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Ingrown hairs are the last thing you need when the nice and sunny weather comes, and you want to wear your summer dresses, shorts, or bathing suits. Unfortunately, these bumps on your skin often look like pimples. Or, to be more precise, they look like inflamed pimples, spiced up with all the possible accompanying elements – redness, pain, and pus.
But why do ingrown hairs happen in the first place? And is there anything you can do to prevent them?
In this article, we'll share some of the most common causes of this nuisance as well as the most effective natural remedies that can help you get rid of it.
What Causes Ingrown Hairs?
Most hair removal techniques can cause ingrown hairs. They occur when the tip of the hair is blunt or curled so that when it grows, it doesn't penetrate the skin but grows backward, right under the skin's surface. Other times, dead skin cells can accumulate in the hair follicle, clogging it and preventing the hair inside from growing out.
This is where a nodule often forms that usually becomes inflamed and looks like a pimple. Hair removal, especially with wax or a razor, opens up the way for the bacteria or fungus to penetrate the skin, causing inflammation of the hair follicles or folliculitis.
People with naturally curly and coarse hair are more prone to ingrown hairs and folliculitis. Legs and bikini line are most commonly affected. And during summer, you may notice pimple-like bumps on your buttocks, which happen because of the constant sitting-induced rubbing of the skin as well as increased sweating.
Still, the No.1 reason for ingrown hairs is waxing. This happens due to improper hair removal when the hair is not pulled out whole with its follicle but breaks under the skin's surface and starts curling backward. The same outcome happens when using an epilator for hair removal.
Another way to create an even bigger problem while trying to get rid of it is shaving. When your razor isn't sharp enough, you will only scratch the skin's surface, moving dead skin cells around and clogging your pores. You're more likely to get ingrown hairs from shaving if your skin is dry and flakey.
And lastly, tight underwear and clothing are another cause of ingrown hairs. These additionally irritate the freshly waxed or shaved skin, make you sweat more, and physically prevent the hair from growing in the right direction – the perfect recipe for ingrown hairs and inflammation.
So, how can you stop ingrown hairs from forming? Or if they are already there, how do you get rid of them?
How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs
If you often struggle with ingrown hairs, you almost certainly wonder if they can be somehow prevented. And, in most cases, you will be advised to avoid waxing the problematic skin area. But what about the hot summer days and swimming pools?
In summer, this option is simply out of the question. So what else can I do to prevent ingrown hairs? Here are some tips and tricks you can try:
- Change your hair removal method: If shaving or waxing are causing you problems, give sugaring or laser hair removal a shot;
- Exfoliate: Since clogged hair follicles often cause ingrown hairs, regular exfoliating can make a big difference. Also, use a mild exfoliant right after the hair removal to ensure your pores are free;
- Boost your hygiene: Make sure that the tools you're using for hair removal are clean, such as your razor, epilator, and others. Also, always wash your skin before the session;
- Keep your skin hydrated: Remember that dry and flakey skin is more prone to ingrown hairs due to the dead skin cells accumulated in the hair follicles. So to keep your skin soft, make sure it's is always well-nourished and moisturized, especially after baths or showers;
- Switch your shaving technique: Besides keeping your razor clean and sharp, it's also essential to have a proper shaving technique. So, choose a razor with a single blade, apply shaving foam or gel before, rinse the razor after each swipe, and shave in the direction the hair grows;
- Apply a cold compress: After waxing or shaving, apply a cool compress to reduce redness and inflammation. This will also help close your pores, preventing dirt and bacteria from getting into your hair follicles.
Best Home Remedies for Ingrown Hairs
No matter how tempting it might be, you shouldn't pick on your ingrown hairs and try to remove them with tweezers. Instead, if the area is too inflamed, it would be best to seek help from your doctor. They will give you a topical or oral antibiotic to fight the inflammation.
