Ingrown Hair

What is an Ingrown Hair?

Ingrown hairs are very common, especially in black males and others with tight curls. Shaved, tweezed, waxed or clipped hairs curl, and the sharp ends pierce and grow into the skin. It results in unsightly and sometimes painful little bumps.

However, shaving, waxing and other removal techniques do not have to occur for hairs to become ingrown. Causes may also include dryness, friction, chemical skin irritants and substances that clog the pores. The places where ingrown hairs most often occur are the back, shoulders, chest and areas of the body that are commonly shaved including the scalp, armpits, legs, pubic region and face.

What are the Symptoms of an Ingrown Hair?

The symptoms of ingrown hairs may include:

  • Round and firm little bumps that may fill with pus
  • Darkened skin
  • Itchy and painful skin
  • Embedded hairs that may look like dark dots

Ingrown Hair Causes

Ingrown hairs can happen to any person or any age. However, it is more likely to happen to people who have thick, course and/or curly hair. When hair is curly, it has a higher likelihood of bending back toward the skin to re-enter it. This becomes even more likely when the hair has been cut or shaved. When people have sex hormones that are at high levels, this can cause heavy hair growth, and this is a risk factor for ingrown hairs. When hairs have been tweezed, waxed or shaved, they often grow back with sharper edges. This makes it more likely for each hair to pierce the skin and become trapped under it. This can happen virtually anywhere on the body, including the face. Shaving in an improper manner can cause a higher risk of ingrown hairs. The friction caused by wearing tight clothing can also create a higher risk. It can also be caused by the hair growing sideways because of dead skin cells blocking the hair follicle and keeping it from opening.

How is an Ingrown Hair Treated?

Treatment is not usually necessary, but when pain and irritation persists or the areas become infected, medical attention may be required. Treatment of ingrown hairs depend on the symptoms.

Treatments include

  • Discontinuing shaving, if possible
  • Gently scrub the area in a circular motion with a cloth or a soft-bristle brush
  • Pull out looped embedded hairs using a sterile needle
  • Retinoid medication to exfoliate dead cells and lighten the skin
  • Topical steroid medication to reduce inflammation
  • Oral or topical antibiotics to treat and prevent infection

Ingrown hairs may be prevented by avoiding close shaves and softening the skin before shaving with a sharp razor. Cream to reduce hair growth or chemical hair removers may also be used to prevent the problem from reoccurring.

Ingrown Hair Prevention

When you wash your face before shaving, use a wet towel to cleanse in a circular motion. This can help to work ingrown hairs loose and prevent them from growing sideways or back into the skin. When you shave, use a sharp razor with a single blade. Shave your face in the growth direction of the hair. Don’t use an excessive number of strokes with the razor. After making a stroke against the skin, rinse the blade. If you leave a small amount of stubble instead of shaving down to the skin, this will reduce the risk of ingrown hairs. After you have finished shaving, reduce skin irritation by pressing a cool washcloth to your face. If you use an electric razor, don’t press it too hard into your skin. Keeping it slightly above the skin’s surface can help prevent ingrown hairs.