Ingrown hair – Causes, Treatment & Prevention

What is an Ingrown Hair?

Ingrown hairs are those funny looking bumps (usually red) that look like little pimples. In fact, these are curled hairs that have grown back or sideways into the skin. The affected areas are usually those that have been frequently shaved (e.g. face, neck, armpits, legs, pubic area). Such condition occurs more often after puberty and affects both men and women.

Ingrown Hair

Ingrown hairs are an unpleasant and irritating issue that can cause scarring and spots on the skin. From the perspective of dermatology and general health condition, it cannot be considered as a serious health problem and rarely leads to complications.

This skin condition is the result of shaving and its’ medical name is pseudofolliculitis barbae, when localized on the beard area.It occurs in up to 60% African American men and other people with curly hair, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.

Very often people who have ingrown hairs have complained of inflammations in the affected area that look like small red bumps. Swelling may be serious or barely noticeable, accompanied by mild pain, as well as pus-filled formation.

The swelling is present because ingrown hairs cause inflammation, which is quite normal because the ingrown hair irritates the skin. They can often form a painful sore. Usually, the underlying hair can be seen under the skin bump. For men, their most common location is on the neck and chin. The most often affected areas for women are around the bikini area or legs.

What causes ingrown hair?

When shaving the hair shaft is cut obliquely and gets pointed tip. During the growth, the hair can be driven and rolled into the hair follicle from which it originates and can remain below the skin surface. This growth causes symptoms of ingrown hair. The ingrown hair can occur when the hair follicle is clogged with dead skin cells. That makes the hair inside to grow sideways.

The bad news is that other hair-removal methods can also cause this condition, especially waxing. Tight clothes are another reason why skin gets irritated.

The problem is more common in people with curly or coarse hair but often appears in people with absolutely straight hair.

Pseudofolliculitis Barbae
f2-dp0302a07: Unroofing of the lesion with a #22-gauge needle revealed five black, coiled beard hairs. [Copyright: ©2013 Ladizinski et al.]Credits:
Sometimes ingrown hairs heal all by themselves when they manage to penetrate the surface of the skin and spontaneously dislodge, it is sometimes very tough to get rid of it. It is very important not to scratch or pick them, because of the bacteria that can enter through the irritated skin and cause infections.

It will be better for you to avoid squeezing the pimple-looking ingrown hair because it will take longer for the skin to repair completely.

If you can see that the ingrown hair is very near the skin surface, you can use sterile tweezers or a needle to carefully tease it out. Do not try to remove the hair if it is deep below the skin surface.

Home treatment

  1. You can always prepare a simple home remedy for your ingrown hairs by yourself. This recipe is very simple: you should just crush an aspirin tablet [1] and mix it with a little honey [2]. You should get a smooth paste. Leave it on the affected area for about 15 minutes and then just rinse with lukewarm water. Repeat the procedure 2 times a day until the ingrown hairs are gone. This homemade remedy is absolutely safe and can be applied without any worries unless you are allergic to honey. In case you have a honey allergy, try the recipe below!
  2. The easily visible ingrown hairs can be removed by steaming or heating with a hot towel placed on the problem area. By heating, the pores open and when using tweezers or a sterilized needle you can reach the ingrown hair more easily. After pulling out the ingrown hair, you should disinfect the area.
  3. Use beeswax [3]. Place small quantity on the affected area and cover with gauze. It is possible to experience throbbing.
  4. Plantain [4] – a plant, which has the ability to pull out puss, just like a natural antibiotic ointment. Place a few leaves on the problem area and again bandage with gauze. The plant can help fight bacteria and draw out puss.If necessary, repeat the procedure.
  5. Milk and bread – a very simple recipe that anyone can recreate. Heat the milk and pour into a deep dish. Immerse a toasted slice in milk until thoroughly soaked. Put the toast slice on the affected area leave it until the milk gets cool (about 10 minutes). This will open the pores. Then, you can use a sterilized needle (hot and cleaned with alcohol – if you are not allergic) and remove the ingrown hair.
  6. Pumice – soft hairs that could not break through the skin after hair removal e.g. those on the hands, rub the area gently with a soft pumice normally used to clean dead skin from feet. In order not to damage more delicate skin apply this method immediately after soaping since the foam softens the friction. You will see an immediate effect, but it is not advisable to choose this method on delicate areas.
  7. Regular exfoliation of the skin is another method that helps to remove dead cells and to promote hair growth
  • You can exfoliate the affected location with table salt – it will promote skin healing and also swelling of the wound. Mix a teaspoon of salt with some water until it forms a paste-like consistency. Use a cotton pad to apply on the affected area. Start rubbing gently and leave the cotton pad for a few minutes and rinse with cold water. Do this 2 times a day, until you are able to remove the hair yourself.
  • The same result can be accomplished by using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) [5]. It has soothing properties and anti-inflammatory effect on the skin. What you have to do is just mix a tablespoon of water and a teaspoon of baking soda and apply to the ingrown hair. Start rubbing gently for 1-2 minutes and leave it for another 5 minutes. Repeat the procedure every day, 2 times a day until the ingrown hair pierces the skin and can be removed with tweezers.
  1. Black tea/green bags[6] – you should just dip the tea bags in water in order to moisten them. Black/green tea contains tannic acid, which also has anti-inflammatory properties. The tea bags placed on the area where the ingrown hair is located will open the pores, help to remove dead skin cells and residual sebum. If possible, do the procedure several times a day, until the ingrown hair goes out.

