If you remove hair from any part of your body, chances are you've had an ingrown hair. But you probably know them better as the annoying little bumps that appear after shaving. They can be painful, embarrassing and persistent, but can be easily prevented with the proper hair removal techniques.
What Are Ingrown Hairs?
Ingrown hairs, also known as razor bumps, are actually hairs that grow sideways or back into the skin. The bumps are usually red, itchy and can be very painful. The ingrown hair can cause the appearance of multiple bumps, which can become infected if bacteria gets into one. If infected or picked at, ingrown hairs can lead to scarring.
Ingrown hairs can occur anywhere you remove hair including:
- Pelvic region
Certain people are more susceptible to developing ingrown hairs than others. African-Americans, particularly young black men, and people with thick, coarse and curly hair are more likely to get ingrown hairs. Those who suffer from an immunodeficiency disease, diabetes or HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to infected ingrown hairs.
Causes Of Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs are typically caused by improper shaving techniques such as:
- Shaving too close to the skin
- Pulling the skin taut or stretching the skin when shaving
But there are also other causes of ingrown hairs including:
- Cutting hair too short
- Friction from tight clothing
- If the hair opening is blocked by an accumulation of dead skin cells, it can cause the hair to grow sideways
How To Prevent Ingrown Hairs
The only surefire remedy for an ingrown hair is to prevent it. There are many preventative measures you can take to ensure your hair grows correctly. Here are some of them:
- Before shaving, take a warm shower. The heat will soften your hair and open any clogged pores.
- When shaving, use a thick shaving gel or shaving cream.
- If using an electric razor, adjust it to a higher setting. Make sure that the head of the razor is kept slightly above the skin surface and that you shave in a circular motion.
- Shave in the direction that the hair grows; never shave in the opposite direction.
- Use as few strokes as possible.
- Always moisturize with lotion after shaving.
- Leave a bit of stubble behind. Keeping 1-to-2 millimeters of hair will decrease the risk of shaving too closely, which creates a sharp tip on the edge of the hair that can readily pierce the skin.
- Use depilatories instead of shaving. The cream can soften hair and needs to be applied less often than shaving.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for ingrown hairs. The only thing you can really do is give it time to heal. If you have no patience or can't afford to wait, you can try to dislodge the embedded hair yourself with a sterilized needle. However, the cause for error is great and it can lead to scarring, so if you must dislodge the hair, get a doctor to do it for you. Another way to dislodge an ingrown hair is to wash the area with a warm washcloth or toothbrush for several minutes. Gently scrub the area with a mild soap before shaving and before you go to bed. If ingrown hairs are a constant problem for you, you may want to consider not shaving for a while. But if going au naturale isn't your style, your doctor should have a few remedies for you, such as:
- Medications - Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, which will help with inflammation. If the ingrown hair is infected, or if you think it's beginning to become infected, your doctor may give you antibiotics. If you suffer from hyperpigmentation around the ingrown hair or have hairs blocked by dead skin cells, your doctor may prescribe retinoids for you.
- Laser Hair Removal - If ingrown hairs are a constant problem for you, you may want to consider getting laser hair removal. Studies have shown that areas that have undergone treatment are less prone to ingrown hairs than areas that have not been treated. Laser hair removal permanently destroys the hair follicle and may cause skin discoloration. It generally works best on dark hair, but is quick and efficient in treating those stubborn hairs.
If you aren't sure whether or not you have an ingrown hair, you may want to check with your doctor to be sure. There are many other conditions that mimic the look and symptoms of ingrown hairs such as acne, warts, eczema, cysts, dermatitis, folliculitis, herpes and psoriasis.Ingrown hairs can be a pain -- literally and figuratively -- but the good news is that they're easily preventable. By changing your shaving techniques and using a little extra care when removing body hair, those stubborn hairs will quickly be scared straight.