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Ingrown hairs: what to know and what not to do!

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The hairs on our body can sometimes become irritated or inflamed as they grow. Ingrown hairs, also called razor bumps in their milder form, arise when a hair gets trapped in skin as it attempts to grow beyond the skin surface. This can lead to bumps and discoloration on the skin that could last for several days, weeks, or even appear to become a permanent nuisance. Ingrown hairs can be painful, form skin cysts, or even become infected from secondary infections of the skin.

What causes ingrown hairs?

Shaving and hair removal practices are the main contributors to ingrown hairs. Courser hairs on the face and genital area are mostly affected but ingrown hairs may occur on any hair-bearing area. Grooming with razors, tweezers, and other blades lead to cut hairs that can become inflamed and irritated as they attempt to exit the skin. Curlier hairs may have trouble exiting the skin as they attempt to grow back from under the skin surface. Not only does shaving irritate and dehydrate the skin, but it results in regrowing hairs that may be further irritated and stuck in pockets of inflamed skin.

Who gets ingrown hairs?

Anyone may end up having a hair follicle that is irritated and/or stuck in the skin as it grows. This may affect those with courser or curlier hair. Those who shave the most often with close shaving techniques may experience more ingrown hairs. Therefore, it is no surprise that men develop ingrowns more in the facial beard area and women in the bikini area. Darker skin is associated with curlier and kinkier hair is more prone to ingrown hairs.

Photo courtesy of Forbes.com

How to treat and prevent ingrown hairs?

  1. Use a conditioning or soap agent during shaving to help lubricate the area and reduce skin irritation and inflammation.

  2. Minimize close shaves to reduce the number of hairs cut below the skin surface so there is less inflamed hairs attempting to re-exit the as they grow.

  3. Reduce shaving frequency if possible. The less hairs that are cut and then become inflamed as they regrow will lead to less ingrown hairs.

  4. Use topical moisturization products such as Tend Skin ( tendskin.com) or The Cool Fix immediately after shaving areas and for several days following shave to help hydrate the skin and minimize inflammation as the hair regrows.

  5. Turning to shaving alternatives, such as topical depilatories, waxing may result in less ingrown hairs but may still irritate the skin.

  6. Permanent hair reduction that eliminates shaving can help prevent and cure ingrown hairs: hair removal through electrolysis or laser hair removal.

What not to do!

  1. Do not squeeze or attempt to express an ingrown hair. This leads to further skin injury that could cause scar or a puss-filled cyst to form around the inflamed hair.

  2. Do not try to pick or pluck the hair. This could lead to permanent scarring, skin discoloration, and a skin infection.

  3. Avoid shaving over an inflamed ingrown hair. This could cause a secondary skin infection.

There are skin care practices and even hair removal methods that can help successfully treat and prevent ingrown hairs. If a skin bump is associated with swelling, discharge, pain, fever, chills, or sweats, this may indicate a skin infection. Please seek a health care provider for possible topical or oral treatment with antibiotics or anti-inflammatories.

Margareth Pierre-Louis