What are ingrown hair?
Ingrown hair is a condition where hair curls back or grows sideways into the skin. The condition is most prevalent among people who have coarse or curly hair. It may or may not be accompanied by an infection of the hair follicle or "razor bumps" which vary in size. While ingrown hair most commonly appears in areas where the skin is shaved or waxed (beard, legs, pubic region), it can appear anywhere.
Improper hair removal techniques may lead to ingrown hair cysts, Removing a hair can also cause the new hair that grows in its place to grow sideways and eventually curl back down. When this happens, the pore can close over the hair so it becomes stuck, or ingrown. The skin responds by becoming inflamed, treating the curled-back hair as a foreign object.
What causes Ingrown hair?
Anything which causes the hair to be broken off unevenly with a sharp tip can cause ingrown hairs. Ingrown hair can affect anyone who removes hair by shaving, tweezing or waxing. One of the major cause of ingrown hair is the use of multi-blade cartridge razors. Multi-blade razors shave by employing a tug-and-pull mechanism. The first blade latches on to and lifts the hair while the following blades cut it. While this works for small hair growth, with longer stubble the effectiveness of the technique diminishes drastically. This mechanism results in the hair being cut below skin level, leading to ingrown hair which causes painful red bumps on the skin.
Ingrown hairs are also caused because of lack of natural exfoliation in the skin. This occurs mostly in oily and sensitive skin types. After the hair is cut-off unevenly, it is not given the chance to grow out of the follicle and protrude out of the skin through the tiny pores present on our face. Presence of oils or debris on the pores, clogs them, and causes the hair to curl beneath the skin, leading to the formation of cysts. At first, you might notice a small pimple-like bump that has a hair at its surface. It may also be red in color. Over time — if the ingrown hair doesn’t go away — the small bump can transform into a much larger one. The resulting cyst can be red, white, or yellow in color. It may also be painful to the touch.
How can we prevent Ingrown hair?
When shaving, there are a few precautions that can be taken to prevent ingrown hairs.
- Preparing your skin before shaving by using a mild cleanser, preferably with salicylic acid or a pre-shave scrub loaded with exfoliants with mild water.
- Applying the proper amount of lubrication (in the form of shaving cream, gel, or soap) is important to prevent the hair from being forced underneath the surface of the skin.
- We recommend using a sharp single blade safety razor while avoiding close shaves and shaving against the grains. Application of too much force with a razor can contribute to hair that is cut shorter than the surrounding dermis.
- Never pull your skin taut while shaving. Also never shave against the grain/ hair growth
- Proper exfoliation is also key in preventing ingrown hair. It unclogs pores and helps expose the hair follicles on your face. This allows your razor to cut the hair right at the base.
P.S.- You should never pop an ingrown hair cyst, as this can increase your risk for infection and scarring. You also shouldn’t try to lift the hair out with tweezers as you might with a normal ingrown hair. At this point, the hair is embedded far too deep underneath the cyst for you to pull out.
Instead, you should encourage the cyst to go down and the hair to straighten upward by gently scrubbing the cysts with a warm cloth a couple of times a day.
If you develop an infection, refer a skin care specialist. Don’t allow the infection to spread and get worse.