An ingrown hair is a hair that curls back on itself and starts growing back into the follicle, or a hair that fails to grow out of the follicle and stays embedded in the skin. Ingrown hairs can affect the face, neck, legs, or any part of the body. They are usually just minor irritations, but can be painful or unsightly. Moreover, if they are left untreated, ingrown hairs can become infected. Unfortunately, while ingrown hair is more common with people having curly hair, almost everybody will get one at some time, and if you shave regularly, you may have to deal with ingrown hairs quite frequently. Got one now? Follow these instructions to get rid of it, and keep it from coming back.
1. Exfoliate the area. Twice a day, scrub the ingrown hair gently. This will help to remove any dead skin cells, dirt, and oils that might be trapping the ingrown hair. It can also physically nudge the tip of the hair out of your skin. You want to exfoliate enough to achieve this effect, but not so much that the ingrown hair starts to bleed. It's very difficult to remove an ingrown hair from under a scab. When in doubt, exfoliate more gently but for a longer period of time. Try to hit the ingrown hair from a variety of directions.
2. Apply a dab of acne medication. Ingrown hairs are pretty similar to pimples, especially when the ingrown hair is accompanied by pus. Apply benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid several times a day for a few days. This, combined with daily exfoliation, is often enough to remove the ingrown hair, since swelling will be reduced, giving the hair more room to grow out (rather than in).
3. Apply a warm, moist compress to the area for a few minutes to soften the skin. Just wet a washcloth with hot water, wring it out, and press it against the ingrown hair. When the washcloth cools down, run it under hot water again. If you can see the ingrown hair embedded in the skin, this treatment will soften the hair and bring it closer to the surface. If you can't initially see the hair, leave the warm compress on until it rises to the skin's surface. If you apply the compress for ten minutes and you still can't see any sign of hair, you're not going to be able to remove it yourself, or it might be something else altogether.
4. Use a sterile needle, tweezers or a rotable medical device for ingrown hairs to gently tease the hair out of the skin. The warm compress should have brought the hair to the surface--don't dig for the hair if you can't easily get at it. Don't pluck the hair out completely if you can avoid doing so; just make sure that the ingrown end is out of the skin. It may take a little time to coax the hair out: be patient, and do not cut the skin.
- Sometimes you'll see a loop of the hair close to the surface of the skin. This means that the tip of the hair has begun growing down into the skin. If you get a needle in the loop and tug lightly, the end will often come loose.
- If you choose to use tweezers, remember that tweezers can be bought either pointy or flat-tipped. A pointy-tipped pair may cause less damage to the skin around the hair if used carefully. Another choice might be to use a rotable medical device for ingrown hairs which does not damage the follicle or the surrounding skin.
5. Wash the area around the (formerly) ingrown hair with warm water and a moisturizing soap. Apply an antiseptic to provide extra protection against infection. Avoid wearing tight clothing on that area, and exfoliate regularly to prevent new ingrown hairs. You may wish to apply a daily topical solution to prevent any further ingrown hairs from developing.