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Listen up, ladies and gentlemen—this is one skin care concern that can affect anyone, no matter your age, skin type, or gender. We’re talking about ingrown hairs. Have you ever spent time shaving your face or body, only to notice painful red bumps pop up days later? Or maybe you’ve tweezed your eyebrows to perfection, yet small inflamed bumps somehow turn up afterward. Ingrown hairs can happen to anyone who removes hair, either via shaving, tweezing, or waxing. Wondering if you can get rid of ingrown hairs? Or, maybe you’re questioning what an ingrown hair looks like? We’re here to help answer these questions, plus share tips to help stave off ingrowns in the first place. Keep reading for everything you need to know about this common skin concern.
In simple terms, ingrown hairs are exactly what they sound like: Hair that grows back into the skin, or becomes ingrown. So, instead of the hair growing outward from the follicle, poking through your skin, it grows from hair follicles under the skin. In some cases, when new hair grows after shaving, waxing, or tweezing—yes, your favorite hair removal methods can cause ingrown hairs—it curls back up and enters the skin, or it enters the skin before it even leaves the follicle. However it occurs, the bottom line is this: when the hair re-penetrates your skin, your body reacts as if it were foreign, and the hair follicle becomes inflamed. This is what leads to the itchy, red, and even painful bumps that are characteristic of ingrown hairs.
Some of the signs to look for if you think you may have an ingrown hair include skin irritation, small painful, itchy bumps (that can be solid or pus-filled), and even hyperpigmentation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Ingrown hairs most commonly occur on the beard area, chin, cheeks, and neck in men who shave their faces. Other common areas for ingrown hairs include the armpits, pubic area, and legs.
When ingrown hairs become chronic, they can lead to many unwanted skin issues, including bacterial infections, hyperpigmentation (aka dark spots), razor burn, and even permanent scarring. Yikes!
If you already have an ingrown hair or multiple ingrown hairs, the Cleveland Clinic recommends taking the following steps to help with the situation. First, stop shaving, waxing, or tweezing the area and allow the hair to grow. As tempting as it may be, don’t pick or scratch at the ingrown hair since this can cause scarring or infection. This means no at-home ingrown hair removal attempts. Instead, apply a warm compress to the affected area whenever it feels inflamed. Besides that, your best bet is to simply wait until the area improves on its own, which will usually be within one to six months, according to the Mayo Clinic. If this is a chronic occurrence for you, consider visiting a dermatologist, who may prescribe a topical medication that can help alleviate and prevent ingrown hairs. Common prescription topicals include steroid and retinoid creams.
As with many things in life, the best offense is a good defense. In other words, your best bet is to help defend against ingrown hairs before they even happen in the first place. The American Academy of Dermatology shares the following shaving tips. First, before you even begin, wet your skin with warm water to help soften it. Next, apply a hydrating shaving cream or gel, taking time to adequately rub it onto the patch of skin that you’re about to shave. Then, using a quality razor, gently shave in the direction that the hair grows—this is one of the most important steps to avoid ingrown hairs!
Another pro tip for shaving is to always exfoliate prior to picking up your razor. According to the Cleveland Clinic, exfoliating before shaving will help prevent the razor from becoming clogged by dead skin cells, which not only reduces its effectiveness, but can also cause ingrown hairs. Shaving your face? You can exfoliate with the L’Oréal Paris Pure-Sugar Purify & Unclog Kiwi Scrub, L’Oréal Paris Pure-Sugar Resurface & Energize Kona Coffee Scrub, L’Oréal Paris Pure-Sugar Nourish & Soften Cocoa Scrub, or the L’Oréal Paris Pure-Sugar Smooth & Glow Grapeseed Scrub.
If you notice you are developing ingrown hairs on the regular, rinse the razor after each swipe and also make sure to switch out your blade at least every five to seven shaves. For more shaving tips, head over to our article on How to Shave Your Legs Like a Pro.
And there you have it—now you know the causes, plan, and best prevention tips for ingrown hairs. Next, it’s time to learn about another common skin concern. Click through to our article, Can You Get Rid of Cellulite?
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