The definitive ways to treat and prevent ingrown hair

We’re all familiar with ingrowns, particular come summer. It’s not fun to slip into a bathing suit when your bikini line is peppered with red spots! While we all know what they look like, many of us aren’t familiar with what exactly an ingrown is. In short, it’s a hair follicle trapped by dead skin. Ingrown hairs occur when hair grows back into the skin instead of up and out to the surface. For obvious reasons, women with thick, coarse, or curly hair are more susceptible to them.

So what can you do about it? Just like with keeping skin acne-free, exfoliation is key. “It’s important to exfoliate well so that the dead skin doesn’t sit on top of the hair,” says Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified NYC dermatologist, Assistant Professor of Dermatology Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. “This clears away dead skin and leaves you ready to eliminate unwanted hairs. It is good to use a slightly abrasive cloth or a machine like the Clarisonic that vibrates the skin to get rid of the dead skin cells on the surface.” Another option is to chemically exfoliate. “Alpha and beta hydroxy acids will reduce ingrown hairs and razor bumps when used before shaving,” says New York City dermatologist and founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, Dr. Dennis Gross. Personally I’m all about chemical exfoliation – using alpha and beta hydroxy acids and more. Going the chemical route is more effective and precise and since I have sensitive skin I prefer to avoid anything abrasive. There are a ton of great chemical pad options. Dr. Gross’ are my absolute fave (two step pads).  I use them on my face and then on my body/bikini problem areas (these pads have TOTALLY changed my skin and they’re gentle enough to use daily – I have pale, sensitive skin).

Freeze 24/7  Skin Smoothie Retexturizing Glycolic Pads are also great. Again I would start on the face and then use them on my body/bikini area. These are an especially good option if you’re looking for something that’s one step (though you only need to wait a minute between the 2-step pads).

Another important point: be careful when you shave! “Shaving can cause ingrown hairs and razor bumps,” says Dr. Gross. “To avoid these, don’t apply too much pressure to the razor when you shave. You should also shave the night before going out into the sun and shave in multiple directions to avoid ingrown hairs. You should also use a shaving cream or oil to hydrate and protect skin while shaving.” Dr. Jaliman also suggests using a shaving brush when shaving since it lifts the hair off the skin, making it easier.

That’s all well and good, but what if you’ve failed to take preventative measure and now have ingrowns?

According to Dr. Jaliman, the best way to treat an ingrown hair is to have it extracted. “If you want to do it at home then you need to clean the area with rubbing alcohol and then take a tweezer to dig out the hair. Be sure to apply a topical antibiotic after. You can also have it extracted at a doctor’s office.  In my office we inject it with a steroid after to decrease the inflammation.” Personally, when I get my bikini wax I always ask them to extract any ingrowns. The area is a bit red after but in a day or two things look a lot better. After extraction a spray like Pure Tropix Ingrown Hair Prevention can be very helpful.

Image: Vogue

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