Most of us resort to waxing or shaving to achieve soft and smooth skin. But, have you ever noticed unruly hair being trapped under your skin, especially after you remove your hair? Does it tend to appear as raised painful bumps? It might be a condition known as ingrown hair.
These small bumps are often itchy and painful. However, you can treat ingrown hair using medications, proper hair removal techniques, and simple remedies.
Let’s take a closer look at what causes ingrown hair and how you can prevent this condition.
What Is Ingrown Hair?
An ingrown hair looks like a raised bump resembling a pimple or a boil-like sore. In this condition, hair grows back into your skin instead of rising upward from it. In simple words, your hair follicles get trapped into your skin and cause small bumps.
Ingrown hair occurs as secluded bumps that are often painful, itchy, and cause discomfort. In some instances, these bumps might be filled with pus. It is commonly seen in areas that are waxed or shaved frequently like your face, chin, armpits, and legs. However, it may also be seen in the scalp, pubic areas, chest, neck, etc.
Anyone can develop ingrown hair, but this condition is more prevalent in people who have thick curly hair. That’s because curly hair tends to bend and gets back into your skin after you shave it.
Symptoms Of Ingrown Hair
- Embedded hair
- Small, solid round-shaped raised bumps known as papules
- Pus-filled blister-like lesions
- Skin darkening because of inflammation
- Redness and tenderness around the bumps
What Causes Ingrown Hair?
In a few instances, dead skin clogs the opening of your hair follicles. This forces the hair to grow back into your skin sideways rather than growing out. This hair then starts growing inside your skin, pushing through the skin’s surface. The moment your body detects this hair as a foreign object, it triggers an immune response. Thus an inflamed and swollen bump is formed which at times is filled with pus. 
Ingrown hair can also occur due to repeated shaving, tweezing, or waxing.  These hair removal methods only tend to remove the hair strands and not the follicles. So when new hair grows from these follicles, it sometimes bends back and grows into the skin. This is more common when your hair is thick and curly.
Also, if your hair close to the hair follicle opening is cut, it develops sharp edges. There are chances that it penetrates your skin and causes ingrown hair.
How To Treat Ingrown Hair?
- Your doctor may prescribe you to apply Retinoids such as Tretinoin, Renova, etc. to reduce the build up of dead skin cells
- If you have swelling and inflammation, your doctor may prescribe steroid creams, antibiotics like Erythromycin, and oral antibiotics like Cephalexin to treat the infection. 
- See your doctor if the area is too painful, inflamed, and red. Your doctor may use a sterilized needle or a scalpel to free the hair.
2. OTC Methods
- Salicylic or glycolic acid can be used to exfoliate your skin. This will help to keep your hair follicles open and not get trapped inside your skin. However, don’t use it if you already have ingrown hair to avoid further skin irritation. 
- Benzoyl peroxide creams can help reduce the redness and inflammation
- Use a non-greasy moisturizer to remove dead cells. Dead skin cells sometimes block your hair follicles, resulting in ingrown hair.
3. Selfcare Methods
Take a washcloth and soak it in warm water. Gently press the irritated area for 10-15 minutes. This will allow the skin to soften. Then use round circular motion to gently exfoliate your skin for not more than 10 seconds. If your skin feels more irritated, skip the process.
B. Use A Scrub
Ingrown hair can also occur when your skin pores get clogged. Using a mild body scrub before hair removal can help you get rid of clogged pores, clean dirt, thus preventing ingrown hair.
Use a clean, strong pointed tweezer to remove the ingrown hair rising above the skin. If it comes out easily, pull it gently to loosen it from the skin. Don't dig too much, otherwise it may leave dark spots or scars. If the ingrown hair doesn't come out quickly, allow it to grow and when it’s ready, tweeze it out.
4. Home Remedies
- You can use tea tree oil by diluting it with water and applying it with a cotton ball. This will help reduce the swelling
- Mix sugar and olive oil together and apply it to wipe out the bacteria from your skin. Use warm water to rinse. You can also use honey alternately.
- Use baking soda and water to form a paste. Apply it to gently exfoliate your skin. Remember to use cold water to wash.
Never pop your ingrown hair cyst, although you might want to get rid of it quickly. Remember, it may be risky and get infected too. Instead, allow the bump to reduce and the hair to straighten upward before you pull it out with a tweezer.
How To Prevent Ingrown Hair?
1. Exfoliate the ingrown hair by rubbing your face every day with a wet washcloth. Rub gently in a circular motion.
2. Use a face scrub to tease out the ingrown hair.
3. Use a lubricating shaving gel or cream a few minutes before shaving. You can also use a warm compress.
4. Use warm water and a mild cleanser to wash your skin before shaving.
5. Always shave, wax or, tweeze hair in the direction of hair growth.
6. Wash the razor blade after every stroke.
7. Apply a wet washcloth on your face after shaving to soothe the skin.
8. If you’re using a razor, hold it slightly away from the skin.
9. Use a sharp, single-blade razor.
10. Chemical hair removers can help reduce ingrown hair. However, if you’re using it for the first time, ensure to do a patch test.
Besides these, you may also choose to try other hair removal methods to manage ingrown hair. For example, the laser hair removal method that uses laser energy to destroy the hair follicles from producing hair permanently.
What Happens If Ingrown Hair Is Left Untreated?
Ingrown hair usually goes away on its own. But if it isn't or left untreated, it can cause an infection, scarring, and darkened skin. It can also turn into an ingrown hair cyst, which is a large bump.
Difference Between Pimple And Ingrown Hair
Many people who have ingrown hair mistakes it for pimples because both appear similar. However, the cause and the treatment for both are different. Pimples develop when dead skin cells and oil block the hair follicles. This appears as a bump and can get infected with bacteria causing redness, pain, and irritation. Ingrown hair appears as pimples but grows when the hair itself grows awry.
Identifying pimples and ingrown hair is important to treat them right. Location is the clue when you are trying to identify. For example, ingrown hair is common in areas that you shave or wax. People who shave their scalp can also get ingrown hair. On the other hand, pimples can occur anywhere, including chin, chest, shoulders, and neck. Breakouts in the areas where you don't shave are usually acne or pimples.
Ingrown hair can be treated by changing your shaving techniques. Often letting the hair grow can help reduce the problem. Acne and pimple can be treated by keeping the area clean and using over-the-counter medication like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and antibacterial ointments.
How Long Does Ingrown Hair Last?
Ingrown hair should be best left alone as they tend to heal on its own. A mild infection may take a few days while a severe infection may take a few weeks to get healed. Ingrown hair cysts and lesions may take up to a few weeks to clear up. If the condition seems to recur often, then it is time to see your doctor.
Frequent shaving or waxing can cause ingrown hair to appear in the form of small, itchy bumps on your skin. It might also occur due to dead skin cells that block your hair follicles and forces hair to grow back into your skin instead of rising up. This condition usually heals on its own, but is also curable with suitable medications, OTC methods, selfcare methods, and home remedies. However, if you’re experiencing repeated episodes or noticing ingrown hair in large areas of your skin, consult your doctor immediately.
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