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What Are Ingrown Hairs and What To Do About Them

Why You Get Ingrown Hairs

Ingrown hairs are a common irritation and there are some factors that can increase how often you experience them and whether or not they could have an effect on your skin over time. Discover what exactly an ingrown hair is, how it forms, the top reasons you get them, and some of our top tips on how to keep ingrown hairs at bay for smooth, even-toned skin.

What Are Ingrown Hairs?

An ingrown hair occurs when a hair strand attempts to grow out of a follicle opening but ends up growing into the skin. When the hair grows into the skin, your body considers it a foreign object, causing redness and inflammation as it attempts to fight it off. Some ingrown hairs may also cause infection or become pus-filled pustules, similar to an acne breakout.

There are three types of ingrown hairs:

  1. A hair that grows properly but then grows back in on itself, with the end of the hair growing back into the skin.
  2. A hair that is blocked from growing out of the follicle opening and instead grows to the side, into the skin.
  3. A hair that grows properly but is trapped by blockages of dirt, debris, or dead skin cells before exiting the follicle opening, causing it to become stuck and continue growing in the follicle itself.

Typically speaking, the first type, which grows back in on itself, is easy to treat at home and less likely to risk infection. The latter two types, however, are more likely to cause inflammation, infection, hyperpigmentation, and keloid scarring in some cases. On a serious note, it is best to let the professionals treat you instead of trying to remove it yourself with the risk of scarring.

3 Top Causes of Ingrown Hairs

Generally speaking, the reason you get ingrown hairs is likely one of three main causes:

  1. You shave, tweeze, or wax - These methods of hair removal tend to leave fragments of each hair behind, below the skin’s surface. Shaving, in particular, risks cutting each hair off at a sharp edge, making it easier for hair to grow into the skin. Add to this the fact that many of us neglect to exfoliate between hair removal methods and forget to shave in the direction of hair growth. This is often the cause of ingrown hairs on the neck or face for men and the legs or underarms for women.
  2. You wear tight clothing or there is more friction in the affected area - Tighter clothing and areas of friction tends to push hair back toward the skin, causing otherwise normal hairs to attempt to grow back into the skin as they have nowhere else to go. This is often the cause of ingrown hairs along the bikini line, where razor bumps tend to also occur.
  3. You have coarser, curlier hair - Naturally coarse, curly hair tends to naturally want to curl back and grow in on itself. With this hair type, all three types of ingrown hairs may be possible and chronic ingrowth may be more likely to risk hyperpigmentation.

How to Stop Getting Ingrown Hairs

For those who wish to continue to shave, our tips for a stress-free shave can also double up as steps to lower your risk of ingrowth. For shaving, waxing, or tweezing, exfoliating between hair removal sessions and ensuring the skin stays hydrated can also help to keep follicles open, encourage healthy, supple hair growth, and better prevent ingrown hairs. Furthermore, lotions or cleansers containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or glycolic acid can offer a gentle exfoliation as compared to physical methods, like those containing sugar, which can feel harsher on sensitive skin.

For pigmentation related to ingrown hairs, depending on where it has occurred, a retinoid-based treatment may be an effective solution. Retinoids help to exfoliate skin and encourage healthy skin cell turnover to gradually reduce the appearance of scarring or pigmentation. For sensitive areas or ingrown hairs that may be affected, it’s best to speak to a dermatologist or aesthetics professional before treating the area with a retinoid, as the hair may need to be removed or an infection cleared prior to pigmentation treatment.

To get to the very root of the problem, though, laser hair removal treatments may be your best bet. Using advanced technology, Venus Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and diode laser hair removal treatments remove hair at a deeper level as compared to shaving and goes one step further than waxing or tweezing to inhibit hair regrowth. These treatments utilize IPL and diode laser technology to target the pigment in each hair and destroy the hair follicle, causing the treated hair to fall out and preventing regrowth. Multiple sessions are needed to ensure all hairs are treated because hair cycles through growing phases. The result is a permanent reduction in hair regrowth and an effective way to end the cycle of your chronic ingrown hairs. For those considering an at-home diode laser hair removal device, weigh the pros and cons here before you commit.

Interested in learning more about how hair removal treatments can help you better manage and prevent ingrown hairs? Locate a treatment professional near you using the search field below to book a consultation today.

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