An ingrown hair is the hair that has curled back on itself piercing into the skin rather than growing upwards. While this kind of problem is more common with those that have curly hair, it is highly likely that everybody will face this problem at least once in their lives. In addition, if you shave regularly, you may face this problem more often.
While modern beauty practices provide us with ample ways to remove this hair – from shaving to waxing and electrolysis, the fact is that removing them often leaves other undesirables in their place, including ingrown hairs and razor bumps. Keeping that in mind, here is what you should know about ingrown hair and ways of removing them naturally.
What Are Razor Bumps?
Razor bumps are a form of ingrown hair that is caused due to improper shaving techniques. First, let’s back up a moment and say that some people get razor burn, particularly on the legs and underarms; this is a bit different than razor bumps, also called shave bumps, but can lead to the same condition.
Razor burn is a slight red irritation of the skin that develops within a couple minutes of shaving with a dull razor, lack of lubrication, too much pressure, too much haste, or shaving against the grain of the hair. Razor burn results when shaving breaks the top layer of the skin, leading to sensitivity towards things that are put on the skin such as lotions or bath splashes, and can even lead to burning sensations if you enter into a chlorinated swimming pool or natural salt water.
A form of ingrown hair, razor bumps occur after shaving, when a thin layer of skin closes, trapping the tip of the newly shaven hair beneath. Most hair breaks through this thin coating, growing to be shaved another day. However, some wavier hair will turn before they can break through the thin layer of skin and will grow back in towards the follicle.
On the legs, where hair is less curly, this hair can actually follow a path along the leg, resulting in a slight dark line of hair visible beneath the thin top layer of skin. While most of these horizontal hairs will break through the skin after they are grown a couple millimeters long, some ingrown hairs have been known to form an inch long line before they break through the skin, leaving unsightly dark lines and itchy spots on the skin.
What Causes Ingrown Hair And Razor Bumps?
Ingrown hair can often occur naturally, with no cause and at no fault of your own, and often in a way that is not preventable. We lose hair every day. In fact, we lose about 100 hairs on our heads and bodies every single day of our lives. It can take these hairs anywhere from a few days to six months to grow back. During this re-growth stage, a thin layer of skin can grow over the follicle or dead skin can accumulate over the follicle: either of these conditions can cause the new hair to become ingrown.
However, ingrown hairs most often occur because of excessive, improper or aggressive hair removal techniques. When hair is cut short with a razor, the hair develops a sharp tip, much sharper than when the hair grows naturally. Because this hair is now sharp and cut very near the surface, it can easily curl back in on itself, pierce the skin, and become ingrown. The structure of the follicle and hair can play a role in the development of ingrown hairs. For example, if a hair follicle itself is curved it produces a curled hair. Hair that is tightly curled is much more likely to turn back in on itself, and re-enter the skin after it has been cut. This is called Extra-Follicular Penetration.
Ingrown hairs can also be caused, or at least encouraged, by other issues that increase the likelihood of the occurrence of ingrown hairs. Here are some of the most common causes for the occurrence of ingrown hair and razor bumps:
4 Reasons Why I Get Ingrown Hair And Razor Bumps
1. Shaving without lubrication
Shaving without sufficient lubrication can increase your chance of razor bumps. Dry shaving, for example, can lead to razor bumps, or shaving with a non-moisturizing soap that does not prevent the build-up of friction.
2. Cutting hair too close
Cutting hair too close to the skin leads to razor bumps when the hair retracts back into the skin. This hair can then curl before it even breaks through the surface, causing a type of ingrown hair called Transfollicular Penetration. This can occur when you use a double edged razor, where the first blade pulls the hair up and the second blade cuts it to give a “close” or “smooth” shave. It can also occur if you pull your skin taut when you shave.
3. Removing hair from the root
Waxing, tweezing or otherwise removing hair from the root can allow the hair to become ingrown before it even breaks the surface from the skin, again causing transfollicular penetration. Sometimes tweezing can leave a hair fragment caught under the surface of the skin, which can also cause a problem.
4. Wearing tight fitting clothes
The friction caused by tight fitting clothing can exasperate the condition of razor bumps, particularly with bathing suit or underwear around the bikini area.
In short, ingrown hairs and razor bumps result from a combination of genetic traits and hair removal habits. The curlier your hair the more likely you are to get razor bumps. However, even with very straight hair, improper or excessive hair removal can lead to the unsightly and painful condition.
Who’s At Risk Of Getting Ingrown Hair?
Simply being human and having hair puts you at some risk for developing ingrown hairs. However, those at the most risk are people who have very curly hair and those who engage in the most aggressive hair removal techniques. Black men between the ages of 14 and 40 are at the highest risk for ingrown hairs. These ingrown hairs occur mostly on their face, where the hair is course and tightly curled and where they shave often. Here is my recommendation for the best electric shaver for black men.
