Ingrown Hairs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
Whether it’s once in a while or every time you remove body hair, ingrown hairs are a real pain. Ingrown hairs can ruin any occasion with their red, swollen, and bulbous appearance - not to mention being extremely sensitive and painful to the touch.
But I have great news! Ingrown hairs are treatable and preventable! Let me show you how to recognize, treat, and prevent ingrown hairs.
First, let’s start with the basics….
What Are Ingrown Hairs?
Is it a pimple? Is it a bump? It might be an ingrown hair… An ingrown hair is a hair strand that grows back into the skin, as opposed to growing up and through the skin’s surface. Ingrown hairs are often accompanied by uncomfortable symptoms such as redness, itching, and even acne-like bumps.
What Causes An Ingrown Hair?
Improper hair removal
Dry shaving, shaving too often, or shaving too close to the skin falls under the category of improper hair removal. When we shave, the first blade of the razor will lift up the hair strand so the next blade can slice it off. If we shave too close to the skin, by applying too much pressure or pulling the skin tight, the second blade will cut the hair below the skin line and give the hair strand a sharp edge. When it is time for the hair to grow, the sharp tip and awkward position of the cut will cause the hair strand to curl back into the skin and remain trapped beneath the skin’s surface.
We recommend using our Francesca Trimmer™ to avoid ingrown hairs. Francesca will trim the hair without cutting the strand low enough for it to fall beneath the skin line.
Ingrown hairs are also caused by clogged pores. Normally, the hair is supposed to grow up from its root and through the pore (the skin’s opening). Pores can often become clogged by dead skin cells due to a lack of exfoliation. When the pore is clogged, the hair strand cannot break through the opening and instead will curl back down underneath the skin’s surface - causing ingrown hair.
We recommend working our ultra-hydrating Nude sugar scrub into your pre-hair removal routine. This scrub will remove the dead skin cells, dirt, and oil that naturally accumulate throughout the day. This debris would otherwise seep into freshly opened pores, clog the hair follicle and leave an angry ingrown hair behind.
After we shave, the hair follicles are completely open and vulnerable. The only thing that should touch the skin after hair removal is a treatment oil designed to protect the skin, reduce irritation, and combat bacteria. Applying a deodorant too soon after shaving the armpit increases the risk of irritating the skin and blocking the pores. We recommend waiting 10-20 minutes before applying your deodorant after a shave.
Hair texture is a crucial factor that may contribute to ingrown hairs. Areas of the body with curly or coarse hair (like the pubic region) are more likely to experience ingrown hairs. Curly hair naturally grows toward/into the skin rather than up and away, according to the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA).
Nourishing body hair treatment oils can help soften the hair and prevent the strand of hair from curling inward. We recommend trying the Sweet Escape Oil. The Sweet Escape Collection is ultra-hydrating and has a soft and sweet aroma of tangerine and vanilla, similar to a creamsicle.
Wearing tight clothing, especially tight undies, right after hair removal can cause ingrown hairs. If too close to the skin, the fabric will trap the hair that is beginning to grow back and force them to grow sideways. We recommend using either: 1) 100% cotton underwear; and or 2) less tight undies. 100% cotton undies are a good alternative to use after hair removal as this material doesn't bother the skin as much. In addition, looser underwear will minimize friction and irritation.
We spoke with board-certified Gynecologist Dr. Arumala to understand the effects of wearing tight clothing immediately after hair removal. According to Dr. Arumala, "frequent friction causes dark spots and ingrown hairs. You may notice where your skin touches (i.e. the thighs, underarms etc.) there are dark areas and hyperpigmentation - that’s from friction."
Should you tweeze out ingrown hairs?
No! You should refrain from tweezing and tugging at ingrown hairs; this will open the pore and leave the hair follicle vulnerable to further irritation and infection. The best course of action is to keep the area dry, clean, and avoid shaving over the ingrown hair until it has cleared up. Using tweezers on ingrown hairs can lead to infection or further irritation.
Preventive Action Against Ingrown Hairs
The key to preventing ingrown hairs is to keep the skin moisturized and exfoliated.
Moisturizing is essential for two reasons: 1) it softens the skin making it easier for the hair to break through the skin’s surface; and 2) it prevents any build-up of dead skin cells at the pore’s opening.
