We’ve all had them. Those painful little (or big) red bumps that really ruin that suave, smooth look you were going for when you shaved or waxed. But it’s more than just the look-ingrown hairs are dang painful and downright irritating.
Normally, hair develops at the follicle and grows up and out of the skin. An ingrown hair, as its name suggests, will either grow sideways into the skin, or curl back down and grow into the skin. Folliculitis, an infection of the hair follicle, will often times follow, possibly accompanied by the formation of a pustule that resembles a little pus-filled pimple. Ingrown hairs are caused by waxing or shaving, and are most common with thicker, curlier hair (hence why they are more prevalent in the pubic and facial regions-you know, the two WORST places that you could suffer those nasty bumps.)
While there is no cure as long as we deem it necessary to shave or wax, there are some home remedies for ingrown hairs and razor bumps that can bring some measure of relief and quickened healing. And if you can’t bring yourself to even look at the traitorous little hair, don’t panic-it will eventually clear up on its own, so long as you don’t scratch or pick at it.
1. Get That Sucker Out! (The right way)
It’s not spoken of much, but there is a certain sense of relief and satisfaction when you get the hair out. It’s icky-hair growing back into your skin? It’s so unnatural, and it hurts, and you just want it gone so your body can heal up and get back to normal. There is a right and wrong way to go about it though. Do it wrong, and you’ll end up with a nasty infection that sticks around forever.
The wrong way is to dig around and squeeze and try and pull it out with your fingernails. If you can’t see the hair yet, you’re going to need to coax it out. Once it’s out, use sterilized tools to remove it to prevent further irritation.
You will need…
-Sugar and olive oil (or a store-bought exfoliator)
-A tweezers (preferably pointed)
-Coconut oil (optional)
Prepare by laying out your supplies. Soak the tweezers in rubbing alcohol and then rinse them off to sterilize them. First, you’ll want to exfoliate the area to clear away any dead skin cells that may be blocking the hair. You can use a mild store-bought exfoliator, or (what I prefer), is to simply mix a little olive oil (or another neutral liquid oil) with some sugar until you get a thick pasty texture. You don’t need much oil for this. Rub in a circular motion to dislodge any “debris” and then rinse it off. Next, run a clean wash cloth under hot water (as hot as you can stand without burning yourself) and rest it directly over the hair for 10 minutes. You may need to run the washcloth under water a second time to keep it hot. This helps “soften” the hair and skin. Finally, use your sterilized tweezers to firmly grasp the hair, as close to the skin as you can get without actually irritating it, and give a nice firm yank. Rinse it one more time, and if you like, apply a dab of coconut oil to ease irritation and help the skin heal up smoothly.
IF the hair is not showing, just use a hot washcloth over it for 10 minutes twice a day until it pokes through. Some folks think the warmth helps the hair pop out sooner, but mainly it is to keep it “soft” and minimize irritation until it can be removed. Resist the temptation to break the skin and dig the hair out. Also note that pointed tweezers are the best, as they allow you to accurately grab the hair without pinching your skin.
2. Baking Soda Paste
If plucking the hair really isn’t your thing, simply exfoliate with a baking soda paste. You can of course use the sugar and olive oil scrub as well, but it’s nice to have another tool in your ingrown-hair fighting arsenal. Baking soda is pretty mild and readily available, and will help keep the follicle from getting plugged up while you wait for the hair to break the surface. In addition to this, it can help ease painful inflammation. Apply a little dab of coconut oil (or your chosen mild moisturizer) on afterwards to keep the skin soft.
You will need…
-Coconut oil or mild moisturizer
Mix up enough baking soda and water to form a paste thick enough to be spread around, but not so thick that it just clumps up and falls off your skin. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and then apply the baking soda paste in a firm but gentle circular motion. Rinse any residue off with warm water and apply the coconut oil or moisturizer (just a teeny tiny bit, you don’t need much!)
3. A Drop of Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a wonderful essential oil to use on something pesky and painful like an ingrown hair. It has powerful antiseptic properties, and may help stave off infection and shorten healing time. It also helps ease discomfort and inflammation. Always make sure to dilute the essential oil before applying it to your skin to prevent irritation, stinging, or an adverse reaction.
You will need…
-2 tablespoons of olive oil (or another neutral oil)
-15 drops of tea tree oil.
-A dark glass bottle
Mix the neutral oil and the tea tree oil thoroughly, and wash the area over the ingrown hair. Using a cotton swab, dab a small amount onto the affected area. You don’t need much. You can repeat this twice daily.
4. Ease the Pain with ACV
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a great remedy for ingrown hairs for one simple reason-it can help ease the itchiness and discomfort associated with it for some people (keywords-some people.) There plenty of people out there that have skin that is too sensitive to put vinegar-even apple cider-directly onto their razor bumps. For others though, it’s worth trying. There is a lot of discussion going around in regards to ACV and how it helps inflammation, with anecdotal evidence staunchly saying that it does. Since the inflammation is half the pain of an ingrown hair anyways, it’s definitely worth a shot. It may also help ward off infection. If you prefer, you can also dilute it with some warm water.
You will need…
– Apple cider vinegar
5. Coconut Oil Before and After
This is a little obvious, as I’ve only been mentioning coconut oil on three out of the four remedies above this one. Many people don’t like to use pure coconut oil as a moisturizer for their whole body, which is simply a matter of personal preference. However, it does make great spot treatment for ingrown hairs or razor bumps, providing a barrier between the blade and your skin as you shave, and much needed moisture to prevent itchiness and irritation afterwards.
You will need…
Wash your hands and apply coconut oil sparingly to affected areas. Just a very thin layer will do the trick.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Ingrown Hairs!
Truly-the best thing you can do for an ingrown hair is to stop it from happening in the first place. There’ is, unfortunately, no guaranteed way to prevent them, but there are a few tips and tricks that can help.
Moisturize: Softening the skin makes it less likely that the hair will be blocked by hardened, dead skin cells that force it to grow sideways. It’s a great preventative for razor bumps and ingrown hairs especially when shaving as it allows the razor to glide smoothly over the skin without drying it out, making it itchy, or snagging coarse hair. It’s a sort of protective barrier during the shaving process, and it soothes the skin and prevents irritation afterwards.
Shave with the hairs: I can’t stress this enough-shave with the grain. Yes, shaving against it is going to give you a closer cut, but it’s much tougher on your skin and hair. As the blade passes over the hair it tugs it up a little bit-that’s just natural as the hair catches the blade. The result is that the hair ends up cut just below the surface of the skin once everything is back in place. It’s now in prime position to struggle and grow inwards instead of outwards. It’s just less friction, less irritation, and overall will really reduce the number of razor bumps and ingrown hairs you end up with if you shave the direction your hairs grow.
Exfoliate: Use a little exfoliator before attempting any remedy. No matter what it is it won’t do much good if it it’s blocked from getting to the hair or shaft anyways. If you’ve waxed, it also makes it a little easier for the hairs to grow outward.
Use single blades: They tend to be less irritating than razors with multiple blades, as you only have one blade going over your skin instead of two or three. And while the multiple ones can produce a very nice shave, after the first blade runs over the hair you’re basically just scraping at little nubbins or your skin. The result can be quite irritating.
Keep it sharp: A dull blade tugs on hairs and can create sharp edges (yes, hair can have edges, especially if think or curly) or tug the hair out completely, resulting in ingrown hairs and razor bumps.
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