use a lot of pressure to get a close shave which causes irritation. Safety razors cut hair right at the skin’s surface and our razor is built so it applies just the right amount of pressure.”
How to Take Care of Ingrown Hair, Step-by-Step
Caring for these skin irritants can most often be done at home using the below steps. Dr. Clay does recommend you see a dermatologist if “ingrown hairs are becoming more numerous, if you are having pain or pus draining, if you’ve tried to remove what you think is an ingrown but you can’t get anything out.”
Should you just have a singular ingrown, you can follow the step-by-step guide to caring for an ingrown hair below.
Step 1: Avoid hair removal in the area.
Before you do anything, avoid participating in any sort of hair removal process in the area. This includes shaving, waxing, plucking, pulling, or even cutting the hair. Karen notes that you don’t want to do this, as it can cause further irritation.
Step 2: Look for a hair in the bump.
Once you’ve noticed the ingrown, Dr. Clay suggests you look for a hair in the bump. This will help you determine if it’s an ingrown hair, pimple, or something else.
Step 3: Wash your hands.
If you can see a hair and know it is an ingrown, before you go any further, wash your hands. Dr. Clay stresses the importance of cleansing “your hands with soap and water to avoid causing a potential infection.”
Step 4: Apply a warm compress.
Karen suggests you “use a soft washcloth soaked in warm water and apply a warm compress to soften the irritated area.” You can keep it on for 10 to 15 minutes.
Step 5: Exfoliate.
Exfoliation goes a long way in ingrown hair extraction. Both Dr. Clay and Karen stress the importance of this process for seamless removal and to remove dead skin cells covering the ingrown. “Make sure you are regularly exfoliating to prevent ingrown hairs in the first place,” emphasizes Karen.
Step 6: Add hydration.
To soften the skin in preparation for extraction, Karen suggests adding hydration. She mentions it’s important to “bind hydration and seal in moisture.” This is a key step in caring for ingrown hair, so don’t skip it.
Step 7: Extract the ingrown hair.
Now that the area is prepped for extraction, you can get it out. “If the hair can be seen, use clean tweezers to remove the ingrown,” states Dr. Clay. She does call out that if the hair cannot be seen, do not try to dig for it. This will only cause further irritation. So if you can’t see the hair, keep applying a warm compress and exfoliating until the hair is able to be seen. Then you can extract it and move on to the final step.
Step 8: Aftercare.
Once the hair has been removed, Dr. Clay recommends “applying an anti-inflammatory to soothe the area.” It may also be best to avoid any sort of hair removal process for a few days following to give the area some time to rest.
Best Products for Ingrown Hairs
Whether you need products that will help prevent ingrown hair or ones that aid in the removal process, we’ve got you covered. Both Dr. Clay and Karen shared a few of their favorites to help you take care of ingrown hair.
Bushbalm Ingrown Hair Exfoliating Scrub: $23
Dr. Clay highly recommends this exfoliating scrub from Bushbalm. Designed specifically for ingrown hair, its blend of oils hydrates and brightens skin to reduce the appearance of ingrown hairs. Plus, you can use it anywhere an ingrown pops up, even on your sensitive bikini line.
Oui the People The Single Rose Gold Sensitive Skin Razor: $75
Should you need a new razor after reading this (which is very likely the case), The Single is calling your name. “Our sensitive skin razor is built so it applies the right amount of pressure and cuts hair right at the skin’s surface to reduce ingrown hairs and razor burn,” shares Karen.
(via Oui the People)
Bushbalm Ingrown Hair Oil: $26
Whether used pre or post-hair removal, this hair oil will soften your skin like no other. Fortified with a blend of natural oils, it relieves redness after shaving or waxing and improves the look of ingrown hairs, razor burn, and bumps.
Oui the People Full Disclosure Cream Body Polish: $48
There is no skincare problem this body polish can’t solve. As Karen points out, the “Full Disclosure Cream Body Polish with bamboo powder and lactic ccid (AHA) naturally exfoliates congested skin, removes superficial dead skin layers, and improves skin texture.” Make it a regular part of your routine to reduce ingrown hair and also experience the best skin of your life.
(via Oui the People)
CeraVe SA Cleanser Bar for Rough & Bumpy Skin: $6.29
Dr. Clay recommends this cleanser for those with rough and bumpy skin, along with those who consistently struggle with ingrown hair. The salicylic acid bar uses three essential ceramides and jojoba beads to gently remove dead skin cells and soothe rough skin.
Oui the People Cheat Sheet Resurfacing Body Serum: $38
“With a powerful blend of glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids, Cheat Sheet can get to the root on ingrown hairs and directly target inflammation,” shares Karen. “Supported by super amino acid proline, the formula also supports healthy, hydrated skin—the key to preventing ingrown hairs. It’s also works as a great spot treatment.”
(via Oui the People)
Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash: $33
A final recommendation from Dr. Clay is this exfoliating body wash. Utilizing 8.8% glycolic acid, this revitalizing body wash removes excess oils, debris and dirt, leaving the body feeling fresh and rejuvenated.
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