Ingrown hair is a condition where strands of hair curl back or grow sideways into the skin. It can be accompanied by red bumps in the affected area, and when these red spots become infected, they form folliculitis.
Better known as razor bumps, folliculitis is a skin condition that mostly appears after shaving. It’s characterized by tiny raised bumps of ingrown hair that can be itchy, painful, and filled with puss.
Shaved or waxed areas on the skin are more likely to form ingrown hair. This can include pubic areas close to the penis, penile shaft, labia, and vagina, including places such as your armpits, legs, scalp or face. That being said, ingrown hairs can appear anywhere and mostly occur in people with coarse or curly hair. While this condition can strike anyone, it appears to be more common among African-American men.
Causes of Ingrown Hair
Several factors can promote hair to grow inside the skin or renter the epidermis. The manner in which ingrown strands of hair form largely depends on the underlying cause. For instance, anything that causes hair to break off unevenly with a sharp tip encourages the formation of ingrown hair. This can include shaving, wearing tight clothing, or waxing.
In a healthy pore, hair usually grows straight up out of the follicle. However, coarse and curly strands have a tendency to bend around and re-enter the skin, mostly after shaving. Shaving makes it easy for hair to grow back inward because new strands have a sharper tip that can easily pierce skin pores.
Sometimes ingrown hair will not even pop out of the skin’s surface. This happens when dead skin cells in a clogged follicle force new strands to bend at the base and grow sideways into the follicular wall.
Ingrown hair is not a serious health problem. Although it’s an irritating condition that causes itchiness and discomfort on the skin, treatment is not required in most cases because the hair stuck under your skin will eventually grow out and reach the surface. However, if you wish to get rid of this annoying issue, you can try simple home remedies and conventional treatments to speed up the healing process. This will shorten the period of enduring the unpleasant redness and inflammation that’s often associated with ingrown hair.
Home Remedies for Ingrown Hair
The following methods will help to treat razor bumps and ingrown hair at home:
- Make Your Own Exfoliation Scrub
Exfoliating is the best way to remove dirt, sebum, and dead cells that trap ingrown hair. What’s more, this method can save you a ton of money. Making your own exfoliation scrub is also easy since all you need are a few simple natural ingredients. Here are three easy homemade exfoliator recipes to try:
- Homemade salt scrub
- Combine one tablespoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water.
- Dip a cotton ball in the solution.
- Dab it on the affected area. Leave the cotton ball in place for 3 to 5minutes and wash it off with cold water.
- Exfoliate 2 to 3 times daily until the ingrown hair starts to loosen or sheds off by itself.
Salt is a good exfoliating agent because it increases circulation, reduces swelling, and promotes healing.
- Sugar and Olive Oil Scrub
- Mix one cup of sugar with one and a half cups of olive oil in a small bowl. You can also stir in a few drops of other essential oils, although this is optional.
- Pour this mixture in small portions on the affected area.
- Scrub the skin gently in circular motions for 3 to 5 minutes. Rinse off with warm water when done.
- Repeat this procedure once or twice a week to avoid irritating your skin. Make sure to save any leftover oil in an airtight bottle for future use.
Sugar doesn’t entirely dissolve in oil. Therefore, the particles in this exfoliation solution do a great job at reaching deep down your skin pores to remove dead cells that trap ingrown hair.
- Baking Soda Exfoliation Scrub
- Add one tablespoon of baking soda to 8 fluid ounces of facial cleanser. Optionally, you can make a paste of baking soda with water and ground oatmeal.
- Rub the pate gently into the affected spot and leave it for 5 minutes before rinsing off.
- Pat the skin dry and apply a moisturizing cream.
- Repeat 2 to 3 times every day as required.
Baking soda has anti-inflammatory properties that bring down the swelling on razor bumps. It also reduces redness and itchiness on spots with ingrown hairs.
- Hot Water or Warm Milk and Bread Compresses
Deeply embedded ingrown hairs can be dislodged gradually by applying heat on the affected area. A hot compress will soften the hair, bringing it closer to the surface. Follow these directions to use this simple remedy:
- Soak a washcloth into hot water. Squeeze excess water from the cloth and press it on the affected area. If the compress cools, dip it in hot water, wring again and reapply on the ingrown hair.
- Alternatively, dip a slice of bread into slightly hot milk and press it against razor bumps. Leave the dipped bread on the skin until it cools. Keep dipping and holding the hot slice of bread on the ingrown hair to heat it for about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Repeat steps 1 or 2 on a daily basis and always examine whether the ingrown hair is visible. If the hair strand is noticeable, use a sterile need or tweezers to tease it out of the skin. An ingrown hair that renters the skin usually forms a loop. The tip can be loose and easy to nudge out of the skin. However, don’t force it out to avoid irritating your skin. It may take some time to loosen and remove the ingrown hair, so be patient and avoid cutting the skin to avoid infection.
- Eggshell Membrane
The thin lining that surrounds an egg on the inside, also known as an eggshell membrane, can be very useful for getting rid of ingrown hair. The egg membrane acts as a natural anti-inflammatory when applied directly on the skin.
- Carefully peel off the membrane from the inside of a cracked eggshell.
- Use the membrane to cover the ingrown hair.
- Allow it to dry and stay on the problem area for a few minutes.
- Pull the dry egg membrane gently from your skin. If the ingrown hair is loose, it should come out with the membrane. However, it might take a few applications before a deeply embedded ingrown hair begins to come out.