Caucasian men also have a high chance of developing these ingrown hairs on their beard area if they shave regularly. In fact, as many as 15 percent of white men and 80 percent of black and Hispanic men regularly suffer from red, painful razor bumps. However, women should be well aware of the fact that men are not the only ones that suffer from ingrown hair. Women also suffer from the irritation of painful, unsightly ingrown hairs and razor bumps in a big way. In a world where women are expected to always look their best, these conditions can cause untold frustration and embarrassment.
The women at maximum risk for razor bumps are those who have thick, curly hair or have a darker skin tone. Yet, any woman can become a victim of ingrown hairs, particularly if she regularly shaves or engages in other types of hair removal. A woman can theoretically develop an ingrown hair, and thus an unattractive bump, on any part of her body that grows hair. However, they are the most common in areas where they shave or tweeze, particularly on the armpits and bikini areas, where the hair is curly, but also on the legs and neck. Many women develop a chronic razor bump problem in the underarms and bikini as they shave against the grain, and shave frequently, in an effort to get smooth underarms and clean bikini lines so that they can display their feminine body in that slinky dress, summer bathing suit, casual tank top or intimate apparel.
Top 10 Home Remedies To Treat Ingrown Hair And Remove Razor Bumps
Sugar is a fantastic home remedy that can help you do away with ingrown hair. It exfoliates the skin gently by helping it to remove the dead skin cells hence assisting you to get rid of ingrown hair. In addition, it will leave your skin silky smooth.
Here is how to utilize sugar for best possible relief in issues like ingrown hair:
- Mix one cup of white sugar with half a cup of jojoba oil or extra virgin olive oil.
- Add 10 drops of tea tree and lavender essential oil each.
- Use some of this homemade scrub onto the afflicted areas.
- Carefully rub the skin in round motions for a few minutes. Thereafter, wash with warm water.
Use this mix once or twice a week as needed and store the rest of the blend in an airtight container for future use.
2. Baking soda
Due to its anti-inflammatory qualities, baking soda has a soothing impact on the skin. In addition, it helps to alleviate itching and inflammation caused due to ingrown hairs.
Here is how to use baking soda for best possible results in conditions like ingrown hairs:
- Mix a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water.
- Dip a cotton ball in this solution and brush on the impacted skin. Leave for five minutes and then clean it off with cold water.
- Repeat this process two or three times daily or as needed.
You can likewise make a homemade scrub by adding a tablespoon of baking soda to oatmeal and a tablespoon of water. Use this scrub carefully on the skin and leave for around 5 minutes. Thereafter, rinse with warm water and carefully dry the skin. Follow this treatment twice daily, or as needed.
3. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help the skin heal and avoid infection.
Here are some of the best ways to use tea tree oil for relief in ingrown hair:
- Add 5 drops of tea tree oil in 2 tablespoons of distilled water.
- After cleaning the area with an antibacterial soap, use the diluted tea tree oil onto the affected skin.
- Leave the blend in position for about 10 minutes and after that wash it off with warm water. Follow this treatment twice day-to-day or as needed.
- Mix 3 drops of tea tree oil in a tablespoon of olive oil.
- Use the blend onto the affected area and massage carefully for a couple of minutes.
- Leave the blend in position for 10 minutes then rinse with warm water. Follow this procedure twice daily, or as required.
Aspirin can help reduce redness and inflammation, which are the two most common symptoms of ingrown hairs. Aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties reduce the inflammation. In addition, they fight and treat mild infection. Apart from that, the salicylic acid in the aspirin removes the dead skin cells off the impacted area to release the ingrown hair.
- Soak 2 aspirin tablets in a teaspoon of warm water to form a paste.
- Add one teaspoon of honey.
- Apply this paste over the afflicted location.
- Let it stand for 10 minutes and after that wash with warm water. Afterwards, carefully pat dry the skin.
Follow the same process once or twice a week, or as required.
Note: Individuals with very delicate and/or sensitive skin should avoid using this remedy.
While reducing the swelling, increasing the blood circulation and promoting healing, salt serves as an excellent exfoliating agent.
Here is how to use salt as a home remedy for ingrown hair:
- Mix a tablespoon of salt and tea in half a glass of warm water.
- Dip a cotton ball in the mix and rub it gently on the affected skin.
- Leave it in position for a few minutes and after that wash with water.
- Do this twice daily to get rid of ingrown hairs.
Do not use this remedy if your skin responds negatively by becoming red.
6. Black Tea
Black tea might also help you get rid of ingrown hairs. Black tea consists of tannic acid, which reduces the redness and swelling caused due to ingrown hair.
Here is how to use black tea for relief in the problem of ingrown hair:
Soak a black tea bag in warm water and rub it over the affected area for two to three minutes. Repeat the same process 2-3 times in a day, or as needed.
