Ingrown hairs are painful, embarrassing (though they shouldn’t be!), and happen to the best of us. They are impossible to anticipate and they always spring up when you least expect them. Whether they’re a part of your bikini line or beard history, they are an obstacle to getting your smoothest skin. But the good news is that the treatment for any kind of ingrown is essentially the same across the board, so once you know how to treat one, you’re well equipped to get your skin back on track. Here’s what you need to know to prevent and take care of ingrown hair:
The Causes of Unwanted Ingrown Hairs
“Ingrowns can be random, which means they occur for no particular reason, maybe one a year or once a lifetime. But usually, ingrowns come from some method of hair removal whether it’s shaving or actually something that pulls the hair out like plucking, waxing, or threading,” explains Dr. Schultz. When you wax, for example, you pull the hair out very rapidly and that very rapid pulling actually disrupts the lining of the hair follicle. If the lining is gone then the next time that hair grows, it won't have its path to get out through the skin. It ends up coming up against the inside of the skin and this is what causes your ingrown. While there are a million different ways to remove hair, most of them come at the price of getting an ingrown hair or two.
Avoiding Ingrown Hairs While Shaving
Don’t shave until after you shower. If you shave at the end of your shower, your hair will have been softened by the moisture of the shower so your shave isn’t as rough or abrasive against your skin. To aid against that roughness, always use shaving gel and razors with two or three blades. Disposable razors are usually duller and can cause irritation even after one shave. Start shaving with the grain, or in the direction that the hair grows, can also help prevent ingrown hairs.
The Issue of Ingrown Hairs While Waxing
Waxing has always been the alternative to shaving because it is fast, inexpensive, and can last longer than a normal shave. But still, there remains the problem of ingrown hairs post-wax. “The real problem though, is that once a hair is in-growing, it’s always in-growing,” says Dr. Schultz. This means that every time the hair starts to grow again, even when you stop waxing, it’s going to grow inwards. Pulling your hairs out rapidly actually disrupts a lining in your hair follicle, which is why the next time your hair grows, it won’t have a path to grow out through the skin. This vicious cycle is the reason that once you have a hair growing inward, it will always grow inward.
Fixing Your Ingrown Hair
The fastest and most efficient treatment for an ingrown hair is not one you should do in the comfort of your own home. It involves a dermatologist taking a sterile needle and popping open the ingrown hair, then applying pressure to force it out of the skin. Very similarly to the way you would treat a blackhead, applying pressure to the root will push the ingrown hair from underneath your skin and relieve any discomfort. But if you’re home, treat the ingrown hair by applying a warm (not too hot!) compress on the affected area. Alternate on and off for three or four minutes, three to four times a day. This will cause the hair to draw up toward the surface. Following the compress, use an ingrown hair exfoliating pad to reduce the appearance of ingrown hairs with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that won't cause irritation in your sensitive areas.
While ingrown hairs might be unsightly, they’re just an after effect of all the plucking and prodding we do to our skin on a daily basis. Taking the time to moisten your skin and avoid irritation while shaving are just a few ways to help prevent ingrown hairs. If you have recurring ingrown hairs, ask your dermatologist about laser hair removal because it is the only way to make sure a hair will stop growing. And most importantly, don’t be ashamed of your ingrowns, they happen to everyone!
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