What is an ingrown hair?
- An ingrown hair happens when the sharp tip of the hair curls back or grows sideways into the skin.
- It usually appears as a small tan or sometimes pink bump under the skin.
- A small pinpoint (often dark) part of the underlying hair may be seen under the skin bump.
- In multiple small red or pink little bumps around hair follicles may be seen on any skin area that has been frequently shaved, such as the face, neck, armpits, legs, and pubic region.
- Ingrown hair is a very common skin condition occurring primarily after puberty.
- Ingrown hairs tend to be more common in areas with coarse hairs, like the bikini area in women, and beard and neck in men.
- Individuals with thicker, coarser hairs, such as African Americans, tend to have the highest rate of problems with ingrown hairs, particularly of the beard area.
- An ingrown hair may also appear in other skin parts, such as the eyelid.
- An ingrown hair is medically harmless, yet it may become cosmetically disfiguring and lead to scarring, skin discoloration (referred to as post-inflammatory hyper pigmentation), skin infection, and rarely keloid scar formation.
What causes an ingrown hair?
Hair that is cut short and close to the skin creates a sharp tip that can more easily pierce the skin to cause an ingrown hair. Improper shaving techniques are the major cause of ingrown hairs.
Other hair-removal methods, including waxing, as well as common friction from tight clothing, may worsen the situation.
Although an ingrown hair is primarily caused by improper or aggressive hair removal, it sometimes occurs naturally as too much dead skin debris blocks the hair follicle opening, causing the hair to grow sideways.
Nearly everyone will have an ingrown hair at some time.Overall, teenagers and adults are more prone to ingrown hairs.African-American individuals with thicker, coarser hairs tend to have the highest rate of problems with ingrown hairs.
Ingrown hair facts
- Ingrown hairs are a benign skin disorder commonly seen in teenagers and adults.
- Ingrown hairs more frequently occur in adult men with darker skin or African-American skin.
- Ingrown hairs commonly occur on shaved areas, such as the face, neck, armpit, legs, and pubic region.
- Ingrown hairs look like scattered, pinpoint tan or red bumps.
- Ingrown hairs can be cosmetically disfiguring.
- Ingrown hairs are often caused by improper shaving.
- Ingrown hairs may resolve on their own without treatment.
- Infection of skin can occur.
- Avoid close shaves to prevent ingrown hair.
- Ingrown hairs may require ongoing maintenance therapy.
- Many topical creams are available to help control ingrown hairs.
- A combination of treatments may be needed to achieve the best result.
- Laser hair
removal can be a good option to prevent ingrown hairs.
- Itch and tenderness at the ingrown hair area.
- Can lead to a localized foreign-body inflammatory reaction, which causes the pinpoint red or pink bumps on the skin.
- Some of the bumps may be slightly red or have an accompanying light-red halo indicating inflammation.
- Sometimes, the curled hair can be barely visible at the center of the bump.
- Small pus bumps or dry red bumps are often scattered over an area that has been shaved recently. Often the bumps start a few days to weeks after hair removal and get worse as the hairs grow back. Acne whiteheads, called milia, may also be in the same areas as ingrown hairs.
- Individuals who have ingrown hairs may experience a painful acne-like eruption after shaving.
- The upper skin layers may have some dilation of the small superficial blood vessels, which gives the skin a red or flushed appearance.
- Pustules and rare abscesses may form on the ingrown hair sites due
to the infection with common skin bacteria, such as Staphylococcus
Shaving the Bikini Area
If you opt to shave your bikini area, you can avoid irritation by following these tips from Julie Harper, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and a spokeswoman for Philips Healthcare:
- Treat razor burn and ingrown hairs by gently exfoliating the affected area with a washcloth in the shower. You can also trim the hair short (avoid shaving) until the redness and irritation has subsided.
- Resist the urge to perform DIY surgery on razor bumps and ingrown hairs. The bump could get infected and you might be left with an ugly scar. You can try gently lifting ingrown hairs with a toothpick, but don't use anything too sharp. If the hair doesn't lift easily, stop, and if the area is tender or hot to the touch, see your doctor.
- Refrain from taking hot showers or baths for several hours after removing hair. If the water is too hot, pores can become irritated, causing unwanted bumps and discomfort.
- Steer clear of workouts and tight clothing immediately after grooming to avoid irritation. Skin can be extra-sensitive to bacteria, moisture, and chafing from your workout clothes.
Many women prefer longer-lasting results, however, and opt for the bikini wax. Hair removal is one of the top three services requested in spas, according to Spa Trade, a spa industry business resource.
What is the treatment for an ingrown hair?
Although an ingrown hair can heal on its own and spontaneously dislodge, in some cases, it may be tough to get rid of it. Available treatments include
- chemical depilatories,
- topical creams,
- topical antibiotics,
- medical removal of the ingrown hair by small incision and pulling out the hair,
- hair-removal laser.
Best results may be achieved with combination therapy. Consulting a medical doctor who specializes in dermatology may be necessary for the optimal treatment of more severe cases.