How to Treat Ingrown Hairs

Ingrown hairs develop when a removed hair grows back into the skin. It usually appears as a red, itchy bump on the skin, with the trapped hair sometimes visible underneath. 

While ingrown hairs can often be treated successfully with home remedies, it’s possible for them to develop into larger issues that may require a dermatologist’s care. Here’s what you should know if you think you could have ingrown hair.

Common Causes of Ingrown Hairs

An ingrown hair typically develops after hair has been waxed, tweezed, shaved, or otherwise removed. The issue tends to be most common in people with coarse or curly hair who also shave. This is why you’re most likely to develop ingrown hair in areas where you shave, such as the face and neck, underarms, pubic area, and legs.

Your hair’s structure and the direction in which it grows can also influence how likely you are to develop ingrown hairs. For example, tightly curved hair follicles may be more likely to cause the hair to reenter the skin. Shaving may also make ingrown hairs more likely because the sharp edge of the razor also creates a sharp edge on the follicles, making it easier for a hair to penetrate your skin.

Ingrown Hair Treatment & Prevention

Sometimes, ingrown hairs will disappear on their own. “If you have a particularly bothersome ingrown hair, apply a warm compress for ten to 15 minutes,” advises Dr. Jodi Ganz. “This will open your pores, which may help the hair release from the skin. If the hair does emerge, use a pair of sterile tweezers to gently pull the ingrown portion out of the skin. Avoid extracting it altogether, though, as the same issue could occur again. Also be sure not to dig into your skin with any sharp object, which could cause infection.”

You can potentially prevent ingrown hairs from developing again in the future by using an electric razor or clipper, or applying chemical hair removers. If you prefer to continue using traditional razors, use these tips to reduce the risk of developing ingrown hairs: 

  • Wash your skin first 
  • Apply a shaving cream
  • Avoid pulling on surrounding skin
  • Shave in the direction of hair growth
  • Rinse the blade after each stroke

When to See a Dermatologist for Ingrown Hairs

Rarely, ingrown hairs can become infected, but they can become large, painful growths. At this stage, they may be diagnosed as cysts and require treatment from a dermatologist. If your ingrown hair becomes painful, filled with pus, or discolored, don’t hesitate to make an appointment. 

Depending on whether an infection is present, you may be prescribed an antibiotic ointment or pill to take by mouth. If you experience ingrown hairs frequently despite trying to prevent them, you may also want to explore a solution such as laser hair removal, which can destroy follicles to prevent them from coming back.

If you have a painful ingrown hair or any other skin care issue, turn to Olansky Dermatology & Aesthetics for personalized treatment. Our providers offer a wide range of general dermatology and cosmetic services catered to each patient’s unique needs. Book an appointment online or by calling 404-355-5484.