How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs Once and For All

This year has been irritating enough.

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs Once and For All
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Over the years, I have developed a love/hate relationship with hair removal methods. I've tried waxing, shaving, tweezing, and creams. The majority of the time, the results have been fine, but when I get ingrown hairs I'm reminded of how painful the hair removal process can be — from start to finish.

If you've ever had ingrown hairs, you'll know that they can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. And unfortunately, anyone can get them. They typically appear after shaving, waxing, or tweezing.

However, the good news is that there are a few steps you can take to decrease the chances of experiencing the dreaded discomfort that comes with trapped hair. Below, we spoke to Deidra Green, European Wax Center Field Training Manager, and Dr. Adeline Kikam, a board-certified dermatologist and creator of @brownskinderm to find out more about the nature of ingrown hairs and how to prevent them in the first place.

What Causes Ingrown Hairs?

Ingrown hair is a common condition that can result from hair removal. It typically occurs when the sharp tip of the hair curls back or grows sideways into the skin.

"When the hair strands are cut too short, they retract back and get trapped in the skin. Sometimes, the hair curls back into the skin and the hair follicle closes over the curled hair which causes the hair to grow underneath the skin," explains Dr. Kikam. "As the hair grows back, it can break into the wall of the hair follicle resulting in inflammation of the surrounding skin."

Dead skin cells can also cause ingrown hairs. This happens when there are too many on the surface of the skin. As a result, they inadvertently clog the hair follicles.

Which Areas Are More Prone to Ingrown Hairs?

"Body areas where there are folds, such as the groin and pubic area, are more prone to ingrown hairs as there is friction," explains Dr. Kikam. "Additionally, areas where the hair is coarse, curly, or high density." As such, ingrown hairs most commonly appear around the chin, pubic area, neck, armpits, and legs.

Which Hair Removal Methods Cause Ingrown Hairs?

Shaving is more likely to cause ingrown hairs as it creates sharp edges. This encourages the hair to curl back into the skin once it is cut, especially if the hair is dry when shaved or the blade is dull — but razors aren't the only culprit.

"Tweezing and waxing can also cause ingrown hairs," says Dr. Kikam. "When the hair breaks it can cause sharp hair strands, as the strands are close to the surface of skin they can become ingrown."

Which Hair Removal Methods Prevent Ingrown Hairs?

Laser hair removal is one of the best methods for preventing ingrown hair as it targets the hair follicle to reduce hair growth over time. With each treatment, the follicle shrinks in size and the hair it produces becomes finer and lighter in color.

Using depilatory cream to dissolve hair is another method that can help prevent sharp hair strands and ingrown hairs. To avoid irritation, Dr. Kikam recommends choosing creams that are formulated for specific areas, such as the face and pubic area.

Lastly, although waxing can cause ingrown hair, the risk is lower than with shaving as it's less likely to cause sharp hair stubs that curl back into skin.

VIDEO: The 6 Best Epilators for Smooth Skin From Head to Toe

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs:

Instead of dealing with them once they've formed, stop them from developing in the first place.

  1. Shave in the direction of the hair growth. While shaving in the opposite direction offers a closer shave, it can unfortunately lead to more ingrown hairs.
  2. Properly cleanse the area. Wash your skin with warm water and a mild facial cleanser before shaving, as doing so will prevent bacterial infection that can lead to inflammation.
  3. Use a sharp razor. Dull razors may not cut hair straight, which can cause hairs to curl back into the skin as they grow.
  4. Don't stretch the skin. Doing this encourages retraction of sharp hair tips into the skin and promotes ingrowns.
  5. Use exfoliants. Prep your skin for hair removal by using acids, such as BHAs and AHAs, to unclog hair follicles.
  6. Use lubricating shaving creams or gels a few minutes before shaving. Doing so will soften the hair and make it easier to remove.

Tips for Treating Ingrown Hairs

Don't lose hope if you do develop ingrown hairs — there are ways to treat them!

  1. Take a break. If you have an inflamed ingrown hair, pause any hair removal to avoid aggravating the area.
  2. Do warm compresses. This will reduce inflammation and will soften the area.
  3. Apply an exfoliant. If the ingrown isn't inflamed, using a retinol or a gentle exfoliant will help unclog and dissolve dead skin around the area.
  4. Consult your dermatologist. If the ingrown hair is inflamed, your dermatologist may recommend applying a hydrocortisone cream to the area, but it may require an oral antibiotic if the inflammation is severe.
  5. Go to a pro for removal. If you're in a lot of discomfort, go to a dermatologist and ask them to remove stubborn ingrown hairs. They can also give you a steroid shot to the area for fast relief.

Dr. Kikam-Recommended Products for Treating Ingrown Hairs

Flamingo's Ingrown Spot Treatment

how to prevent ingrown hairs
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To shop: $10; target.com

EWC Ingrown Hair Serum

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To shop: $30; waxcenter.com

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1%

8 Products to Gift Someone With Acne-Prone Skin
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To shop: $15; target.com

Cortizone 10

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To shop: $10; target.com

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