How to Get Rid of Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs are something that just about everyone will experience at one time or another and often, left alone, will cause no problems and grow out eventually.
They are particularly common in those with naturally thick, curly hair or in areas of the body where hair is coarse or curly e.g. bikini area, underarms, male face.
Often hair removal by such methods as shaving, waxing or epilating will cause ingrown hairs.
Typically, symptoms of ingrown hairs include raised bumps, sometimes pus-filled and sore, itchy skin which, if it becomes infected leads to folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles).
Folliculitis is very common and can usually be effectively treated at home, however in severe cases where symptoms worsen over 3 or 4 days it will be necessary to seek medical advice, for treatment and to rule out other skin conditions.
What are the Options?
Firstly, whatever you do don't scratch them or try to pop them - tempting as it is, you may well cause infection and scarring.
Try to leave them alone, just treating with a soothing lotion such as aloe vera or witch hazel until the inflammation has abated.
One of the reasons that ingrown hairs develop in the first place is if the hair has difficulty in breaking through to the surface.
If the hair is close to the surface, exfoliation may be all that is needed to help it along.
All you really need is a clean flannel, or you can use an exfoliation mitten, brush or sponge depending on the area.
Using a circular motion gently and thoroughly rub over the skin for a few minutes, repeating the process once or twice a day
After exfoliating, dab with witch hazel and use a light moisturizer to keep the skin soft and supple.
Once the hair has been freed and is showing through, don't be tempted to pluck it out, just leave it alone to grow out for a few days, giving the skin a chance to heal and minimizing the risk of recurrence.
There are a number of battery operated exfoliating brushes which are very effective.
These have round, soft bristle, rotating heads to make the whole dry exfoliation process very efficient, super quick and easy to do.
Pack of 3 washcloths - one side textured terrycloth for exfoliation the other soft weave for gentler cleansing
Exfoliation plays an important part in helping to minimise ingrown hairs from developing in the first place and should be part of your regular skincare routine.
For more information see our Guide to Skin Exfoliation.
Topical treatments available over the counter such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can be used for ingrown hairs.
Both Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are often used to treat acne, and are chemical exfoliants which have a peeling effect on the skin to remove dead skin cells and open the follicles.
Another option you could try is using crushed aspirin in water to make a paste to apply to the skin.
Aspirin is high in salicylate, which is derived from salicylic acid, and so has a similarly beneficial effect for ingrown hairs.
Crush 2 or 3 aspirin and add to about 1 tsp water to make a paste, or you could also add honey (about 1 tsp) for its natural antibacterial and antiseptic properties.
Apply to the area, leave on for around 10 minutes and remove gently with warm water.
Be very cautious using any medical treatments if you have very sensitive skin. Try on a small, unobtrusive area first and leave for 24 hours to test for adverse effects.
Using a hot compress on the ingrown hair will help to soften the skin and draw it to the surface in a similar way you may treat a splinter.
Exfoliate the area first to remove any build up of dead skin cells or bacteria.
Then simply use a wash flannel or towel steeped in hot water, as hot as you can comfortably bear without burning your skin.
Wring it out and hold it against the area until it cools, gently and without too much pressure, and then you can repeat as necessary.
If the hair comes through, leave it to grow out for a few days before removing, or if you can see it just below the surface you may need to tease it out with the tips of some sharp, pointed tweezers.
Tweezing is only really suitable as a last resort, if the hair is tantalizingly close to the surface and just needs the looped end to be helped out.
You should exfoliate first, then try the compress.
You will need a really good, sharp pair of point-tipped tweezers that have been sterilized with rubbing alcohol or the like, to avoid infection.
Stainless steel tweezers with tapered,sharp, pointed tips for removing ingrowns or splinters etc from just below the skin
With one tip of the tweezer, very gently tease out the tip of the hair. Don't dig around or attempt to use tweezers on deep hairs as you don't want to risk scarring.
Again, once the hair is through, don't be tempted to tweeze it out, but dab with antiseptic and leave for a few days to calm down first.
Can I stop Ingrown Hairs from Happening?
Unfortunately, the short answer to this is no - in normal circumstances, it is impossible to eliminate ingrown hairs completely.
In terms of hair removal, the two methods which do not cause ingrown hairs tend to be costly. These are electrolysis (performed at a salon) or laser/IPL (either at a salon, or many home IPL devices now available).
Minimizing the Risk
There are, however, ways in which you can minimize the risk of creating them through the other more common hair removal methods: