Smooth, hairless skin is a dreamland fantasy that often comes at a price aka ingrown hair. The only word that pings whenever ingrown hair comes into sight is ouch! Those horrendous red bumps are no picnic to deal with. The itchiness and infections that come with it ruin the quality of life.
Where most of us resort to shaving and waxing, small painful raised bumps appear after a certain time that is ugly to witness and itchy to deal with. But luckily, you can now treat it with medications, simple home remedies, and the right hair-removing technique.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the emergence of ingrown hair with its causes, treatment, and prevention.
What is Ingrown Hair?
There is a perfect rhythm to the growth of formerly removed hair. They tend to grow in a follicle and stretch past the skin to rise upward. That is simply the mechanism of how a hair out-grows. Ingrown hair, on the other hand, instead of rising up, curls back inside the skin and grows in there. The hair follicle that was meant to escape the skin cells gets trapped beneath and appears as a raised bump.
They can be itchy, painful, and cause irritation. Usually, people who have curly hair get ingrown ailments a lot because curly hair is more inclined towards curling than straight hair.
It commonly tyrannizes the areas that are waxed/shaved frequently, such as arms, legs, face, and pubic region.
Causes of Ingrown Hair
The most common cause of ingrown hair is frequent shaving, waxing, epilating, and tweezing. All these procedures pull out the hair strand, not the hair follicle. When hair grows again, it curves and mushrooms inside the skin. People with thick curly hair are more prone to this painful incident.
Once the hair is removed, the region above gets vacant, and dead skin cells begin to clog the hair follicle. This phenomenon insists the hair goes into the skin sideways instead of growing out. Once inside the skin barrier, our immune system detects it as a foreign body and wages a war against it in the form of an immune response. The pro-inflammatory mediators wheel across the designated pathways and make a small swollen bump which is sometimes brimmed with pus.
Regions with hair that are frequently rubbed, especially the groin area and underarms can cause ingrown hair problems too. Hair of such origins becomes coiled and curled due to constant rubbing and folding, urging them to go back into the skin and causing discomfort.
Ingrown Hair Prevention
Physically exfoliate your skin to keep the dead skin cells count low so that the new hair can easily pierce out of the skin. Do it regularly with your shower sponge, loofah, or shower cloth. It is recommended to massage gently in a circular motion to release any coiled or curled hair that might have been trapped under the skin.
After the shower, gently pat dry your skin and apply some moisturizer to keep the skin soft and maintain its integrity.
There was a reason why those barbers applied a hot towel for a few minutes before the shaving process. Go old-school and wrap a hot cloth over the area that needs shaving. Or if you prefer doing it in your shower, turn your water setting to warm (if not hot) and shave after your lather session. This way, the hair softens and gives you an easy glide, reducing the risk of sharp, painful ingrown maladies.
Remember how men glide their razors down their faces in the commercials? There is a good reason behind it. Shaving against the hair growth can be a real tragedy that puts tension on the hair shaft, urging them to stretch and then retract back into the follicle.
You need to stop shaving against the grain and follow the direction of growth without exerting too much pressure on the razor.
Use Keratolytic skincare products
The stratum corneum, the dead cell layer, plays a crucial role in the emergence of ingrown hair. Keratolytic ingredients help loosen the dead skin cells to prevent the build-up that clogs the hair follicle.
The most commonly used keratolytic ingredients are:
- Salicylic acid
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Glycolic acid
Use Single-Blade Razors
We all run after the razors that have more blades and end up with an ingrown disaster. The most commonly handled razors are the ones that come with three blades. The first blade elevates the hair while the second and third blades cut the hair shaft below the epidermis. While growing back, the hair gets entrapped beneath the skin. So, it is recommended to go with single-bladed razors as they are less damaging and gives less inflamed ingrown hair.
Ingrown Hair Treatment
Dealing with pus-filled painful ingrown hair can become too much at times and requires medical attention. Your doctor might prescribe you some retinoids to loosen the dead skin cell buildup.
If the bumps appear red and swollen, your doctor might go with steroidal creams and antibiotics to treat the infection.
If inflamed ingrown hair is left untreated, it can transform into an ingrown hair cyst. It requires immediate surgical intervention where the dermatologist makes a small incision, drains out the fluid, and uses a small needle to take out the hair.
Sometimes, ingrown hair cysts can resolve on their own. However, if you feel it all inflamed and painful, you need to see a doctor.
Add some water to the baking soda and make a paste. Apply it to the affected area and massage gently to exfoliate the skin.
Dilute tea tree oil with water and dab it onto the raised bumps to reduce inflammation. You can further mix this solution with olive oil (10-15 drops of tea tree oil in 2 tbsp olive oil) to help open your pores and loosen up the ingrown hair.
Note: Don’t forget to dilute tea tree oil with water as this can save you irritation, inflammation, stinging sensations, and other adverse reactions.
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