It’s never fun when your own body turns on you, and ingrown hair happens to be a repeat offender. They might begin as a harmless nuisance (just a bit of light treason), but they become full-blown infected areas (DEFCON 1 level severity) in the blink of an eye. Yep, these annoying and painful ingrown hair bumps are the unsightly little Benedict Arnolds of the otherwise well-groomed body.
But it doesn’t have to be this way — we swear.
Eliminating ingrown hairs completely may not be totally doable, but a few tweaks to your regular routine will certainly help keep them at bay.
Why it’s a drag: Ingrown hairs are incredibly common in both men and women, and can happen anywhere you shave or remove hair — face, legs, head, armpits, what have you. They are essentially caused when a hair curls back around and grows into your skin instead of growing up and outward. Your skin reacts to this the same way it would to any foreign object that tries to make its way though — it gets inflamed and angry. You’ll know you have one when you see a small and itchy, solid or blister-like bump coupled with an embedded hair. Sexy, right?
Bottom line: They don’t look good. And they hurt. The good news is that most ingrown hairs will resolve themselves in a few days, but like almost everything, it can get complicated. If irritated, these twisted sisters can even lead to a nasty bacterial infection. (Resist the urge to Google that; you’ve been warned.)
Who suffers the most: Those of you with coarse, curly hair are more prone to ingrown hairs just given the shape and texture of the hair itself — but no one is immune.
Make it go away: Improper shaving is one of the main causes of ingrown hairs, so by making sure you’re doing it right, you reduce the risk of the hair turning back on you. First of all, wash and exfoliate your skin before doing the deed. Dead skin can clog the hair follicle, making it easier for hairs to get trapped.
Second, make sure you are using a fresh, sharp razor every single time, as well as warm water and proper lubrication.
Do rinse your blade after every stroke to remove any accumulated gunk.
Do not pull your skin taut as you shave.
Do shave in the same direction that your hair is growing in. This can vary from person to person and even from your cheek to your neck, so just feel around. Does it feel smooth? Then you’re going the right way. Is it rough and feels like you’re petting your dog the wrong way? About face, soldier.
Once you’re done, you can use a cool, damp towel to help with irritation, or use a moisturizing agent to really soothe and protect your skin.
If you do happen to get an ingrown hair, rub the area in a circular motion with a warm, wet washcloth for several minutes to try and ease the hair out gently. Repeat daily if needed. If you can clearly see a loop of hair at the surface and it’s easy to get to, you can use a sterile needle or tweezers to tug out and free the ingrown end. Whatever you do, don’t dig around in there with less-than-sterile tweezers, lest you want to gamble with the possibility of infection. If the area gets swollen or starts to feel hot to the touch, it’s time to call in the professionals. Ditto for any deep-seated or particularly painful hairs that just won’t go away.