How to Banish Ingrown Hairs
It's no longer bikini season, but the struggle is still so real.
Now, we know it’s no longer ‘bikini season’, so look to your upper-left-ish toolbar, bookmark this, because before you mile-high-club your way (no judgement here) to that much needed beach vacation, you’re going to need this.
Because here on the East Coast, our summer is only three months long (if we’re lucky), who better to reach out to than Los Angeles-native, Dr. Jessica Wu, dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face, to give us the scoop on ingrown hairs and how to deal (because the struggle is real). Let’s just say we were, ahem, fast friends.
So, what exactly is an ingrown hair?
So, what exactly is an ingrown hair? They’re unruly little hairs that curl back into the skin, getting stuck under the skin itself in the process, instead of growing out like a normal, obedient hair. You can pretty much guarantee at that point that there will be some inflammation, red bumps, and even (can’t believe we’re even saying it out loud, but we promised we’d “go there”) whiteheads. The best way to prevent ingrown hair? Laser hair removal, but even after several sessions, it might not be permanent. If laser hair removal isn’t quite in the budget? “Try to exfoliate daily with a scrub or washcloth. This will remove dead skin cells and make it easier for hairs to grow out properly. However, if you have a lot of red bumps or the area is tender, skip the exfoliating until the area calms down to avoid making it even angrier.” Something to note: “Many patients tell me that waxing and threading produces more ingrowns than shaving. When you wax or thread, the technician yanks the hair out at the root. This can damage the hair follicle, so new hairs are weaker and have a harder time poking through the skin – therefore more ingrowns.”
Now, let’s get to those can’t-believe-you-asked-them-but-so-glad-you-did questions you really want to know the answers to:
...on squeezing it, tweezing it and leaving it:
“LEAVE IT. When you do get an ingrown, do NOT, I repeat, do NOT dig it out! The hair will likely grow back ingrown in another week or two. Instead, lift the tip of the hair out of the skin and trim it at the surface. This guarantees that it won’t grow back ingrown. If you absolutely can’t resist, then you can gently squeeze, just once, then stop and cover with a Band-Aid until the next morning. This will help prevent scabs and scars. If you pick and squeeze until it bleeds, it’s more likely to scab and leave dark marks, especially if you have a darker complexion.”
...on the best products for preventing nasty ingrowns:
“When you shower, use a loofah or washcloth along with an exfoliating cleanser containing salicylic acid to loosen dead skin cells in the area. Many acne cleansers (like Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash) contain salicylic acid. Or, try Philosophy Clear Days Ahead cleanser. At night, use a toner containing salicylic acid. If you prefer using natural products, try Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Clarifying Toner, which contains salicylic acid derived from Willowbark Extract.”
Note: “Do not use these products right after you wax. The day you wax, use gentle cleansers and skip toners or exfoliators. If there’s redness or sensitivity from the wax, put a thin layer of cold aloe vera gel or calendula gel over the area to soothe irritation.”
...on waiting to, uh, get busy:
“You won’t be more likely to get ingrowns, but your lady parts will be more sensitive to chafing, so your skin might get irritated and you might break out in red patches or itchy bumps—even more likely to happen if he man-scapes and has stubble down there.”
...on having the perfect excuse to avoid the gym:
“You can work out right away, but if there’s redness or sensitivity, the area may get more red and inflamed right afterwards. As long as it doesn’t burn or sting, you’re fine to work out. However, I wouldn’t recommend swimming or going into a hot tub the same day as waxing – could irritate freshly waxed skin.”
...on having the perfect excuse to wear sweatpants:
“Your skin will be more sensitive after waxing, so wear soft, slippery fabrics that glide against your skin and won’t “catch” on stubble and won’t feel scratchy against your skin.”
...on the tell-tale signs of 'down-there' grooming gone wrong:
“Whiteheads that last longer than a week or two. Pain that gets worse. Large, tender lumps that indicate cysts and may be a sign of a deeper infection, such as Staph.”
...on leaving us with one last word of wisdom:
“If you dread waxing because of the pain, try to schedule your session for the week after your period. Your hormone levels will be lower and you’ll be less sensitive. Avoid going the week before your period, when it will likely be more painful.”