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No matter what type of wax or waxing technique you choose, the whole process is painful, plain and simple. However, we still go through that nightmare over and over again to achieve smooth and soft skin. But the outcome isn't always that smooth, as we often come across a bumpy road, in the form of the infamous and tedious ingrown hairs.
In this article, we'll dive deeper into what causes ingrown hairs in the first place and share some simple tips and tricks to prevent them.
How Waxing Causes Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs occur when a hair follicle fails to protrude the skin but instead grows right underneath it and often curls back and lodges under the skin's surface. So, the hair starts growing inwards instead of outwards, usually because it wasn't removed entirely from its follicle while waxing but rather broke right beneath the skin's surface. As a result, the hair ends become thinner and blunt, unable to penetrate the skin.
In some cases, these can get red, swollen, and inflamed, which can be pretty painful and irritating, especially if it's on your bikini line. In other cases, you might see ingrown hair embedded below your skin. Ingrown hairs can occur anywhere the hair is removed, but they most commonly happen in the areas where the hair is a bit thicker and curly, like your legs, underarms, and bikini line.
How Can You Prevent Ingrown Hairs?
Sooner or later, ingrown hairs should subside on their own. But whether it's going to be sooner or later for you will depend on your skin type as well as your hair type. So, for example, if you have dry and thick skin and fine hair, the recovery process might last a bit longer.
However, you can speed up the process or prevent the ingrown hairs from forming in the first place by following these tips before, during, and after waxing.
Tip #1: Moisturize after baths and showers: As we already mentioned above, you're more likely to get ingrown hairs after waxing if you have dry skin. This is because dead skin cells and flakes accumulate in the hair follicle faster if you have exceptionally dry skin, clogging the pores and trapping the hair inside the skin.
For this reason, make it a habit to always apply a nourishing, moisturizing, and hydrating body lotion each time after taking a shower or having a bath. Over time, it will soften your skin, open up the follicles, and let the hair grow freely.
Tip #2: Exfoliate regularly: Regular exfoliation is another way to make sure your hair follicles aren't blocked. You can opt for dry brushing, sugar scrubs or chemical exfoliants, such as glycolic acid, whatever your skin agrees with the most.
Using these exfoliants at least once or twice a week will slough away dead skin cells from the skin's surface while keeping it hydrated at the same time. It would also be a good idea to gently exfoliate right before your waxing session, using exfoliating gloves or Ayate washcloth, or a mild exfoliating skincare product.
Tip #3: Wait for your hair to grow to a proper length: If your hair is too short or long, the waxing product won't be able to grip it properly and remove the entire hair with its follicle. Instead, it will either rip the hair above or beneath your skin, with the latter indeed leading to ingrown hairs. So wait between waxes until your hair has the proper length, which would be anywhere between 0.65 to 2 cm or 0.25 to 0.75 inches. If your hair happens to be longer, trim it with scissors before waxing.
Tip #4: Wash your skin thoroughly before waxing: It would help a great deal to wash the area you plan to wax right before the process. This is because if your skin and hair are clean, the wax will grip the hairs more easily and firmly, pulling them out with the follicles. Use a gentle soap or cleanser without any oils or emollients in them, as those can interfere with the wax. Then pat your skin dry, and don't apply any lotions or moisturizers.
Tip #1: Follow directions of the product you're using: If you're DIY-ing waxing at home, make sure to follow the directions of the waxing product. Therefore, make sure to prep your skin, apply the product, and then remove it exactly as instructed.
Tip #2: Wax smaller sections one at a time: Waxing one small section at a time ensures a more controlled and easier pulling of the hairs. If you apply too much of the product and try to wax a larger area at once, you likely won't be able to pull the hair with its bulb-shaped base, i.e., follicle.
Tip #3: Let a trusted professional do it: Perhaps, the safest option to prevent ingrown hairs after waxing is to let a licensed and seasoned esthetician do it for you.
Tip #1: Apply a cool compress to the waxed area: To cool down inflammation and close the pores after waxing, try applying a cool towel or washcloth right after the session. Simply drench it in cold water and apply it to your skin while it's still wet.
Tip #2: Apply skincare with anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients: Right after your waxing session, apply a body lotion or a moisturizer with hydrating, soothing, and anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as niacinamide, chamomile, aloe vera gel, and others. These will keep your skin well-nourished and protected after such an aggressive treatment. Likewise, it will loosen the dead skin cells on your skin surface, decreasing the chance of ingrown hairs.
Tip #3: Exfoliate right after waxing: If your skin is not too irritated from waxing, use a gentle exfoliator right after. However, if your skin is red, inflamed, and painful, wait with the exfoliation routine until the next day.
Tip #4: Avoid wearing tight clothes: Steer clear of tight jeans or leggings right after the waxing session. These can only irritate your skin further, damage the hair follicles, and eventually lead to more ingrown hairs. So treat your freshly-waxed skin with some light and breathable clothes, so it can recover faster.
Tip #5: Avoid saunas and tanning: If your skin is freshly waxed, it would be best to avoid activities that might irritate your skin and cause inflammation and ingrown hairs. So, steer clear of saunas, tanning beds, and exercise right after waxing.
Tip #6: Find an alternative: At the end of the day, if everything else fails and you have to deal with ingrown hairs every time you wax, perhaps it's time to try alternative hair removal techniques, such as sugaring or even better laser hair removal.
Sugaring, which is essentially using a wax made of honey and sugar, is less likely to break your hairs since sugar paste removes them in the same direction they grow. On the other hand, laser hair removal, albeit more expensive, is by far longer-lasting and doesn't cause ingrown hairs.
If you have to deal with ingrown hairs after each wax, try some of our tips and tricks and you'll likely manage to prevent them. However, if they persist, maybe it's really time to switch to shaving or invest in laser hair removal.
Why do I keep getting ingrown hairs after waxing?
Waxing often causes ingrown hairs because of the improper waxing technique. This means that the hair is not pulled out whole from the skin but is broken underneath the skin's surface. Because of this, the hair tip becomes thin and starts curling, and cannot penetrate the skin.
Is it OK to wax with ingrown hairs?
Yes, you can still wax if you have some ingrown hairs unless they are inflamed and painful. If inflamed, you should calm the inflammation first and then wax.
Does waxing cause more ingrown hairs than shaving?
Any hair removal method can lead to ingrown hairs, including waxing and shaving. If you often struggle with these, you should consider finding an alternative approach to remove unwanted hair, such as laser hair removal.
What not to do after waxing?
Right after waxing, you should avoid saunas and exercise because of sweating. Sweat can only further irritate your skin. Also, avoid wearing tight clothes as these can also cause irritation and physically prevent your hair from growing normally.
Should you pop an ingrown hair?
It would be best to refrain yourself from picking on your ingrown hairs. This can cause inflammation and leave permanent scarring and dark spots.