Ingrown hairs are a part of the unfortunate reality of human grooming. These painful, itchy bumps are often a result of shaving. But what is the actual cause of ingrown hairs? And how should we go about treating and preventing them?
Ingrown hair refers to irregular hair growth in which the hair tip has curled and grown back into the skin instead of through it. As a result, people with curly or coarse hair are more likely to suffer from ingrown hairs. Clogged hair follicles or the hair removal process itself can cause ingrown hairs. When hair is removed, the new hair shaft and tip will typically come up through the skin without any problems. In some cases, the hair grows underneath the skin. The body considers this a foreign object and reacts with the proper immune response, causing the typical symptoms of ingrown hairs: pain, itching, redness, and swelling.
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Ingrown hairs typically do not require treatment, but picking or scratching at the hair can cause infection, skin darkening, or scarring, so self-treatment is typically not recommended unless sterile instruments are used. If an ingrown hair is bothersome, your doctor can remove the hair using a sterile needle or scalpel. Your doctor might also prescribe medication like steroids to reduce swelling, retinoid creams to remove dead skin cells and reverse skin darkening, or antibiotics for infections caused by ingrown hairs.
There are a few preventative measures that can reduce the likelihood of developing ingrown hairs. Exfoliating scrubs or washcloths can be used to prevent ingrown hairs. In addition, be sure to shave with a sharp razor. Dull razors can tug and pull at the hair causing irritation and rashes. The lifetime of razors depends on many variables, but typically, sharp razors will glide very smoothly across the skin. When shaving, wet your skin with warm water to open up the follicles. Shaving cream can also be useful in reducing irritation from shaving. Apply cool water after shaving and moisturize.
If shaving is still irritating to the skin, you may consider other hair removal options like electrolysis. The benefit of alternative hair removal methods is that they directly target the hair follicles rather than cut the blade of the hair. Ingrown hairs are an annoyance but can be easily prevented and avoided with proper care!
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