Hell hath no fury like an ingrown hair. These little red bumps look like your average zit, but are way more painful and a lot harder to heal. In the summer—when you might be shaving or waxing your bikini line frequently—they're also a lot more common. To learn how to quickly get rid of annoying ingrowns (and prevent them from popping up in the first place) we reached out to a skincare pro for advice.
First, you've got to know the evil you want to fight: An ingrown hair is exactly what it sounds like. It's a hair that's been buried or trapped underneath the skin, and is growing there. "This can occur if the hair is cut short and gets trapped under an edge of skin, or if after cutting a hair, a sharp edge catches on the skin," says cosmetic and plastic surgeon Dr. David Shafer. If you don't regularly exfoliate, dead skin cells can also clog the pore and cause the hair to get trapped under the skin, Dr. Shafer explains. If bacteria is present, this trapped hair can lead to an infection.
If you do have an ingrown hair, Dr. Shafer recommends trying to remove the actual hair by using clean tweezers to "unroof the area of the hair." That doesn't mean go digging for gold, though. If it's deeply trapped and painful, consider a trip to the dermatologist before potentially doing damage to your skin. Do not pick.
You can also use topical products to help speed up the healing process. "Light acid washes such a glycolic or salicylic acid—such as in many over-the-counter acne medications or pads—can also be helpful," Dr. Shafer says. Try Jack Black Bump Fix Razor Bump and Ingrown Hair Solution ($27; nordstrom.com) or Bliss Bump Attendant ($22; blissworld.com).
"Of course, good skin hygiene is essential to minimize infections and also to help promote healing and skin health," Dr. Shafer adds. This includes regular cleansing and exfoliating with a gentle product in the areas you shave.
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Another option is switching up the way you remove hair. Dr. Shafer says that laser hair removal can dramatically decrease the chance of getting an ingrown hair. It's a pricey procedure and also a big commitment. If you're not ready to permanently remove your body hair, you should simply fine-tune your routine. Consider this your reminder to change your razor blade often, and keep whatever area you're shaving clean and well exfoliated.