In addition, exfoliation removes dead skin from the surface and unclogs the pores so the hair can grow through the skin as opposed to getting trapped underneath.
Hair Removal Routine to Prevent Ingrown Hairs
Step 1. Prep your tools
Your razor should be fresh and sharp. A worn blade is likely to be much less efficient because it requires more passes over the same area to remove the unwanted hair. Any dullness or rust on your razor blade will lead to a weaker cut; this can irritate the skin and cause micro-abrasions (little cuts) on the skin. Also, old razors track bacteria. This debris could seep into the freshly opened hair follicles and leave an itchy razor rash or infection in the most delicate areas.
On the other hand, a sharp blade will remove as much hair as possible with minimal strokes. It is best to avoid this by replacing your blade at least every ten shaves. Click here to learn more about shaving pubic hair properly.
Simply put, make sure your razor is clean, sharp (never use a dull razor!) and stored outside of the shower in a cool and dry area to avoid bacteria buildup.
Step 2. Unclog pores and detox the skin
Before showering, gently buff your skin with our Nordic Dry Brush. Made with densely packed all natural bristles, this brush will gently sweep away dead skin cells and unclog your pores.
Dr Aruamala says, “dry brushing opens up the pores so the skin can fully ingest whatever you’re treating your skin with. The dry brush can be used in conjunction with treatment oils, body washes, exfoliating scrubs and body moisturizers, to make your products more effective.”
We recommend using this product 1-3 times a week (pre-shower) - depending on how sensitive your skin is. Lightly stroke the brush in an upward motion towards your heart. Adding a dry brush into your skincare routine comes with many benefits.
Step 3. Trim
Trimming before shaving pubic hair is a crucial step. The Francesca Trimmer™ is designed to comb all the hair in the same direction and cut it down to the same size; this will prevent ingrown hairs caused by being shaved at a weird angle.
Pubic hair has a wiry texture and can sometimes curl and grow in different directions. This can become an issue when it comes time to shave. As previously mentioned, the first blade of the razor will lift up the hair strand so the next blade can slice it off. If the hair strand is too long, curled, or pointing in a weird direction, the razor won’t be able to properly lift the strand. Instead, the razor will cut the strand at a weird angle. The hair could then fall below the skin line with a sharp edge. When it is time for the hair to grow, the sharp tip and awkward position of the cut will cause the hair strand to curl back into the skin, remain trapped beneath the skin’s surface, and become an ingrown hair.
Click here to learn more about how to use the Francesca Trimmer™.
Step 4. Exfoliate
Exfoliating is like pressing the reset button on your skin. This step will sweep away dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria from the surface of the skin to reveal a fresh, healthy, and supple layer of new skin. Some studies show that consistent body exfoliation can slow down the aging process by boosting collagen production throughout the entire body (if you're interested, you can learn more here).
When it comes to the bikini area, exfoliation provides even more benefits! Exfoliating is a crucial step to help prevent common skin concerns caused by hair removal, namely: razor bumps, ingrown hairs, and itchy pubic hair. Treat your skin to a gentle scrubbing in the shower.
Using a combination of nourishing ingredients and essential oils, Bushbalm™ sugar scrubs will deep clean your pores and let your skin breathe. We recommend using the scrub 2-3 times a week in the shower - depending on how sensitive your skin is. Monique Haddad, Brazilian wax specialist says “use this Bushbalm scrub as much as your skin can handle it, around 2-4 times a week to bring the hair to the skins surface.”
Step 5. Treat
Our treatment oils were formulated to tackle your ingrown hairs by softening the skin/hair, making it easier for the hair to grow back normally. Thanks to Tea Tree Oil and its antibacterial properties, regular application will help prevent but also repair wounds from past ingrown hairs.
Tea tree oil is packed with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, Tea Tree Oil is a natural healer. This ingredient provides a soothing sensation to calm redness, swelling, and inflammation. We recommend using a treatment oil on a daily basis.
For the best results, apply the product within 2 minutes of stepping out of the shower since the skin is most absorbent during this time.
