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Ingrown Hair: How Can You Prevent and Treat It

Published on Sep 21, 2022   -  4 min read


An ingrown hair is a hair strand that grows back into the skin after a clean shave or waxing. It appears as a raised dark-colored spot on the skin's surface.


An ingrown hair is a discolored tiny bump on the surface of the skin when the hair strands grow back into the skin after shaving, waxing, or tweezing. Ingrown hairs can occur to anyone, but they can be easily treated and prevented when the right way of hair removal procedures are practiced. They may be itchy or painful and commonly appear on the face, armpits, legs, and pubic area. Ingrown hairs are also called shave bumps, razor bumps, or barber bumps.

What Are the Causes of Ingrown Hair?

  • Hair removal procedures like shaving, waxing, or tweezing can result in ingrown hair.

  • Dead skin cells clog the hair follicle forcing the hair to grow under the skin.

  • When naturally thick, curly hair is cut too short, the sharp end of the hair curls back into the skin resulting in ingrown hair.

  • When new hair grows, it may curl back and enter your skin. This more commonly occurs if your hair is thick, curly, or coarse.

  • People with greater levels of specific sex hormones can have unusually more hair making them more likely to have ingrown hairs, particularly after shaving.

  • Pseudofolliculitis is a type of ingrown hair seen in persons with thick or curly hair after removing the hair by shaving, waxing, or tweezing. The newly growing hair has sharper edges that poke back easily through the skin and get trapped under the skin surface.

  • Pulling the skin taut while shaving draws back the cut hair into the skin and the hair re-enters the skin surface without growing out first.

What Are the Symptoms of Ingrown Hair?

An ingrown hair irritates your skin.

You might notice:

  • Skin irritation, itching, pain, and discomfort may be present.

  • It develops as a raised red, brown, or purple bump resembling a small pimple. Sometimes pus makes be present inside the bumps.

  • Ingrown hairs usually pop up in shaved areas like the scalp, face, chin, neck, armpit, chest, back, pubic area, and legs. However, it may also appear on the eyebrows, inside of the nose, abdomen, and buttocks.

  • If the ingrown hair becomes infected, the bumps grow bigger, painful, and scarring. Pustules occur when it is filled around the hair follicles.

What Are the Risk Factors of Ingrown Hair?

  • Tight curly hair is the risk factor for ingrown hairs.

  • Dry skin can clog the hair follicle trapping the hair underneath the skin.

  • Pressure or friction in areas that are vulnerable to ingrown hairs.

  • Hair removal techniques can irritate the skin, making the sharper edge grow inward.

How to Diagnose Ingrown Hair?

A general physical examination and a discussion about hair removal habits are sufficient to diagnose ingrown hair.

How to Treat Ingrown Hairs?

At-home ingrown hair treatment includes:

  • Apply warm compression to the affected skin for 10 minutes to 15 minutes. This opens the pores and releases the ingrown hairs.

  • Wash the affected area with a washcloth or soft-bristled toothbrush in a circular motion for a few minutes. This is done before shaving and at bedtime.

If an ingrown hair is disturbing or gets infected, a small cut with a sterile surgical needle or scalpel can release it and allow the hair to grow outward.

They may also prescribe medications such as:

  • A topical steroid to ease swelling and irritation.

  • Retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A removes dead skin cells and lightens skin pigments.

  • Topical or oral antibiotics to treat an infection, if present.

What Are the Complications of Ingrown Hairs?

Prolonged ingrown hairs can lead to:

  • Bacterial infection due to scratching.

  • Skin darkening.

  • Permanent scarring (keloids).

  • Pseudofolliculitis barbae or razor bumps.

  • Pilonidal Cysts - These are the pockets containing hair and skin debris at the base of the tailbone, between the buttocks that can swell and cause pain.

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs?

The ideal way to prevent ingrown hairs is the proper use of hair removal techniques.

  • Before shaving, completely wet the skin and hair with lukewarm water. Apply shaving cream or gel to the skin. Using a single-blade razor shave in the direction of naturally grown hair. Use a few strokes of the razor as it lessens the chance of hair falling back into the skin. Clean the razor blade after each stroke. Change the razor blade frequently to avoid skin cuts and irritation.

  • Do not shave too close to the skin surface. Leave a little bit of hair. When using an electric razor or clipper, hold it a little above the skin's surface.

  • Apply a cool washcloth to the skin after shaving to soothe the skin.

Other hair removal options to remove hair that may prevent ingrown hairs are:

  • Chemical Hair Remover: Using depilatory (hair removal) products dissolve the protein structures of the hair and help remove the hair easily without shaving. The chemicals in these products may irritate the skin surface, so a patch test on a small area is mandatory.

  • A Cream to Reduce Hair Growth: Eflornithine (Vaniqa) is a cream that is prescribed to decrease hair regrowth in combination with other hair removal methods, like laser therapy.

  • Electrolysis: In this method, a small needle and a mild electric current destroy the hair roots. Here every single hair follicle requires treatment. Therefore it may not be practically possible to use electrolysis over a large body surface.

  • Laser Hair Removal: In this technique, the heat liberated from a laser destroys more pigmented cells. This method is more effective on dark hair.


An ingrown hair is curling and penetrating the hair tip into the skin causing inflammation. It is more common among very curly-haired people occurring in the beard area on men and the groin or bikini area on women. It is easily diagnosed. An ingrown hair mostly heals on its own. However, in some cases of chronic ingrown hairs, therapeutic intervention may be required. allowing enough hair growth before shaving, try not to shave close to the skin surface, and permanent hair removal therapies such as laser, electrolysis, or depilation using liquids or creams can prevent the formation of ingrown hairs.


Last reviewed at:
21 Sep 2022  -  4 min read




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