Anti-ingrown hair lotions/serums

Well, if you consider home treatment’ methods not helpful enough, there is a wide range of professional products on the market specifically designed to diminish the number of ingrown hairs or even completely eliminate the problem. After a thorough research, I made a list of the products that are highest rated on the Web, so take the time to check all the pros and cons in order to make sure that you will be satisfied with the results before making your decision!

  1. Tend Skin

    Razor Burn and Ingrown Hair Kit

According to hundreds of reviews available on the Internet regarding Tend Skin Razor Burn and Ingrown Hair Kit, it seems that it has helped lots of people. Most of the customers claim that these products have helped them a lot and there’s a dramatic reduction of the number of their ingrown hairs, some of them inform that after a couple of weeks the problem completely disappeared. Here’s a citation about the negative sides of this anti-ingrown hair treatment:

“So, while yes, it does smell like rubbing alcohol, and it can burn a bit after a fresh shave–oh, and let’s not forget about the barely-movable roller ball–I can safely say that I’ll be buying this stuff from here on out. It’s a little on the pricey side, but thinking back to all the hundreds of dollars I’ve spent on various other products and razors and whatnot, the cost of the solution isn’t overly excessive.

Buy it, use it, stick with it, and finally, acknowledge Tend Skin for a job well done!!!”

  1. Shea Moisture Tea Tree

    After Shave & bump preventer herbal elixir 4 fl oz

This is another alcohol-based formula for ingrown hair treatment, so you should consider carefully whether to buy or not:

 „The first ingredient used to be witch hazel, but now it is listed as alcohol denat.”

However, 70% of all the customers ranked it 5 star, some of them claim that they can see improvement and reduction of the bumps after shaving. The specific Shea Butter smell is another aspect that some of the customers like while others – don’t. Therefore you should check what shea butter smells like before in order to make sure that you won’t be unpleasantly surprised by the smell.

  1. PFB Vanish + Chromabright

This is one of the first products that appear while browsing through the search results. Almost all the comments inform that the product does a very good job to prevent ingrown hairs and irritation. But there’s also a risky side, according to many of the comments available:

„works very well for prevention and removing marks, but be careful! I used a body brush to get the dead skin off and wasn’t thinking, so I rolled on more of this product that same day and it burned like crazy! Skin is sensitive after using it a few times because new skin is exposed.”

  1. Whish – Flawless

    Post Wax & Shave Serum

There are lots of conflicting reviewer comments on the Web about this particular product. Of course, on the company’ web page there are positive comments only, but if you check some online stores, you will see that its’ rank is not the highest possible. People often comment that they are not satisfied with its’ price but on the other hand, they also inform that, unlike other alcohol-based products they did not experience any kind of skin irritation. Nevertheless, there are lots of comments (about half of them) saying that there was no visible improvement and the serum should be applied more often if the condition is more complicated:

„But it needs to be reapplied often depending on how bad the irritation is.”

  1. Kerah Lane Organic

    Razor Bump & Ingrown Hair Formula 8 Oz

The simple fact that this formula does not contain alcohol makes lots of people like it better than other products. Reviews are mostly positive and claim that this product reduces both irritations and ingrown hairs that appear after shaving. Comments also inform that this product slows hair growth. Of course, there are also people for whom this product hasn’t met their expectations. The other significant complaint is about its’ application:

„I  don’t like that it can only be applied in shower because it needs to be rinsed off…”

  1. Ingrown Hair Serum

    (Dump the Bumps) (1.7 oz)

This is another anti-ingrown hair serum which has very positive reviews, mostly based on its’ price which is very affordable compared to similar products. According to most of the reviews, it has a nice smell and the effect is visible after the 2nd week of usage.

  1. Anthony

    Ingrown Hair Treatment , 3 fl. oz.

This is not one of the cheapest products on the market but a high percent of all the comments available on the Internet claim that it is a really effective one. The product is specially designed for men, most of whom inform that their ingrown hairs have noticeably diminished. A number of comments about the product is really impressive, comparing to other brands. There are just a few bad comments claiming that the product does not work or makes the skin very dry.

 When to visit a doctor?

If you follow the ingrown hair prevention methods, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. However, there is always a chance that you are the unlucky one whose problems got a lot more complicated than expected.

So, in case that the situation gets out of control, it might be a good decision to see a doctor. He or she might prescribe some sort of antibiotic treatment which will most probably fix your problem.


The best advice you should follow is to exfoliate the problem area as often as possible. Also, before starting any kind of hair removal, make sure your skin is absolutely clean, this will help you avoid irritations. If your ingrown hair occurs due to shaving, make sure that you always shave with a very sharp, single bladed razor. Another tip you could follow is to never shave in the opposite direction your hair is growing. This irritates the skin and you will often end up with red bumps all over your face. After you have finished shaving, pour cold water instead of hot. This will close up the pores and it will be less likely for them to get infected.


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Ingrown Hair - Causes,  Treatment, Prevention
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Ingrown Hair - Causes, Treatment, Prevention
Ingrown hairs are those funny looking bumps (usually red) that look like little pimples. In fact, these are curled hairs that have grown back or sideways into the skin. The affected areas are usually those that have been frequently shaved (e.g. face, neck, armpits, legs, pubic area).
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About the author

Monika Hristova

Monika is the Editor-in-Chief at SkinPractice. She is a skin care addict and researcher, who feels strongly about helping people with different dermatology conditions from alopecia to warts.

You can read her recommendations and advice both here at SkinPractice or at Quora where she answers skincare-related questions frequently and is the most viewed author in the Skincare category with more than 3 million views or follow her on LinkedIn.

She is also a certified skin care specialist with certification from the Medical College in Sofia.

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