If you want to know how to get rid of ingrown hair, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve rounded up 9 expert tips that will help the ingrown hair heal quickly.
But first … what is an ingrown hair, anyway?
An ingrown hair forms when a hair follicle becomes trapped under the skin, causing inflammation and irritation. A common reason the hair becomes trapped is because the follicle is clogged with dead skin. Thick and/or curly hair is more likely to become ingrown, which is why ingrown hairs commonly form in the pubic area. An ingrown hair looks very similar to a pimple — the ingrown hair is often covered by a red bump, and there can white pus visible below the surface.
Now, on to the tips for dealing with pesky ingrown hairs.
1. Avoid wearing any complicated underwear that will further irritate ingrown hairs on your bikini line.
First things first: Avoid wearing any undies that are lace or embellished (which can irritate the ingrown hair, or even push the hair further under the skin) and opt for plain cotton pairs until it’s healed.
2. While you’re at it, skip the skinny jeans, too.
If your ingrown hair is on your bikini line or somewhere on your legs, it’s also best to avoid any tight pants or hosiery. Let your skin breathe and give the ingrown a chance to heal — constant rubbing in from skin-tight pants is not going to help the situation.
3. If the ingrown hair has surfaced, tweeze it!
If the hair is above the skin and reachable, sterilize a tweezer (use a cotton ball covered in rubbing alcohol), and pluck the hair. If it isn’t pluckable — don’t force it! Jamming tweezers into your skin will only worsen the situation.
If, however, the hair is right under the surface, you can apply a warm compress to soften the skin and then gently prick it with a sterile needle and then proceed to tweeze. When we say gentle, we mean it — the hair should be so close to the surface that the prick is as light as feather, and shouldn’t be deep enough to draw blood. If the prick exposes the hair, you can then proceed to pluck it out with your sterile needle. If the gentle prick doesn’t expose the hair, hands off!
After plucking or pricking the ingrown hair, treat the area with a chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acid. European Wax Center’s Smooth Me Ingrown Hair Wipes are a great fix since you don’t have to touch the ingrown with your fingers (which can possibly lead to infecting it). Follow up with a dab of Polysporin and then leave it alone!
4. Never squeeze an ingrown hair.
If you remember one thing about how to get rid of ingrown hair, it’s this: No matter how tempting, resist the urge to squeeze an ingrown hair. Squeezing ingrowns anywhere on your bod is a no-no (since it can worsen or infect it), and if you get post-inflammatory pigmentation, you may end up with a scar, says Dr. Neil Sadick, a derm in NYC.
5. Shave in the opposite direction of the hair’s growth.
Can’t bring yourself to pluck the hair? If the thought of tweezing the hair is too painful (especially if it’s in a sensitive spot, like your underarm), you can also shave the area. Sadick suggests carefully shaving over the ingrown with a fresh razor, moving in the direction of your hair growth to get the pesky hair out of the way. The part about the fresh razor? It bears repeating. Never use a dull razor — it will only irritate the skin more. And always use a shaving cream made for sensitive skin when dealing with ingrown-prone skin.
6. Exfoliate your skin.
Stay on top of your exfoliation routine, even when you have ingrown hairs present. Dead skin is one of the causes of ingrown hairs, so regularly exfoliating will help heal your skin. Slone Mathieu, spa director and medical aesthetician at Dream Spa Medical in Massachusetts says that a gentle scrub or glycolic cleanser (we love Mario Badescu’s) will do the trick. Exfoliate once a week for the best results!
7. Avoid applying deodorant directly to an ingrown hair.
Try to apply deodorant around (not on) the affected area since the chemicals that keep your pits dry may irritate the ingrown.
8. Use tea tree shampoo if you have an ingrown hair on your scalp.
If you have an ingrown hair on your scalp, we recommend gently washing your hair — and making sure to massage your scalp — with tea tree shampoo (try Paul Mitchell’s)! Tea tree oil is nature’s salicyclic acid and has antiseptic properties, so it will gently exfoliate the ingrown and prevent it from getting infected. Be careful not to brush or apply product to the ingrown. If ingrown hairs on your scalp don’t clear up in about a week, Sadick suggests seeing a derm.
9. Consider switching from shaving to another hair removal method altogether.
Of all the hair removal methods, shaving is the most likely to cause an ingrown hair. For that reason, switching to waxing or using depilatory creams can be a good solution for preventing future ingrown hairs. Waxing can be especially effective, since the new hair follicle will come in finer and weaker (and finer hair is less likely to turn into an ingrown hair).