Ingrown hairs happen to everybody. They materialize on your face, your arms, legs, tuchus... Basically anywhere a hair grows, an ingrown hair can take root. Why do they happen? Well, you may have noticed that they most commonly appear where hair has recently been removed or fallen out. Whether you've recently (or frequently) shaved, plucked, or waxed, your hair follicles can get clogged and create the well-known nuisance that is an ingrown hair.
Who's more at risk?
People with curly or coarse hair are more likely to get ingrown hairs. Since these hair follicles are more flexible and/or more dense, the hair is more likely to bend back into the follicle and get clogged when growing. Areas where this frequently occurs include the armpits, pubic areas, and the whole of your head and neck, including your eyebrows and even inside your nose!
Common Problems from Ingrown Hairs
- Pseudofolliculitis Barbae
- Scarring Alopecia
- Ingrown Hair Cyst
Also known as razor bumps or razor burn, this condition can occur from shaving the same area every day without allowing the skin time to rejuvenate. We all shave for different reasons, maybe yours is to impress a date, look sharp at work, or to complete your look for a night out on the town with your buddies. Whatever the reason, shaving the same area until bumps break out is sure to leave your skin feeling vulnerable and sensitive.
Leaving the area untouched for up to four weeks will allow your hair to break through the follicles and continue to grow normally. Treating your skin with cortisone cream to avoid scratching the afflicted area will benefit you, too. Without care, these areas can turn into a skin condition called keloids, possibly leaving you with hard bumps around the beard area, pubic area, and other shaving zones.
Bugbears occur between the Anagen and Catagen hair growth phases, and are more prone to affect those with curly or kinked hair. You might be familiar with this phenomenon from witnessing a loop of hair sprouting out of and then back into your skin, which can easily be remedied with a tweezer and a brief second of courage.
This type of Alopecia begins with losing small, even unnoticeable, patches of hair at first, but the real issue becomes much more noticeable over time. If not treated early, your hair follicles can become scar tissue and your pores can lose the ability to grow hair.
For areas of the head that are scarred over or have stopped shedding for a few years, hair follicles from other parts of your body can be used to replace and rejuvenate hair production in a process called Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT). In other instances, where hair follicles grow sideways and block the pores they’re supposed to sprout from, top of the line laser therapy can coax hair follicles out, promoting healthy hair growth when there seemed like there was no hope.
Ingrown Hair Cyst
Ingrown hair cysts occur when a bump extends beneath the epidermis. These cysts can become problematic if they begin leaking pus and or if they become infected. Unlike cystic acne, ingrown hair cysts don't have a "head" of pus to pop. Like cystic acne, however, there are do's and don'ts to handling these types of cysts.
Do not try to pull these hairs out with a tweezer. Even if you manage to dig it out, you could cause further damage and an infection to the area. The same thing applies with attempting to pop it. What you can do is scrub this spot on your skin with warm water and a cloth twice a day to encourage the hair to come out so that the cyst disappears.
If it becomes infected, red, swells, is tender to the touch, and/or starts to pus, you will need to go to your doctor for assistance.
When it comes to ensuring you experience ingrown hairs as infrequently as possible, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Hair Removal Methods
So, how do you remove your hair safely without fostering ingrown hairs?
- Shave with a sharp razor.
- Replace razor at least every 6 weeks.
- Follow hair removal sessions with body lotion to soothe skin.
- Shave with warm water.
- Pluck hair in the direction of hair growth.
- Only wax when your hair is the length of a grain of rice.
- Avoid shaving when bugbears are present.
- Massage hair follicles in circular motion.
Ingrown Hair Care Prevention
In order to prevent ingrown hairs, an easy option is prohibiting hair removal on your own body to absolve ingrown hairs from the possibility of their occurring. Most people aren't able to adhere to these restrictions though, so there are other options.
Salicylic acid is great for cleaning pores to prevent the buildup of oil and dead skin that often blocks hair follicles and stops them from healthy hair. Covering your electric razor with tin foil so you don’t accidentally shave too closely is another DIY trick some have found success with. When you can, use a single-bladed razor, and always apply shaving gel while shaving. Exfoliate around ingrown hairs, and keep skin clean and moisturized! These tactics are sure to assist you with maintaining fresh-looking skin and healthy, natural hair growth.