Step 6. Repeat
When it comes to preventing ingrown hairs, consistency is key. Each product in the Skincare Everywhere collection will work together to keep your skin clean, moisturized and exfoliated - a combination that will minimize any future occurrence of ingrown hairs.
Treating Ingrown Hairs
Give it Time to Heal
The best and safest way to get rid of ingrown hair is to let it heal on its own, which should take 2-4 days if you keep the area dry, clean, and away from hair removal products; you should also avoid tight clothing that might cause friction with the area. Trying to extract it yourself (squeeze it, pick at it, use tweezers on it) will most likely end with pain, an actual infection, and maybe a scar.
Keep it Clean
Keep the ingrown area clean. It's best to use a pH balanced daily cleanser is an important step to make sure that no lingering bacteria can infect the irritated hair follicle. One of the most common areas to get ingrown hairs is near the vulva - making a pH-balanced body wash a must in your routine.
Investing in a pH-balanced cleanser is an important step to make sure that no lingering bacteria seeps into the freshly opened hair follicles after hair removal. Before we move on, let's take a closer look at pH and why it's so important to find pH-balanced products.
The importance of using pH balanced products
pH stands for potential for hydrogen. The pH level of the skin refers to how acidic or alkaline the skin is on a scale from 1-14. On the pH scale, 7 is neutral, below 7 is acidic (0 being the most acidic), and above 7 is alkaline (14 being the most alkaline). The ideal pH level for the skin like on the acidic side and ranges from 4.5 to 5.5 (on the acidic side). An acidic pH kills bacteria and keeps the skin balanced, hydrated, and rejuvenated. An acidic pH helps keep your skin balanced, hydrated, healthy, and radiant.
So what does all that mean? Simply put, the skin must maintain a balance of acidity and alkalinity to combat germs, fight infection, retain/store nutrients and minerals and protect you against external stresses.
If the pH balance is off, the skin can have adverse reactions. See for yourself:
- When the pH balance is too alkaline, one may experience acne, dryness, accelerated aging (fine lines and wrinkles). This can lead to conditions like eczema.
- When the pH balance is too acidic, one may experience inflammation and irritation. This effect is similar to what would happen if you put a harsh chemical peel on your skin; the skin becomes "burnt", sensitive, irritated, and prone to breakouts.
In sum, it's important to ensure that the pH of your skin remains balanced so that you don't have to deal with the consequences of your skin being too alkaline or too acidic.
Treat the ingrown hair on a daily basis
Ingrown hair treatment oils are your best friend when it comes to getting rid of active ingrown hairs. Made from the highest quality of natural oils to ensure a soft and luxurious feeling on your skin, Nude Oil soothes ingrown hairs. Nude Oil is infused with Jojoba and Copaiba oils that work to soften the skin and soothe skin irritation. It also contains tea tree oil and grape seed oil: tea tree is a natural healer that protects the skin from bacteria while the grape seed allows the mixture to dry into the skin quickly and seamlessly.
Use a warm compress
Apply a warm damp cloth or compress to the ingrown hair for a few minutes. This should help soften the skin and bring out the hair to its surface. If it is deeper than expected, you might want to apply a warm compress several times a day to, at least, relieve discomfort. This tip also comes highly recommended by Brazilian wax expert Monique Haddad. She says "I often tell my clients to use a hot compress to control inflammation caused by an ingrown hair".
Trim - don't shave
If you are prone to ingrown hairs or are currently dealing with ingrown hairs you may want to consider trimming. According to dermatologist Dr. Elbuluk, "one of the worst things to do when having ingrown hair is to continue to shave and remove hair in the affected region" Enough said. Trimming is a good alternative because the blade of trimmer does come in direct contact with the skin. The hair is cut above the skin's surface.
Common places to experience ingrown hairs
Ingrown hairs can show up anywhere hair on the body grows. Think bikini line, legs, underarms, neck, face, stomach, etc. This is why a proper skincare routine for the entire body is so important.
When to seek medical professional help
While it is quite rare for an ingrown hair to require a visit to the doctor or prescribed antibiotic creams, it’s important to consult a medical professional or a dermatologist if you notice signs of infection, including pus build-up, growth, red bumps increasing in size or pain that lasts for more than a few days. Listen to your body and be aware of signs of stress.