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General overview

An ingrown hair is where a hair curls backwards or grows sideways into the skin and occurs mostly in people who have curly or coarse hair. In some cases it can be accompanied by an infection of the hair follicle, called folliculitis, as bacteria enter these follicles and then multiply rapidly.

The situation of ingrown hair usually occurs in areas where the skin has been waxed or shaved but can occur in other areas as well. Another cause can include tight clothing as this can cause hair to break off unevenly and thus lead to ingrown hairs.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of an ingrown hair may also include those of an active infection. They are as follows:

  • Rash of the involved area.
  • Itching skin.
  • Hair that remains behind after shaving/waxing. This is usually visualized under the upper layer of the skin.
  • Localized redness and warmth.
  • Abscess (pus collection under the skin).

Treatment and management

The management protocol of uncomplicated ingrown hairs includes the following:

  • One can use warm compresses which are then applied over the affected areas. This helps the follicles to expand making removal of the offending hairs easier.
  • The hairs can be removed by plucking them with a pair of tweezers or by using a device made for removal of these hairs.
  • In people who chronically get ingrown hairs, electrolysis (laser treatment) can be considered in order to completely prevent hair growth in highly affected areas.
  • There are some products that can be applied on highly affected areas which aid in preventing ingrown hairs from occurring. These products are alcohol and non-alcohol based, but non-alcohol based products may be a better alternative in people with sensitive skin.
  • Application of salicylic acid is a common remedy for this issue as well.
  • Exfoliating with facial scrubs or creams containing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication is also useful.
  • In more severe cases, where the ingrown hair has caused folliculitis or even cellulitis (infection of the fat tissue), topical or oral antibiotics may need to be prescribed to kill off the bacteria causing this issue.
  • If an abscess has formed, then this needs to be lanced so that the underlying pus can be drained and the wound is then thoroughly cleaned out. Oral antibiotics will also be prescribed here.

Preventative measures

If you are prone to recurring ingrown hairs then following these measures may help in reducing their occurrence.

  • Try letting facial and body hair to grow out as normal.
  • When shaving, apply adequate lubrication in the form of shaving creams or gels to prevent hair from being pushed under the skin.
  • Try to avoid applying too much pressure when shaving as this will result in hair being cut under the layer of the skin.
  • For beards, try using a trimmer rather than a razor blade. This will help in the hair not being shorter than the depth of the skin.
  • Try shaving in a different direction as this will cause hair to take a different route when growing.

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