What Causes Ingrown Hair and How to Get Rid of it?

What is an Ingrown Hair?

Sometimes you get strange type of bumps on your face, arms or legs and you think they are pimples…or an allergy to something, but they are not rashes or pimples; they are a common and an irritating problem, which is known as ingrown hair(s).

Ingrown hairs are the hairs which have curled around and grown back into the skin instead of growing up from it. Sometimes, a hair follicle gets clogged up due to dead skin cells. This forces the hair beneath to grow sideways under the skin, instead of upwards and outwards. In some cases, closely cutting the hair, which is naturally curly, leads to piercing of the skin from the sharpened end of the hair; this results in ingrown hair. Ingrown hair is not a serious condition. They can be embarrassing and annoying though.

Ingrown Hair

What Causes Ingrown Hair?

  • Ingrown hair caused due to hair removing methods: The commonest cause of ingrown hairs is hair removal methods and more importantly wrong techniques of hair removal methods, such as waxing, shaving and tweezing of facial and body hair. When the hair is removed, this leaves behind a short hair with a sharp edge of the hair tip close to the skin surface. This causes the hair to grow and curl back into the hair follicle or grow sideways and get trapped under the surface of the skin resulting in an ingrown hair.
  • Ingrown hair caused due to the hair’s texture: Ingrown hair can occur in anyone. However, people who have coarse or very curly hair have a greater tendency to have ingrown hair. This is because curly hair tends to bend backwards and re-enter the skin, especially after the hair has been cut or shaved.
  • Ingrown hair caused due to high levels of sex hormones: Increased sex hormones in a person can lead to excessive hair growth, which in turn increases the chances of ingrown hairs, especially after a person has shaved.
  • Increased tendency of ingrown hair in particular races: Many Latinos and African-Americans who have curly or thick hair tend to develop pseudofolliculitis, which is a type of ingrown hair. They are more commonly known as “razor bumps,” which are a cluster of little bumps commonly occurring on the beard region after waxing, shaving, tweezing any unwanted hair. The edge of the new hair, which grows back is sharper; because of which it can easily push back through the skin and gets trapped under the skin surface causing ingrown hair.
  • Ingrown hair caused due to waxing or shaving in the wrong direction: Try to shave or wax towards the hair growth and not against it.

Symptoms or Appearance of an Ingrown Hair

  • The skin gets irritated due to an ingrown hair. This symptom of skin irritation due to ingrown hair leads to raised, red bump or cluster of bumps, which resemble a pimple(s).
  • In some cases, an ingrown hair leads to a formation of a boil-like sore, which can be quite painful.
  • There is discomfort and itchiness in the region of ingrown hairs, especially if there are multiple ingrown hairs.
  • The hair, which is trapped inside the bump which is causing problem, can also be visible.
  • Some people have symptoms of pus inside the bumps of ingrown hair.
  • Men can have ingrown hairs after shaving, which develop as a bunch of little bumps on the cheeks, chin or neck.
  • Women commonly have ingrown hairs on the legs, arms, armpits and pubic area.
  • Ingrown hairs can also occur on the buttocks.

Treatment for Ingrown Hair

Ingrown hair commonly goes away on its own and does not require any treatment. In cases it doesn’t go away, then the ingrown hair can become infected, scarred or darken the skin, especially if the person has been picking or scratching at it.

  • If there is infection of the ingrown hair or if it is bothersome, then a visit to the doctor is needed. In order to release the ingrown hair, the doctor will make a small incision in the skin using a sterile scalpel or a needle.
  • Medicines, which can be prescribed, include a steroid medicine which is prescribed for any skin swelling and irritation and is rubbed into the region of ingrown hair.
  • Retinoids are prescribed to remove any dead skin cells and decrease any the changes in the skin pigment, which occur as a result of ingrown hairs.
  • If there is any ingrown hair infection, then oral or topical antibiotics are prescribed to treat it.

How to Get Rid of Ingrown Hair?

Using Warm Compress to Get Rid of Ingrown Hair

  • Use a warm compress against the ingrown hair to try to soften the skin. This also helps in bringing the hair to the surface.
  • Using a sterile tweezers or a needle, gently tease the trapped ingrown hair out of the skin.
  • If you can’t easily get at the hair, avoid digging the skin to remove the hair.
  • Be patient and gentle, as it can take a little time to coax the hair out of the skin.
  • Do not cut the skin to remove the hair.
  • If you see a loop of the hair near the skin’s surface, it means that the tip of the hair has started to grow down towards the skin. Try to put the needle in the loop and gently pull, it will bring the end of the ingrown hair loose.

Using Lukewarm Milk to Get Rid of Ingrown Hair

  • Heat some milk till it is lukewarm.
  • Dip a piece of bread in this milk.
  • Place this piece of bread on the ingrown hair(s) and leave it there till it cools down.
  • Repeat the above process for 10 minutes. This will help in opening up the hair follicle.
  • Check the ingrown hair after 10 minutes. If the loop of hair is visible, then with the help of a needle, free the trapped hair.

Using Egg Membrane to Get Rid of Ingrown Hair

  • Remove an egg membrane from inside an eggshell.
  • Cover the ingrown hair region with the egg membrane.
  • Keep it for some time until it dries and shrinks up.
  • Gently peel off the egg membrane and the ingrown hair will come out with it.

Exfoliating the Skin to Get Rid of Ingrown Hair

  • Gently exfoliate your skin twice a day using salt or a mixture of olive oil and sugar.
  • This helps in removing accumulated dead skin cells, oil and dirt and also prods the hair tip out of the skin.
  • Exfoliate gently at the ingrown hair from different directions to help remove it from the skin.

Prevention of Ingrown Hair

  • Always shave using sharp and single-bladed razor. Use a fresh blade every time you shave, especially in the sensitive regions, such as the bikini line.
  • After every stroke of shaving, rinse the blade with water and also use warm water to wet your skin and apply a lubricating gel before shaving. All this will help in preventing ingrown hair.
  • Men should use a good quality shaving cream in order to prevent ingrown hair.
  • Application of a cool washcloth against the skin after shaving helps in reducing skin irritation and prevents ingrown hair.
  • Avoid shaving frequently and closely to the skin. Shaving or waxing in the direction of the hair growth instead of against it helps in preventing ingrown hairs.
  • When using a moisturizer on an ingrown hair prone area, make sure it is a non-comedogenic moisturizer, as it does not lead to clogged pores.
  • To prevent ingrown hair, always use gentle products on your skin. Avoid those products which have high alcohol content.
  • Change your skin products if they are overly drying your skin, as dry skin increases skin irritation, which can worsen any existing ingrown hairs.
  • Also, avoid using very hot water when bathing, as it can lead to skin irritation as well as drying.
  • Daily moisturize and gently exfoliate your skin as moisturizing keeps your skin smooth and exfoliation prevents buildup of dead skin cells and keeps the hair follicles clean, which prevents ingrown hair. Exfoliating the skin also helps in removing the stubborn ingrown hair.
  • Always prep your skin properly. Try to wax, shave or epilate after you have had a shower, as the steam and water from the shower helps in softening the skin and hair, and also opens up the hair follicles, which makes it easier for removing it easily and cleanly.
  • Change your hair removal technique if you are having recurrent ingrown hairs with your current technique, such as tweezing, waxing or epilating.
  • When using an electric razor, hold it slightly above the skin surface to prevent ingrown hair.
  • Avoid wearing synthetic fabrics and tight clothing such as skinny jeans, nylon leggings and polyester underwear as it can exacerbate existing ingrown hairs by rubbing against it. Wear loose cotton clothes which are breathable.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 10, 2019

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