Prevention and Treatment of Ingrown Hairs
An ingrown hair occurs when a shaved or tweezed hair grows back into the skin, causing inflammation and irritation. This condition is most common in areas with coarse hair, like the bikini area in women, and beard and neck in men. Individuals with thicker, coarser hairs, such as African American and Mediterranean people tend to have the highest occurrence of ingrown hairs, however, an ingrown hair can affect anyone with tightly coiled hair who shaves, tweezes, waxes or uses electrolysis to remove hair. The problem results when highly curved hairs grow back into the skin causing inflammation, bumps and in severe cases infection.
Tips for the Ladies
Bumps around the bikini area are not only irritating (really, they itch and can be painful), they are embarrassing. If you shave your bikini area, you can avoid irritation by following these simple tips:
Trim before shaving. If you have never shaved your bikini line, or have not done so in a while, begin by trimming the hair as short as possible. This makes the job easier on you and the razor.
Soften the skin. Spend about 5-10 minutes in the shower or bath before shaving. The warm water will soften skin and relax the hair follicle.
Exfoliate. Gently exfoliate away the dead skin cells with a wash cloth to open blocked pores.
Use shaving cream, lotion or oil. This works as a barrier and helps the razor glide, rather than drag, across the skin – the primary cause of irritation and ingrown hairs.
Use a clean, fresh blade. Use firm but not excessive pressure. First shave in the same direction of hair growth, and then in the opposite direction while holding the skin taut. Avoid going over the same area too many times. Rinse the blade often to keep it clean.
Cleanse and Moisturize. Rinse bikini area and pat dry with a towel. Apply a light lotion – a thick lotion will clog the hair follicle. A light lotion will help hydrate the skin and make it softer and smoother.
Don’t irritate the area. Avoid workouts and tight clothing immediately after grooming (that includes waxing) to avoid irritation. Skin can be extra-sensitive to bacteria, moisture, and chafing from tight clothes.
If you already have ingrown hair, you might find these tips useful:
- Allow the hair to grow out before shaving again. You can trim the hair short (avoid shaving) until the redness and irritation has subsided.
- Treat ingrown hairs by gently exfoliating the affected area with a washcloth in the shower.
- Avoid picking at the ingrown hair in order to release it – the bump could get infected and may even leave a scar. Rather, try gently lifting ingrown hair with a toothpick (don’t use anything too sharp). If the hair doesn’t lift easily, stop, and if the area is tender or hot to the touch, see your doctor – it’s probably infected.
Tips for Men
About 60% of all African American men and many others with course facial hair struggle with ingrown hair from shaving. Shaving sharpens the ends of the hairs like a spear which then curves back into the skin causing razor bumps (or Pseudo Folliculitis Barbae – PFB). In severe cases, this can cause keloid scarring, which looks like hard bumps around the beard and neck areas. If you have PFB here are some tips on how to treat and prevent it:
Let the hair grow. The best treatment is to let the hair grow – this works in most case as it frees the hair from beneath the skin.
Let lesions or bumps heal. If you have lesions or bumps, avoid shaving for 2 to 4 weeks, or until the hair is free of the bump and the lesions have all subsided.
If you must shave. If growing out your beard while bumps and lesions heal is not an option, try products specifically formulated for ingrown hairs, razor burn and bumps. Products like PFB Vanish – a unique roll-on serum for ingrown hairs, or the Menscience Androceuticals collection of products made just for men with ingrown hair.
Shaving every other day, rather than daily, will improve PFB. If using a blade, soften the beard first with a hot, wet washcloth for 5 minutes. Then use lubricating shaving gel and shave with the grain of the beard and do not stretch the skin. Use only one stroke over each area of the beard.
Use an electric shaver. This may also help the condition because it does not cut as close as blades do. Use the electric shaver on high setting to avoid close shaving and prepare beard with electric shaver pre-shave. Do not stretch skin while shaving and shave with the grain of beard growth. Avoid multiple repetitions of strokes in the same area. Do not press razor head hard against the skin. Shave every other day.
Use a Barber’s Clipper. Try a barber’s clipper with a clipping guard to prevent shaving closer than 1mm cut of whisker hair – this will allow the hair to grow free of any blockage.
Electrolysis and laser hair removal. When all other methods of shaving fail to prevent ingrown hairs, consider electrolysis or laser hair removal, but these are expensive and take repeated visits. There is a very small risk of scarring.
Medications. In severe cases medications may be prescribed to speed healing. Glycolic acid lotion 8% is effective, prescription antibiotic gels or oral antibiotics all help heal the skin.
Men’s Skincare (healthyskinsolutions.com)
The Worst Things Men Do to Their Skin (healthyskinsolutions.com)