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Ingrown hair is the worst. Here's why they happen and how to remove them

There's something deeply satisfying about watching an ingrown hair get removed – the longer and tanglier, the better. (Which probably explains why #ingrownhair has got over 8.5 billion views on TikTok. There's a whole collective of us weirdos out there). But when it comes to actually dealing with the suckers ourselves, let's be honest, it's a lot less fun.

Ingrown hairs may just top the list of worst beauty bugbears for being both uncomfortable and unsightly, which is not a multi-hyphenate we can get on board with. In fact 30% of women who groom their bikini area consider ingrown hairs to be one of the biggest hair-removal obstacle, according to a survey commissioned by Venus Gillette.

So we called on the experts to give us a read on why exactly they happen, how to prevent them and the best way of removing them when they do crop up. Here's what you need to know…

What are ingrown hairs?

Ingrown hairs are the bumps that form on skin when a normal hair grows back in on itself. They manifest as raised, angry lumps, aka pseudofolliculitis barbae (try saying that after a glass of wine). They can be painfully itchy, and sometimes even fill with pus. You're more likely to suffer with them if you have coarse , curly hair since this is more likely to grow back into the skin due to the curved shape of the follicle its grown from.

Why do we get ingrown hairs?

“The condition of skin is important when it comes to ingrown hairs," says Dr Anita Sturnham, dermatologist and Venus ambassador. “The follicular opening can become clogged with a build-up of skin cells, which then trap the hair, impeding its natural progress out of the skin. Hair pierces the follicle wall growing into the surrounding skin.” Another of the main causes is hair removal. “Ingrown hairs from waxing or shaving occur when the hair gets cut below the top layer of the skin, and as it regrows, gets trapped underneath and cannot penetrate back through the epidermis,” explains board certified Dr Shari Marchbein.

Symptoms of ingrown hairs?

Ingrown hairs can look very similar to pimples, although they tend to be smaller and redder and, if you look closely, you might be able to see the hair through the skin. In general these are common signs you have an ingrown hair:

  • Skin irritation (especially around the areas you shave)
  • Small raised bump with hair in the middle
  • Pain
  • Discolouration (red, brown or purple)
  • Itching

How to prevent ingrown hairs?

The best way to prevent ingrown hair from forming in the first place is to avoid shaving. But, if you prefer the feeling of shaved skin, there are steps you can take to try and limit the likelihood of ingrown hair forming.

  1. Always shave in the direction of hair growth using a lubricating shaving product. And always rinse your blade between strokes.
  2. Swap your blade regularly. In fact, pros suggest switching blades every ten shaves.
  3. Try switching to a shaving soap bar. Shaving foams contain various chemical foaming agents and gases to propel the product out of the can, which can often contribute to irritated, dry skin after shaving. “Shaving soap is designed to provide a protective barrier between the skin and razor blade, creating less friction, which can contribute to
  4. Try a different hair removal technique such as epilation, which takes hair out at the root for longer lasting smooth. The Braun Silk-Epil 9 SkinSpa SensoSmart Epilator, £169.99, comes with two exfoliation brushes to prevent ingrown hairs.
  5. Gently exfoliate in between hair removal. This helps ensure skin is clear and hair can grow out in the right direction. “The gentle scrubbing action removes the upper layer of skin and hair can get through to the surface,” says Dr Sturnham. If you're not keen on using a scrub (which can be very harsh on delicate skin, especially the bikini line), Dr Shari recommends a cleanser or toner with BHA (commonly salicylic acid). "BHAs are oil-soluble and can therefore penetrate deep into pores helping to unclog them and remove dead skin," she says. Or lightly sweep over the area with a (reusable) cleansing pad, soaked in AHAs like glycolic acid. This works to break down debris and unblock pores.
  6. Post-hair removal, slather on a skin-calming moisturiser, such as Dr.Organic Aloe Vera Skin Lotion, £7.99. "Applying a moisturiser with cooling ingredients, such as aloe, ensures the skin stays nourished and supple," says Dr Sturnham.

How to remove ingrown hairs?

As well as preventing ingrown hairs, exfoliation can help to unblock follicles so that the hair can release itself freely, however, if after all of your preventative methods, you still find ingrown hairs, do not squeeze. Hairs very close to the surface can be coaxed out with a sterile needle or a pair of tweezers, but if the hair is deep in the skin, don’t go digging. It can lead to folliculitis, when the pore become inflamed and infected. Instead, dab on an antibacterial treatment such as Furs Ingrown Concentrate, £32, to calm and treat the area.

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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