Ingrown hairs – also known as shaving bumps, or by their scientific name, pseudofolliculitis barbae – can be an unfortunate side effect for many non-permanent hair removal methods. They occur when the sharp, pointed tip of a recently shaved hair retracts beneath the skin’s surface and starts growing under the skin. Or, the growing hair might coil over, re-enter the skin’s surface and continue growing underneath.
An ingrown hair is more likely to occur if the hair is curly or coarse, or in areas that experience a lot of friction. While they’re most often associated with shaving, they can occur after waxing as well. Not only can ingrown hairs be painful and itchy, but they’re also not very nice looking, often appearing like little pimples on what should have been smooth skin. In bad cases, there’s a risk they may become infected, darken your skin or cause scarring.
Ingrown hairs are common, but there are steps you can take to avoid them and minimise the chances of them appearing.
Exfoliation is the process of removing dirt, oils and dead skin cells from the outer layers of your skin, preventing them from building up and clogging your follicles. Exfoliating before shaving or a few days after waxing is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to prevent ingrown hairs.
There are two ways to exfoliate. Mechanical exfoliation uses a tool, like a brush or sponge, to physically remove dead skin cells by lightly stroking the skin. Chemical exfoliation uses chemicals to gently dissolve dead skin cells – the product should be applied in small, circular motions and then rinsed off with warm water.
If a hair does start to become ingrown, exfoliation can sometimes be enough to pull it up and out of the skin where it can continue to grow correctly. Since exfoliating can dry your skin, remember to apply moisturiser immediately afterwards to keep your skin hydrated.
2. Use proper technique
If you choose to shave with a razor, using proper technique can help prevent the occurrence of ingrown hairs. Avoid dry shaving, shaving against the grain, pulling or stretching the skin while shaving, or using a blunt razor. Also try cleansing your skin with warm water beforehand, as this helps the hair shaft to swell and reduces the chance of a sharp tip forming.
Proper technique and preparation are also important when waxing. If your skin is dry or if you pull off a wax strip incorrectly, it’s possible to break the hairs instead of pulling them out and this may contribute to ingrown hairs. Also make sure to always pull against the direction of hair growth, close to the skin, and maintain the same angle all the way through until the strip is completely off.
Ingrown hair removal
Most ingrown hairs won’t cause any complications and it’s usually best to let them resolve on their own. However, if an ingrown hair does get infected, it’s important to see your doctor to get it treated.
Finally, if it feels like your ingrown hairs are a really persistent problem, don’t hesitate to see your doctor – they’ll be able to offer advice and further treatment options that may help.