Ingrown hair: how to avoid them? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Definition of ingrown hair

Ingrown hairs can poison the lives of people who shave or epilate. They occur mainly on the legs and the jersey of the women, and the torso or the beard of the men. An ingrown hair is a hair that, instead of coming out of the skin, continues to grow under the skin.

Causes of ingrown hair

The main cause of the ingrown hair is shaving or hair removal: the hair cut short or shaved then has difficulty ironing the skin barrier and tends to incarnate. Some shaving and hair removal techniques are more at risk:

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  • The double or triple blade shaves instead of a single blade , because the first blade pulls the hair so that others cut it closer under the skin. The hair cut under the skin then tends to incarnate. This is even more risky if the shaving is performed “back hair” ie in the opposite direction of the growth of hair (for example by going up on the legs). The hair is then not only cut short but is also thwarted in its growth and tends to be projected under the skin outside its natural exit ostium.
  • Waxing with “hair-back” wax : it is traditional to apply the wax in the direction of hair growth (for example, down on the legs) and pull it in the opposite direction of their hair shoot (up for the legs). Here again it tends to twist the hair and incite it to incarnate.

Some hairs are more prone to incarnate, it is the curly or frizzy hairs that grow in “corkscrew” and not straight, which favors their incarnation

Finally, the trauma of the skin (friction under clothing or underwear) tend to thicken the stratum corneum and twist the hair, these two factors promote the incarnation of the hair.

Evolution and possible complications of ingrown hair

The hair can come out spontaneously but they tend more often to continue to push, usually by wrapping, under the skin

The ingrown hair tends to become infected, especially if we try to extract the tweezers, causing folliculitis and abscess, which can sometimes evolve into lymphangitis, ganglion … and give fever.

When the skin above the hair has been infected, or has been excoriated by a tweezers, it tends to thicken or scars, which further promotes the incarnation of the next hair.

Symptoms of ingrown hair

The ingrown hairs cause small red elevations of the skin unsightly and can itch.

When they become infected they can become painful, hot and the red papule sometimes swells up to the stage of abscess or infected cyst.

Risk factors of ingrown hair

The risk factors for ingrown hairs are:

  • curly or frizzy hair
  • hair and / or double or triple blade shaving
  • hair removal with hair, especially with wax
  • thickening or dryness of the skin (friction on clothing, scars after infected ingrown hairs …)

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The opinion experts

The best solution against ingrown hairs is to trim the hair to 1 mm of skin, but this is not always feasible in practice. When patients want to continue shaving, I recommend single blade razors or electric razors. If they want to continue hair removal, I recommend them laser hair removal and if they do not have the budget, hair removal with depilatory cream or hair removal in the direction of hair growth: it is then necessary for example apply the wax on the legs up and tear down, in the direction of the growth of hair.

The so-called definitive laser hair removal has changed the situation by making it possible to sustainably reduce the number of hairs. This solves the problem of hair and their tendency to incarnate. Its tariffs tend to be democratized since a few years. It requires on average between 4 and 8 sessions to obtain a clear decrease in the number of hairs.

 Prevention of ingrown hair

The easiest way to avoid ingrown hairs is to let the hairs grow … at least a few weeks or even to mow them by leaving one or two millimeters of hair out if it is necessary (human beard for example) .

If it is not possible to stop shaving, the ideal is the electric shaver.

When using a blade razor, you must:

  • use a single blade razor
  • wet the skin with warm water and use a shave gel rather than a mousse to be forced to massage the hair
  • shave in the direction of hair growth
  • Do as few passes as possible from the razor and try not to shave too close and too tight. Avoid especially cutting the skin.
  • rinse the razor after each pass

If it is not possible to avoid hair removal , depilatory hair removal or laser hair removal can be used. In case of persistence of waxing, tear the wax in the direction of hair growth.

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Treatments of ingrown hair

The best is to do nothing: do not touch the ingrown hair and especially do not try to extract it with the tweezers because it is more likely to insert germs causing its infection and create scars. Similarly, do not shave or depilate the area. It may be that the hair can “find the exit” spontaneously.

Eventually, if one clearly sees an ingrown hair near the surface of the skin (it then grows under the epidermis), one can try to extract it gently by means of a sterile needle by disinfecting the skin well before and after the operation, but never dig or attempt to extract hair under the surface of the skin.

In case of infection (folliculitis, abscess …), it is necessary to consult a doctor.

Essential oil of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

On uninfected ingrown hairs, 1 drop diluted with tea tree essential oil , once or twice a day, can be used to treat the problem.

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