Ingrown Hair On Face

Ingrown hair on face occurs when hair is shaved, tweezed, or waxed and grows back sideways and fails to make its way out to the skin surface. Changing the shaving technique and cleaning the face with mild cleansers can reduce the odds of getting ingrown hair on the face.

What does ingrown hair look like?

Ingrown hair is something between a pimple and a strange bump, which is also not a hive. It is itchy, painful, and red, and when the itching is too much the bump becomes swollen. Inside the bump, you can notice a papule or a pustule that has a hair strand on the inside. There also might be pus inside the bump. The condition worsens depending on general health, genetics, and lifestyle habits of an individual.


Ingrown hair happens when shaving is done the wrong way, causing new hair to lose its way to the surface of the skin. It also occurs when dead skin cells block hair pathways, forcing the hair to take a different direction under the skin. The problem commonly occurs among people with very curly or coarse hair. Curly hair bends back and re-enters the skin if it is cut too closely during shaving.

Some people have high levels of sex hormones that trigger excessive hair growth even on the face, which is a predisposing factor to ingrown hairs, especially after shaving.

People with thick hair are more at risk of developing pseudofolliculitis, or what is referred to as “razor bumps,” common on the beard area after tweezing, shaving, or waxing to remove unwanted hair. Hair that grows back usually has a sharper edge, which makes it easier for the hair to poke backward and get trapped under the skin.

Dry skin is also a predisposing factor for ingrown hair because lack of moisture weakens the skin’s defense mechanism and natural healing capabilities.

However, the three most common causes of ingrown hair are:

  • Dead skin cells - removal of dead skin and oily build-ups can go a long way in preventing ingrown facial hairs. When dead skin remains on the surface, it blocks the hair from growing out, and it finds its way sideways or backward, causing ingrown hair.
  • Shaving too closely to the skin - razors tug and pull the skin for a clean shave. Trimming too closely causes the edges of the hair to get trapped under the surface, and they fail to grow out.
  • Pulling the skin - to get a closer and cleaner shave, many men tend to stretch the skin. Once released, the skin can trap hair beneath it causing ingrown hair.
  • Other causes of the condition, which are not so common are fungal and bacterial infections, makeup, grease, skin-care products that clog the skin, and dirt.

Symptoms of ingrown hair

  • The first sign of an ingrown hair is itching. Continued itchiness causes the skin to swell and become red.
  • Depending on the position of the ingrown hair underneath the skin, sometimes there is the presence of an infection. The infection may become fully blown out and progress into becoming an infected follicle.
  • Infected ingrown hair affects the surrounding skin and causes it to change color.
  • Chronic cases of ingrown facial hairs may be an indication of pseudofolliculitis barbae, which is the true condition of ingrown hair.
  • Raised bumps that may be larger and painful in the same way as boils or cysts. They can be unsightly and very uncomfortable.

Ingrown hairs are a common occurrence from time to time, but when it becomes chronic, it becomes necessary to look for the real source of the condition and avoid treating the symptoms.


Usually, an ingrown hair will disappear on its own. If it fails to go away, it can become infected, cause the skin to darken, or cause a scar if you keep picking at it. Since the condition can be bothersome once infected, it is always advisable to seek treatment. A doctor will make a small incision on the skin using a sterile scalpel or needle. The incision is made to loosen the trapped hair and release it.

The doctor may also recommend other treatment options like:

  • Steroid medicine that you can apply on the skin to reduce the irritation and swelling.
  • Retinoid that gets rid of dead skin cells to reduce the change of color on the skin.
  • Antibiotics that can be rubbed on the skin or taken orally to treat the condition.

As you try out these options, remember that there is no one treatment for ingrown hair other than to grow the beard. Long hair is unlikely to break through the skin because it has no sharp ends. Unfortunately, avoiding the razor may not be an option for men who prefer to have a clean facial shave.


Since the primary culprit for ingrown hair is shaving, you can use some tricks to ensure that you reduce the chances of having an ingrown hair after trimming it:

  • Using an exfoliating scrub or wet washcloth, rub your face in a circular motion on a daily basis. The exercise will help bring any stubborn ingrown hairs to the surface.
  • Always apply some warm water or lubricating gel before shaving.
  • When shaving, use a sharp razor that is single-bladed.
  • Shave your facial hair towards the same direction that the hair is growing to reduce chances of hair poking the skin backward.
  • Minimize the strokes of the razor as much as possible. The lesser the stroke, the fewer the chances of hair gliding back into the skin.
  • Rinse the blade after every stroke.
  • Electric razors should be held not so close to the surface of the skin.
  • Using a cold washcloth, wipe off the skin after shaving to keep the irritation down.

It is also advisable to apply other methods of getting rid of facial hair, which will reduce the chances of producing ingrown hairs. Such methods include the use of depilatory creams that make the hair fall off. Besides, there is also the electric current method that can remove hair follicles permanently.

Does ingrown hair cause acne?

There is a lot of resemblance between acne and ingrown hair. The symptoms are almost similar, and they also look alike. Most men who think have they have acne are in most cases suffering from ingrown hairs.

For effective treatment, it is crucial to identify the problem that you are dealing with to avoid using the wrong medication for the wrong condition. Both conditions develop in the hair follicles, but acne is formed from oil build-up and dead skin that causes blockage of the skin pores. As the orifice fills up with dead skin and other foreign material, the contents spill into the surrounding skin, causing it to become irritated, swollen, and red. Ingrown hair does not cause pore blockage.

The body detects the ingrown hair as an invader, causing redness and swelling, and the result is a bump that resembles acne, but which in actual sense is different.

Overall, the most important thing is to take care of your skin to avoid cases of ingrown hair. Exfoliating the skin, using moisturizers, and applying beard oil are simple procedures that can be followed daily to keep ingrown hair away.