Leave a black tea bag in hot water for 5-10 minutes. Thereafter, remove it from the water and squeeze the liquid it is carrying into a bowl. Mix a teaspoon of coconut water to this liquid.
Soak a cotton bud in this mix and brush the impacted area gently for some time. Follow the procedure two times a day for a couple of days until you see a change.
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is another efficient home remedy for ingrown hair and razor bumps. The relaxing and naturally cooling affects of aloe vera offer immediate relief from inflammation. In addition, it will keep the skin hydrated and speed up the recovery process.
Here is how to utilize aloe vera:
- Extract the gel of an aloe vera leaf
- Rub the gel over the irritated skin. Allow the skin to dry by itself for about half an hour.
- Wash with warm water.
- Do this 2-3 times daily for several days.
The antibacterial properties of honey help you avoid infection on an already irritated skin. Additionally, honey hydrates the skin and reduces the swelling and inflammation.
Here is how you can make use of honey as a treatment for ingrown hair:
- Apply a layer of honey straight onto the irritated skin.
- Let it dry for about 10 minutes and then wash with cold water.
- Follow this process 3 or four times in a day for the desired outcome.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has anti-inflammatory properties that help to minimize swelling and offer relief in conditions like ingrown hair. In addition, it helps to eliminate the bacteria present on the skin, which in turn minimizes the risk of infection.
Here is how to use apple cider vinegar for best possible relief from ingrown hair:
- Using a cotton bud, apply apple cider vinegar over the affected area.
- Let the skin absorb it and then clean the area with warm water.
Follow this process at least two times in a day.
Cucumber has anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties that can handle the annoying symptoms of ingrown hairs. In addition, cucumbers include vitamins C that help to alleviate pain and itching.
Here is how to make use of Cucumber for optimal relief in conditions like ingrown hair:
- Put fresh cucumber slices in the fridge for half an hour. Carefully rub the cold cucumber slices onto the affected areas.
- Do several times in a day for at least 10 days.
Mash half a cucumber and mix it with 1/3 cup of milk. Keep the mix in the fridge for a couple of minutes until it is cool. Soak a cloth in the mix and put on the irritated area for a few minutes prior to washing it with warm water. Follow this process two times a day for at least 10 days.
All these home remedies can definitely help you eliminate ingrown hair; however, if you do not find the outcomes you were expecting, get in touch with a medical professional that can offer you the best treatment after appropriate medical diagnosis.
How To Prevent / Avoid Ingrown Hairs and Razor Bumps?
As with most things in life, prevention of ingrown hairs and razor bumps is far easier than its treatment. Of course, the best way to avoid ingrown hair and razor bumps is to not shave, however this may not really be a very attractive or acceptable solution. Let’s look at a few options that can help you remove unwanted hair more safely, with less chance of developing those unsightly bumps or dangerous infections.
While the best way to minimize ingrown hairs is to stop shaving, there are ways to shave with less risk of ingrown hair and razor bumps. Following are some tips:
- Keep the hair you are removing wet; avoid dry shaving.
- Use a lubricating shave gel or cream.
- Avoid too close of a shave; one way is by using a single blade razor.
- Do not pull your skin taut while shaving.
- Use an electric shaver for sensitive skin, set the blade so you do not shave too close.
- Ensure that your razor is sharp.
- Rinse your blade after each swipe of the blade.
- Do not shave against the grain; shave in the same direction that the hair grows.
- Apply a cool compress to shaven areas for a few minutes after shaving.
You can help prevent shave bumps by caring for freshly shaven skin as follow:
- Do not wear tight clothing over freshly shaved areas. This is particularly important around the bikini area, where tight bikini straps or underwear lines can rub on freshly shaved areas, causing rashes and contributing to ingrown hairs.
- Keeping your skin clean and smooth can help the hair to grow properly and avoid ingrown hairs. Keep your skin moisturized, but make sure that you use a lotion that won’t clog pores; look for the word “noncomedogenic” on your lotion label. A good lotion is important, but also consider skin products that contain salicylic acid to help remove accumulated dead skin.
Treat Early To Prevent Scarring And Infection
If you do experience razor bumps you should watch them closely for signs of infection. Keep the area clean with a gentle soap and pat dry. Avoid scratching the area, even though it may itch like crazy. If pustules start to form, applying a warm compress may help the follicles to release the pus and heal. Also, try to keep chemicals (such as deodorants and perfumes) off any area that seems infected or is an active, open sore. For those with dark complexions who are prone to the formation of keloid scars, using a pressure treatment or silicone gel pad over an inflamed ingrown hair may help minimize development of these unsightly scars.
While ingrown hair are unsightly and annoying, in most cases they are just a short lived visual annoyance. Infection will not happen in most of the cases, especially if you are following the suggestions mentioned in this article. With careful removal of hair and little due diligence, you can keep your skin hairless and healthful and look your best.