- Ingrown hairs usually appear in places that are frequently shaved or waxed; for women, they are most common in the bikini area, and for men, they often appear in the beard area.
- Some options for removing an ingrown hair at home include applying a topical acne cream, using a tea tree oil soak, and removing the hair with a small needle and tweezers.
- You can also prevent ingrown hairs by using a sharp razor, exfoliating before you shave, and shaving in the direction of the hair.
- This article was medically reviewed by Kathleen C. Suozzi, MD, Director of the Aesthetic Dermatology Program at Yale School of Medicine.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Ingrown hairs are painful. What often starts as a mild annoyance can quickly turn into a sensitive, raised bump that lingers for days. Here’s what causes ingrown hairs, how to identify them, and what you need to know about getting rid of ingrown hairs at home.
What is an ingrown hair?
An ingrown hair is a hair that curls back onto itself, growing back into the skin and causing inflammation. Tight, curly hair is the main risk factor for ingrown hairs, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Ingrown hairs typically happen after shaving, waxing, or tweezing when the removed hair grows back into the skin. While ingrown hairs can occur anywhere on the body, they are most common near the bikini area for women and the beard area for men since these are the most frequently shaved areas.
How to treat ingrown hairs
Treating ingrown hair at home is safe and straightforward, as long as you follow a few steps. That said, if the area is infected, you need to see your doctor.
An infected ingrown hair will be red and gradually keep increasing in size, while a normal ingrown hair looks like a solid round bump that may be sensitive to the touch.
Here are four ways to treat ingrown hairs at home, according to dermatologists.
Apply a topical acne cream
For a quick and painless do-it-yourself procedure, Todd Minars, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, says you can apply a topical acne cream like an over-the-counter pimple spot treatment to the irritating pore and follicle.
“While an ingrown hair is not acne, the chemical compounds of many over-the-counter acne creams are drying in nature,” he says. Look for ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Solutions that dry the top layer of skin allow the hair follicle to breach the surface and correct itself,” says Minars.
Try a tea tree oil soak
In order to treat ingrown hairs, Hayag says it’s best to soak a washcloth with tea tree oil diluted with warm water and place the washcloth on the affected area like a compress. To make a tea tree oil soak, combine 10 drops of tea tree oil with 4 to 6 ounces of water.
“This will help open up the pore, loosen debris trapped in the pore, and reduce inflammation,” she says. Plus, it’s gentle enough not to traumatize the skin.
Remove the ingrown hair with a small needle and tweezers
The intent of removing an ingrown hair with a small needle and tweezers, according to Minars, is to break the surface of the pore that has the angry hair follicle.
- Sterilise the needle and tweezers with an antiseptic, such as an antimicrobial soap or solution such as Hibiclens.
- Breach the layer of skin with a small needle.
- Approach the hair from the side.
- Remove the ingrown hair with a fine-tipped pair of tweezers.
- Rewash the needle and tweezer with an antiseptic.
Once you’re able to remove the hair follicle, you simply treat it like any other blemish by monitoring it for inflammation or infection. This is Minar’s favourite approach because it relieves the pressure that often alerts us to an ingrown hair, and it triggers the healing process.
How to prevent ingrown hairs
Most experts will agree that the best way to prevent ingrown hairs is to have laser hair removal since this method gets to the root of the hair to remove it. However, if that’s not an option, there are a few at-home grooming habits you can change.
Use a sharp razor and shaving cream
First and foremost, don’t use a dull razor when shaving. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says to change your blade after five to seven shaves. “When you use a dull razor, you’re more likely to pass over the skin several times, which can cause irritation and inflammation, and ultimately, ingrown hairs,” says Hayag.
A sharp razor, by comparison, can slice all hairs in one go. The AAD also recommends wetting your skin and applying shaving cream before shaving.
Exfoliate prior to shaving
Exfoliation gets rid of old, dry cells on the top layer of skin. When shaving, she says it’s important to prepare the skin for both a clean shave as well as a clean surface, so that debris and dead skin cells do not get trapped into the pores.
To help with this, she recommends dry brushing, which involves brushing the skin with a dry, stiff-bristled brush prior to shaving, as well as cleansing the area with cleansers that contain glycolic acid.
Shave in the direction of the hair
Shaving in the direction the hair is growing rather than the opposite way can help minimise ingrown hairs. While shaving in the opposite direction does allow for a closer shave, Hayag says it can promote the hair to grow into the skin rather than to the surface.
See other health explainers:
- Stre ss doesn’t cause acne, but it can increase your risk for breakouts
- How to identify and remove a skin tag
- Yes, pregnancy can cause acne but there are safe ways to treat it
- What causes a stye and the best ways to get rid of one
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