In other cases, you can try some of these natural remedies:
One of the rare occasions when sugar is actually good for the skin. To get rid of ingrown hairs, use a body scrub made of sugar and olive oil. Mix one cup of sugar with half a cup of olive oil. Use this mixture as a body scrub 2 times a week. It should remove dead cells from the skin and, thus, make it easier for ingrown hairs to break through. In addition, sugar softens the skin, and olive oil moisturizes it, which is undoubtedly very helpful in preventing ingrown hairs.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, aspirin reduces swelling and inflammation caused by ingrown hairs. In addition, since aspirin contains salicylic acid [source], it will exfoliate your skin and help eliminate dead skin cells from the pores.
Dissolve two aspirin tablets in one tablespoon of warm water. Add one teaspoon of honey or oil; you can use avocado oil or grapeseed oil as these will additionally help with inflammation. Apply the mixture to the sore spot at least twice a week. Leave it on for about 10 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.
#3: Baking Soda
Baking soda is known as an excellent anti-inflammatory agent [source], but it also helps exfoliate the skin, relieving redness and itching caused by ingrown hairs. It's enough to mix one tablespoon of baking soda in a cup of water. Then, apply this solution to the ingrown hairs with a cotton pad and leave it on for a few minutes. After that, rinse with lukewarm water. You can do this twice a day.
#4: Aloe Vera Gel
You can use your own aloe vera gel, freshly harvested from the aloe vera plant. However, if you don't have the pant at hand, any skincare product with aloe vera in it will do. Apply right after waxing or shaving to hydrate, moisturize, and soothe the skin. Since it also has mild exfoliating and anti-inflammatory properties [source], it can also help with treating the already formed ingrown hairs.
#5: Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another ingredient known for its exceptional antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties [source], killing bacteria or fungi and preventing infection. Dilute apple cider vinegar in a little bit of water, and apply it to the affected area several times a day using a cotton pad. Leave for about 5 minutes, then rinse the skin with lukewarm water.
#6: Tea Tree Oil
Due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial properties [source], tea tree oil is the perfect home remedy that can address numerous skin issues. It will prevent infection and help the skin heal faster.
To remove ingrown hairs, combine several drops of tea tree oil with other carrier oil (for example, almond oil, olive oil, or avocado oil), and spot treat ingrown hairs using a cotton bud. Then, rinse it with lukewarm water after 10 minutes. You can repeat this procedure twice a day for better and faster results.
Mix turmeric powder, a bit of water, and honey to get a paste-like consistency. Spread the paste to the affected area and wait until it dries. Then, rinse your skin gently with lukewarm water and apply your body lotion or moisturizer. Curcumin, the main active substance of this spice, calms the inflammatory process and cures infection due to its antiseptic effect [source]. In addition, it reduces the unpleasant accompanying pain.
Oatmeal is another soothing and anti-inflammatory ingredient you likely have in your kitchen [source]. You can use it to gently exfoliate the skin or create a paste to apply to the affected area. In both cases, you should use ground rolled oats. To make them easier to spread, mix them with some honey and a little bit of coconut oil.
#9: Witch Hazel
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties [source], witch hazel makes for another excellent natural remedy for swollen and painful ingrown hairs. You can use many skincare products containing witch hazel to apply to your skin directly after hair removal treatment. Or you can make your own witch hazel toner.
For the latter, you'll need an alcohol-free witch hazel solution, some water, and aloe vera gel. First, mix one tablespoon of witch hazel solution with two tablespoons of water. Then add one teaspoon of aloe vera gel and shake well before use. Drench a cotton pad in the mixture and apply to the affected area. Leave on for about 10 minutes, then rinse.
Ingrown hairs are most often only a transient inflammation and rarely require a more serious medical procedure. However, it's a substantial aesthetic issue at the end of the day, especially when they leave a mark even after they are long gone, such as dark spots and scarring.
In addition, the treatment can undoubtedly take a while and be pretty frustrating. Therefore, it's better to prevent them from forming in the first place and try alternative hair removal methods, such as laser hair removal. It might be more expensive but will pay off in the long run.