What is ingrown hair?
An ingrown hair occurs when the hair that is removed through shaving, tweezing or waxing grows back into the skin. The skin then reacts as it would to a foreign object as part of the immune system. This reaction will trigger inflammation around the affected area and can even get infected. It can happen anywhere on the body but legs, pubic and bikini areas, buttocks and armpits are the most common sites.
What does ingrown hair look like?
Small inflamed or swollen bumps, which may be painful. These may appear as solid bumps or pus-filled blisters. Redness, itchiness, skin darkening due to inflammation, and pimples are amongst other symptoms.
What causes ingrown hair?
- Hair structure and direction of growth play a role in ingrown hair. A curved hair follicle, which produces tightly curled hair, encourages the hair to re-enter the skin once the hair is removed and starts to grow back.
- Dead skin cells can clog the follicle, causing the hair to grow under the skin or re-enter its follicle or the one nearby. The hair then grows inward instead of growing out of the surface of the skin.
- Any hair removal method that cuts the hair shaft below or too close to the surface of the skin may pose the risk of ingrown hair.
- Shaving creates a sharp edge on the hair shaft, making it easier to pierce the skin.
What are the complications associated with ingrown hair?
Often an ingrown hair will go away on its own however, an ingrown hair that doesn’t clear up can lead to:
- Bacterial infection. If the ingrown hair becomes infected, you may need a topical antibiotic prescribed by a doctor. In severe cases oral antibiotics may be required.
- Discolouration of the skin, also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
- Raised scars that are darker than surrounding skin
How to reduce the risk of ingrown hair?
To prevent ingrown hair, avoid shaving, tweezing and waxing. Other hair removal methods, such as trimming, may help to avoid a too close shave and may be a better option if you are prone to ingrown hair.
If that’s not an option, use these tips to make ingrown hair less likely:
- Avoid over-waxing. You’ll need to let your hair grow out completely before you can safely remove it again.
- Prepare the skin by applying shaving cream or gel a few minutes before shaving to soften the hair shaft.
- Only use sharp razors. Dull razors may not cut hair straight, which can cause the hairs to curl back into the skin.
- Use a single-blade razor. This helps avoid a too-close shave.
- Change blades regularly. In case of reusable blades, clean thoroughly and let the razor air dry completely after each use. Blades left wet for long periods of time are the perfect environment for bacteria and fungal growth.
- Don’t pull your skin while shaving. This also helps avoid a too-close shave
- Shave in the direction of hair growth by short quick movements.
- Rinse the blade after each stroke.
- Avoid using occlusive skincare products to the areas prone to ingrown hair. Such products can clog hair follicles and increase the risk of hairs growing inward.
- Exfoliate regularly using an oil free non-occlusive exfoliating serum that is specifically designed for the intended areas. This will help remove the dead skin cells which otherwise may clog the hair follicle resulting in ingrown hair.
- Hydrate the skin regularly using an oil free non-occlusive hydrating gel, especially after every hair removal session. Hydrated skin will promote hair growth in the right direction and reduce the risk of ingrown hairs.
How to avoid further irritating the skin once ingrown hair occurred?
- Do not scratch, pick or squeeze ingrown hairs as this can damage your skin, lead to infections and in some cases may leave a scar behind.
- It may help to stop shaving, tweezing, waxing or using hair removal creams until the condition improves.
- Avoid tight clothing as this may further irritate the skin.
- Avoid physical scrubs to prevent worsening irritation and inflammation.
How is ingrown hair treated?
- Regular exfoliation using an oil free non-occlusive exfoliating serum helps to unclog hair follicles to release the trapped hair shaft faster.
- Keeping the skin hydrated using an oil free non-occlusive hydrating gel will soften the surface skin to allow the trapped hair to grow to the surface faster.
- In severe cases, see a practitioner to extract the ingrown hair and treat infections that it may have caused.
Intimate Ingrown Hair Routine (Exfoliating Serum, Cleansing Gel and Hydrating Gel)
Our Intimate Ingrown Hair Routine includes 3 products from our intimate care range which have been specifically designed for the most sensitive areas of the body; bikini line, hair-bearing genital areas (mons pubis and labia majora) as well as inner thighs.