How to Get Rid of Those Stubborn Ingrown Hairs
Plus, dermatologist-approved tips for preventing them in the first place.
We’re all familiar with this moment—you throw on your cute new swimsuit, ready to hit the beach, and as you’re shimmying off your cover-up, you feel a little pain in your bikini region. You glance down and a red, irritated bump is staring back at you. Hello, ingrown hair, you are unwelcome. However much you choose to groom your nether regions via waxing, shaving, or the occasional trim, we’re all susceptible to the errant ingrown, men included. Everything from your legs to a beard can develop them, but in the summer especially, when you want to wear as little clothing as possible (because humidity), they can become quite the nuisance.
But first, what exactly is an ingrown? Board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical Dr. Morgan Rabach explains that an ingrown hair is when “your hair gets trapped beneath the surface of the skin instead of growing through the skin.” This in turn can cause that telltale irritation and pain (and sometimes pus, depending on the severity of the case) as your immune system attempts to rid your body of the hair. For women, they present most frequently along the bikini line, while men often experience ingrowns in their beards. Curly hair is the primary risk factor here. If they develop in clusters, it can become a condition known as pseudo folliculitis, aka razor bumps.
While it may be tempting to just let skin irritation be, most ingrowns will need to be removed manually, lest they become more infected. Says Dr. Rabach, “White blood cells, our immune fighters, recognize that the hair is not supposed to be under the skin completely. So they come to the area, causing inflammation and pain.”
Luckily, you can take care of an ingrown at home if you act quickly enough. Dr. Rabach recommends applying a warm compress, like a clean washcloth, to the area to help open up your pores and then gently tweezing the hair out. Then shave the area in one direction with a fresh, sharp razor. However, if you’re unable to tweeze the hair yourself, or the bump and subsequent pain take more than a week to resolve, you can visit your doctor or dermatologist’s office to have them excise the area and remove the hair.
Rather than constantly battle ingrowns, it’s best to adopt a few best practices for your hair-removal routine. For areas prone to developing ingrowns, Dr. Rabach recommends using hot water to soften the hairs prior to shaving, using shaving cream, and always working with a sharp blade. Apply an antibiotic or hydrocortisone cream afterward to reduce inflammation.
For the face, she suggests incorporating a retinol cream to remove dead skin and debris that can clog hair follicles; for the bikini area, she’s a fan of clindamycin lotion because “it’s watery, spreads easily, and doesn’t leave residue. [Try mixing] tretinoin or adapalene with CeraVe [cream] or Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel.” And while you’re in the shower, make sure that you’re not only exfoliating your face, but your body as well. Dr. Rabach’s favorite is SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser, which also lightens dark spots left over from ingrown hairs or acne. Just be sure to not exfoliate right after you remove an ingrown—allow your skin to rest and heal. Consider yourself *officially* bikini-ready!
Shop a few of Dr. Rabach’s and our favorite products for preventing ingrown hairs:
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