- Aspirin and Honey
If you want to soothe redness and inflammation on razor bumps, some honey and aspirin will do the trick. Since aspirin also has Salicylic acid, it will wash away any dead cells that are trapping hair inside follicular walls.
- Simply soak 2-tablets of aspirin in 1-teaspoon of water.
- Add 1 teaspoon of honey to the mixture. This will give the paste antibacterial properties that protect clogged follicles from infection.
- Apply the paste on the problem area and let it settle for about 10 minutes.
- Repeat this treatment once or twice per week. If you have highly sensitive skin, perform a patch test just to be sure that you won’t react badly to the aspirin/honey solution.
- Tea Tree Oil
You can protect ingrown hairs from infection and reduce swelling on irritated areas by using tea tree oil. This essential oil is a natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Therefore, it will promote healing and fight off bacteria that might invade clogged hair follicles. Using tea tree oil to treat ingrown hairs is also quite simple:
- Mix 5 drops of the oil with 2-tablespoons of water.
- Clean the affected area with antibacterial soap then apply the diluted tea tree oil.
- After 10 minutes, rinse the oil from your skin with warm water.
- Repeat this process two times daily until you see the desired change.
- Black Tea Bags
Black teabags contain an active ingredient known as tannic acid, which a natural anti-inflammatory. Tannic acid bring downs the redness and swelling that is associated with ingrown hairs. Here are the steps to use this natural remedy to get rid of ingrown hair:
- Expose a black tea bag to warm water.
- Massage the moistened tea bag over the affected area for a couple of minutes.
- Continue with this treatment for several days to get relief from reddish and inflamed razor bumps.
Coffee has acidic properties that can bring an ingrown hair closer to the skin’s surface. This inexpensive remedy only takes a few minutes to apply.
- Start by mixing one 8 fluid ounces of lukewarm water with a quarter cup of ground coffee.
- Rub the mixture on the problem area for 2 to 3 minutes using a gentle, circular motion.
- Finally, rinse the treated spot with clean water then moisturize as needed.
- Follow this regimen daily until you see the desired result.
- Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is one of the common ingredients on many cosmetic and skin treatment products because of its potent healing abilities. Ingredients from this plant will keep your skin hydrated and speed up the healing process when treating razor bumps or ingrown hair. Aloe Vera also provides relief from itchiness and swelling.
Here are the instructions for using this natural treatment to soothe irritation from ingrown hair:
- Cut a fresh Aloe Vera leaf horizontally in thin slices.
- Extract the gel from the leaf and rub it on the skin. Let the treated spot dry and stay that way for about 30 minutes.
- Rise off with warm water then use a clean towel to dry the treated spot.
- Repeat this treatment 2 times daily for several consecutive days.
In addition to having anti-inflammatory properties, cucumbers also leave your skin feeling supple and moisturized. They can be very useful at alleviating symptoms of ingrown hair such as itchiness and pain.
- Allow a fresh cucumber to chill in the refrigerator for about 30-minutes. Cut the cucumber into thin round slices then apply them directly on spots that have ingrown hair.
- Repeat this simple treatment two times daily for a few days.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is yet another alternative if you’re looking for natural anti-inflammatory remedies to soothe irritating razor bumps. As an added benefit, the acidic nature of this vinegar will obliterate skin bacteria and yeast, thus reducing chances of infection.
- Just apply undiluted apple cider vinegar on the affected area using a cotton ball. Alternatively, mix lukewarm water with some vinegar then dip a cloth into this mixture, wring it, and press on the affected area.
- Follow this simple remedy twice a day until your condition improves.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to try every remedy listed above since some of the treatments provide the same result. Everyone reacts differently to various skin regimens, so be sure to do a patch test on your wrist before beginning any remedy.
If you’re not able to get any relief from any of these home remedies or your ingrown hair becomes severely infected, make a doctor’s appointment to get proper treatment.
Medications & Conventional Treatments for Ingrown Hair
When hair grows under the skin, medical intervention is rarely required because the stuck piece of hair will eventually pop out above the skin’s surface. But if the condition doesn’t improve even with proper self-care, there are several medications and conventional treatments that your dermatologist can prescribe or suggest. These include:
- Acne Medications
Acne medications such as Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid help to treat puss filled ingrown hair. Simply apply either medication as indicated on the label and exfoliate your skin daily.
Benzoyl Peroxide reduces the amount of bacteria that causes folliculitis. On the other hand, Salicylic Acid dissolves dead skin cells and other substances in a clogged follicle to release the ingrown hair.
- Laser Hair Removal
If the cycle of shaving unwanted hair is the bane of having to deal with recurring bouts of ingrown hair, consider removing hair completely. This treatment procedure uses pulses of laser light to get rid of unwanted hair by destroying underlying follicles.
Short-term post therapy side effects such as itchiness, redness and inflammation around the treatment area are normal but laser hair removal is fairly painless. However, several sessions are required in order to kill hair at different phases of growth.
- Creams and Topical Applications
Ingrown hairs can be treated with steroid creams that you rub onto your skin to bring the swelling and irritation down. Your doctor may also prescribe Retinoids such as Renova, Rentin A or tretinoin. These topical applications exfoliate dead cells from the skin and eliminate pigment changes that occur on spots with ingrown hair.
- Antibiotic Pills or Creams
In cases of mild infections, an antibiotic cream may be used to treat ingrown hairs. Oral antibiotics are usually used to treat more severe infections.