If you’ve ever shaved, waxed or plucked hair anywhere off your body, you’ve more than likely had experience with ingrown hairs. We're here to help you understand why you get them, how to treat them, and how to prevent yourself from getting them in the future!
Why do I get ingrown hairs?
Ingrown hairs can happen to anyone, whether you’ve undergone some form of hair removal or not. However, people with very coarse or curly hair are more prone to getting pesky ingrowns, particularly if they shave. Why? Because when you shave, you’re cutting hairs off right above the skin, often at a slight angle that makes them sharper than normal. This can cause hairs to curl back into themselves, and then they start to grow again in that awkwardly curled position. So instead of growing up and out of your skin as they should, these curled and newly sharpened hairs grow in a different direction — often directly back into your skin. When this happens, your body treats the ingrown hair as a foreign object that’s invading, and this is why ingrown hairs are very often found underneath some sort of pimple or inflamed area.
Ingrown hairs can also occur when hair follicles get clogged up with dirt, dead skin or oils. In this scenario, the hair inside the hair follicle is forced to grow sideways underneath the skin, rather than up and out of it.
I’ve got an ingrown hair, now what?
If you know you're dealing with ingrown hairs, it's important you know the most important ingredient when it comes to treating them — one of our favorite Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Glycolic Acid. Glycolic Acid is super exfoliating, and exfoliating is what you need to do, to treat current ingrown hairs and prevent future ones from forming! Because it's the smallest of the AHA's, it's able to penetrate your skin cell walls and in turn, increase skin cell turnover, clearing away dead, damaged skin cells, and making way for new, healthy, skin cells.
Where can I find Glycolic Acid?
SLMD's Glycolic Acid Body Scrub is made with Glycolic Acid (obviously), along with Lactic Acid and Willow Bark Extract. Willow Bark Extract gently exfoliates, while acting as an anti-inflammatory, calming skin and reducing redness. Lactic Acid exfoliates, and in addition, stimulates collagen production, which improves skin texture. Together, the ingredients in this scrub are ideal for treating ingrown hairs, along with bumpy rough skin, like keratosis pilaris! While exfoliating is your first plan of attack, moisturizing should be a quick second! SLMD's Glycolic Acid Body Lotion continues the exfoliating process, but is able to hydrate and lock in moisture, with added Shea Butter. This duo is available together in SLMD's Body Smoothing System.
What if I can't keep my hands off of them?
Once you’ve determined that you have an ingrown hair, most people will just pull that sucker out. Sometimes this works, but other times tweezing does more harm than good, especially if the hair is deep under your skin. You might eventually get the hair out, but you can also unnecessarily damage your skin and introduce bacteria into a newly opened wound at the same time. If you get a pimple or an infection after pulling our an ingrown hair, it’s likely because you introduced some dirt into the skin with your fingers or tweezers.
If you really can't resist taking action, make sure that it really is an ingrown hair and not a normal pimple. If you can see the little hair root underneath, then you can move along to getting rid of it.
Here’s some instructions for safely extracting that ingrown hair.
1. Soak a washcloth in warm water and press it against the ingrown hair(s) for several minutes. This will soften the hair and the skin around it, and bring the hair to the surface of the skin.
2. Using sterilized tweezers or a needle, gentle work out the ingrown hair by its end. Try to avoid plucking the hair out completely while it’s under the skin — instead, just pull it to the surface.
3. If you can’t easily remove the hair, don’t force it. Try using the warm compress again, or leave the hair alone. We know, it’s a hard ask, but try.
4. Once you’re done, wash the area with warm water and a moisturizing soap.
In some instances, tweezers or a needle are not viable options. When ingrown hairs grow sideways, underneath the skin, there often isn’t an opening or piece of hair above the skin for you to pull on. When this happens a dermatologist can make a tiny incision and pull the hair out safely.
How do I prevent ingrown hairs moving forward?
Keep exfoliating! Not only does this prevent dead skin cells from clogging up the hair follicle, it also prevents hairs from growing down into the skin and becoming ingrown hairs.
Shave properly! Not using a shaving aid, using a dull razor blade or shaving against the grain can cause unnecessary ingrown hairs.
They can be a literal pain, but remember, ingrown hairs are nothing to be ashamed of! Almost everyone gets them, and now you know how to treat them and prevent them in the future.