woman shaving her legs

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Because you're a damn adult and can take care of it.

Anyone who has ever shaved, waxed, or depleted hair from any part of their body knows the pain and agony of having an ingrown hair. It’s the worst, and one of those things you can’t ignore until it’s gone. So, how the hell do you banish one to the phantom zone?

What is an ingrown hair?

When hair grows from the follicle, it typically rises up smoothly through the skin. However, sometimes it has difficulty puncturing the surface, and instead curls back around itself. This leads to red, painful bumps where the hair, and sometimes other dirt and oil, get stuck. It can happen to anyone, but it’s especially common for those with thick, curly hair, which has a greater chance of spiraling back down into your skin and being a living nightmare.

How do you get rid of one?

One of the biggest risks of removing ingrown hairs is infection, and removing one cleanly depends on the type of hair and severity of its depths.

The easiest type is if you can see the loop of hair pretty clearly under the skin. A lot of people say not to pick at it, but that will be nearly impossible because it will be right there and so close and it will kill you not to touch it. So instead, pick at it responsibly, with clean tweezers. 

First, press a warm compress over the hair for a few minutes, which should be enough to coax the hair right to the surface. Then, with sterilized tweezers, gently pull at the loop of hair until it comes out.

For more serious ingrown hairs, heavy exfoliation is probably needed to get the hair to the state where it can be removed. Scrub the area with a loofah, exfoliating brush, or any exfoliating wash about twice a day until the hair starts to come to the surface. You can also try treating it with an acne medication.

If that still doesn’t work, it may be time to go to a dermatologist, who can surgically remove bad ingrown hairs. But hopefully, with the proper care, it won’t come to that.

How do you prevent ingrown hairs from happening?

That whole exfoliation thing is really important to prevent ingrown hairs, because it gets rid of the dirt, oil, and dead skin that traps those hairs in the first place.

There are two main types of exfoliants—chemical and physical. Chemical exfoliants break down the top layer of your skin with acids or enzymes, while physical exfoliants use abrasive particles or materials so you can get rid of your skin with good ol’ elbow grease. Both work great, but try to avoid exfoliants with microbeads, since they’re killing the planet.

Just because you have a good exfoliant doesn’t mean you should be rubbing off all your skin every day. About once to twice a week is enough for most people to exfoliate. More than that, and you’ll probably do some damage to your skin.

Aside from keeping your skin clear, check on how you’re removing your hair. The most common cause of ingrown hairs is shaving, and the most common piece of advice is to never shave against the grain of your hair. While that does generally lessen your chance of ingrown hairs, it’s also pretty impractical, since shaving against the grain is how you get the closest shave, and trying to shave from your knee down your leg is really impractical.

Instead, focus on what you’re using to shave. Using new, clean blades will be your best bet against ingrowns, not only because they’re sharp, but because you don’t have to use as much pressure against your skin, which can irritate it.

And if you really need some help, just watch all the ingrown hair videos on YouTube. They definitely won’t scar you for life. 

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