Ingrown hairs are a common issue that can develop for a number of reasons. They can affect men and women and often occur in areas where people usually shave, such as the legs, face, or armpits. Ingrown hairs occur when the cuticle becomes clogged with dead skin cells or if a hair grows up then curls back into the follicle.
The end result is the same. The ingrown hair looks like a small bump on the skin and sometimes a pimple will form with puss filling the follicle. Ingrown hairs can be unsightly and itchy.1
How To Treat an Ingrown Hair
If you find any ingrown hairs, then you should try to leave them alone. Do not pick, scratch, or try to pluck ingrown hairs because you could damage the skin and allow infection into the follicle. As long as there are just a few ingrown hairs, you can most likely leave them alone and the issue will resolve itself. Simply try to keep the area clean and leave the hair alone so that it heals without a scar.2
If you have lots of ingrown hairs with pimples or you find that you have a recurring problem with ingrown hairs, then you may need to treat them. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or steroid creams if the follicles are showing signs of infection.3
If your ingrown hairs are minor, then you may want to try some home remedies before you go to the doctor. Treating the hair follicle/pimple with essential oils could help bring down any inflammation and reduce the risk of infection, promoting better healing.
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The best essential oils to use for ingrown hair are ones that are anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. There are some obvious choices here, such as tea tree and lavender. Tea tree oil is often used to treat acne, for example, and you could get similar results using it to manage ingrown hairs.4 The oil can help kill off any bacteria that may infect the clogged pore, and it also soothes the skin.
Lavender oil is another versatile oil that has anti-microbial effects, and, interestingly, it is also used to promote better hair growth. Studies show that lavender can encourage the healthy regrowth of hair in mice.5 That may not sound like a huge benefit, but studies on mice are a popular choice to decide whether an essential oil or medicine is worth studying on humans too.
Another oil that is useful for remedying ingrown hair is chamomile. This essential oil is popular in skin and hair care, and it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.6 These properties make it a good skincare agent, as it reduces inflammation that may be making the skin irritation and clogged follicle worse while helping to keep the skin looking youthful and fresh.7
Whatever essential oils you decide to use, it’s important that you do not apply them without dilution. Mix one to two drops of the essential oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut or jojoba oil. You should use about 10 mL of carrier oil per one to two drops of essential oil.
Apply some oil to a cotton bud and then apply it onto the affected area of skin. Do this morning and night until the ingrown hair clears up.
How To Prevent Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs can occur for many reasons, but some of the most common causes are associated with shaving. Learning how to shave properly could help prevent ingrown hairs:
- Always use a sharp single-bladed razor
- Use shaving foam or cream to soften the hair
- After each stroke with the razor, rinse the blade under clean water
- Replace your razor if it is going blunt
- Shave with the direction of hair growth
- Try to cover each area of the skin in as few strokes as you can
- If you use an electric razor, don’t press it deeply into the skin
- For areas where you don’t need perfectly smooth skin, try to leave a little stubble
- After shaving, apply a cool washcloth to the skin to soothe it and reduce irritation
The most common causes of ingrown hairs are using a razor that is a little blunt, shaving in the wrong direction, or trying to “dry shave” when you are in a hurry. All of these factors can increase the risk of hairs becoming “trapped” under the skin. If your skin is greasy or there is still dirt on it when you try to shave, that can make ingrown hairs more likely too.8
Some people are more prone to ingrown hairs than others. Those who find that they get them regularly may consider getting laser surgery to stop the hair growth in the affected area, especially if it’s on the face where ingrown hairs can be quite distressing. Laser surgery is non-invasive and produces lasting results.
The quest for smooth skin and the “close shave” is something that makes ingrown hairs more likely. If you must shave “close,” then make sure your razor blade is as sharp as possible, and be sure to pamper your skin before and after the shave.
Remember that while ingrown hairs are not usually anything to worry about, if you notice painful, red or angry bumps or spots that get bigger instead of going away after a day or two, then you should seek advice from a doctor to rule out the possibility of a more serious infection.
Though ingrown hairs are not usually very serious from a medical standpoint, their appearance and symptoms can be quite bothersome. Try some of the essential oils discussed about to soothe the symptoms of ingrown hairs and prevent the likelihood of their return. Your skin will thank you for it.
Photo credits: FCG/shutterstock.com, VladimirGjorgiev/shutterstock.com