"Is this a pimple? A bug bite?" These were likely your reactions when your first ingrown hair cropped up on a freshly shaven leg. Sadly, that first one likely wasn't your last.
A super common occurrence for women and men, Ingrown hairs aren't the prettiest as is and if left untreated, they can cause more serious issues than you'd imagine. This is why it’s especially important to understand where they come from and how you can prevent them. Now it's time to say good bye and good riddance to ingrown hairs by understanding the cause, actively working on prevention and remedying with solutions.
Although more common for those with curly or coarse hair, everyone can experience ingrown hairs. An ingrown hair occurs when the hair bends back and re-enters the skin, often causing an infection cropping up as a red bump or pustule. This is particularly common after the hair has been shaved or cut. People with higher levels of certain hormones can experience excessive hair growth which can increase their chances of getting ingrown hairs. But really, they can happen to everyone. Luckily, there are simple things to do to keep ingrown hairs at bay.
Exfoliate with a salt or sugar scrub. Exfoliating on the regular with quality salt or sugar scrubs will remove dead skin cells and dirt and help prevent ingrown hairs by lowering inflammation and swelling. Try making your own to customize scent and keep costs down.
Shave in the same direction your hair grows. A classic tip that is bettered by shaving slowly and using a moisturizing shaving gel or cream. Rinse the blade frequently and try to rinse your skin with cold or lukewarm water afterwards to constrict the hair follicles.
Scrub up after shaving. Using a loofah or scrub, doing this will lessen the likelihood of clogged pores, which might serve as the perfect environment for ingrown hairs to take root.
Use an ingrown hair serum after exfoliating. These serums (you can find one at your local drug store or salon) help to keep freshly shaven, sometimes raw skin hydrated and soothe irritation and inflammation.
Pat skin dry instead of rubbing. Now you know: rubbing your skin dry causes friction leading to inflammation and irritation, and possibly ingrown hairs. Pat dry and moisturize to keep your skin smooth and soothed.
Avoid shaving altogether. If you don’t need to shave, don’t! Alternatively, try waxing or another hair removal method like laser hair removal or depilatory creams if you continue to suffer from ingrown hairs in those must-shave areas.
Don’t pick at your ingrown with your fingers. Picking at an ingrown hair can actually drive it further into the skin, increase swelling and inflammation and add bacteria to the area—ultimately making it much worse and more painful. Don’t pick!
Don’t try to remove an ingrown that isn’t ready. If your ingrown hair isn’t at the surface of your skin yet, it isn’t ready to be removed. Give it time and let it come to the surface before properly removing it.
Use sterilized tweezers. When the hair is ready and you go in for the kill with your tweezers, be sure to sterilize them first by dampening a cloth with rubbing alcohol and wiping them clean. Cleanliness is key.
Apply acne medication to the area. Apply an over-the-counter acne medication containing salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide to the area several times a day for a few days. This will dry up the infection and reduce redness.
Particularly noticeable during the summer months when we're baring it all, it can be life-changing to be completely ingrown hair free. And since we’re all susceptible to these rather annoying little buggers, keeping these tips in mind year-round can make all the difference. If you can only remember two things, repeat after us: "Don't pick and go with the grain!"
Photos: Rob Bayer / Shutterstock, watchandsoda / Shutterstock, S1001 / Shutterstock