How to Prevent Ingrown Hair: 11 Practical Tips

by Garrick Dee | Last Updated:
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How to Prevent Ingrown Hair

Ingrown hair can be the price you pay for vanity.

If you’ve tried to shave, wax, or even epilate, this is something that you may have experienced.

It’s not a pleasant experience, but with the right tools and techniques, this is preventable.

In this guide, you’ll find out some practical tips on how to prevent ingrown hair from shaving or using an epilator.

Before anything else, I’d like to stress the information you see here is for educational purposes only. If you have major ingrown hair issues, I suggest you first consult with your dermatologist to find the best solution.

What is an ingrown hair?

Ingrown hair is a condition where the hair follicle has curled and grown under the skin instead of rising from it.

Once the hair grows inside the skin, our body will think that it’s a foreign object, so there will be itchiness, swelling, and redness around the area.

From the outside, it looks like a pimple or bumps, but that’s just the effect of hair growing under the skin.

What’s worst is that it can lead to red itchy spots and whiteheads – totally uncool.

People who have thick, curly hair are more prone to this condition as opposed to folks who have thin and straight hair.

What causes ingrown hair?

Several things can cause ingrown hair. Let’s enumerate the most common causes.

Dead skin cells block and clog up hair follicles. It forces hair to grow sideways and not straight up.

Shaving too close may also result in ingrown hair. Cutting hair follicles too close increases the risk of it growing under the skin.

Wearing tight jeans can also lead to ingrown hair because of the friction and pressure it puts on hair follicles to curl back instead of growing upwards.

WebMD says that people with a high level of certain sex hormones may have excessive hair growth, which is another triggering factor of ingrown hair, especially after shaving.

Race can also be a factor as a lot of African Americans, Latinos, and folks who have thick, curly hair can develop a condition called Pseudofolliculitis. This condition is prevalent in the beard area.

Without further ado, here are the 11 tips on preventing ingrown hair…

1. Exfoliate

The NHS says that dead skin cells clogging up on the surface of the skin can result in ingrown hair.

Without direct access to the surface of the skin, hair follicles curl up and get trapped under the skin.

One way to prevent this from happening is to regularly exfoliate to remove dead skin cells.

There are two ways of exfoliating – physical and chemical methods. Experts recommend doing this before waxing, epilating, or shaving.

If you’re not doing any of those regularly, just exfoliate once every two days.

Physical exfoliation involves using a device such as an exfoliating glove, brush, or sponge and rubbing it against the skin.

Using scrubs also helps remove dead skin cells. You can purchase the scrubs online or use a DIY recipe.

The second method is using chemicals such as creams like Retin-A.

These products are far more potent than a physical scrub. It’s an option if you’re suffering from ingrown hair for years. Just remember to consult with a dermatologist before using it.

Some even suggest combining chemical and physical exfoliation to speed up the process.

2. Try using tweezers

Tweezers are another handy tool that can help lift up ingrown hair. Make sure to sterilize it with hot water or alcohol before using it.

Carefully lift up ingrown hair to the surface than before to your chosen hair removal method. It’s a crude and time-consuming method. But it is worth a try if hair follicles are close to the surface.

Exfoliating does produce the same results as using tweezers, so it is still the better option.

Avoid this method if you have sensitive skin.

The next few tips are for individuals who shave…

3. Use sharp blades

Remember this rule of thumb when shaving. A dull razor equates to irritation and ingrown hair. Using a sharp blade ensures a smooth shave. But using something dull will leave uneven results that increase the risk of ingrown hair.

Women with sensitive skin may want to stick to using a single blade to minimize irritation. A product like the Gillette Venus is a good compromise to the 5-blade monsters.

Men who often have to deal with razor bumps may want to consider switching to a safety razor.

4. Shaving cream is a must

It doesn’t matter if you use a disposable, cartridge or a safety razor, shaving cream is a must. Using shaving cream adds that layer of slickness that protects the skin from friction and possible irritation.

Please avoid aerosol spray gels that contain alcohol. These products will dry skin. Opt for something that uses only natural ingredients for the best results.

5. Shave with the grain

One of the best ways to avoid ingrown hair would be shaving with the grain.

Shaving against the grain or opposite the direction of hair growth means hair will be cut at a sharper angle, thus more likely to grow under the skin.

6. Post-shave is important

One of the best ways of preventing ingrown hair is to avoid dead skin build-up. In one of the tips above, I shared one method – exfoliating.

But there’s another way of preventing dead skin from piling up. Post-shave products range from liquid to pads and contain ingredients such as glycolic and salicylic acid that help dissolve any dead skin build-up.

Some contain natural ingredients like lavender oil, that soothes skin post-shave.

Two brands worth trying out include Bliss Ingrown Eliminating Pads and Tend Skin solution.

7. Use a cool washcloth

This will help reduce and soothe any irritation.

8. Epilating tips (if you use an epilator)

Some folks believe that the type of epilator you choose has a direct correlation to having ingrown hair.

Obviously, choosing something of inferior quality may lead to that condition. However, if you use a good quality epilator with a lot of tweezers or something with ceramic tweezers will reduce the risk of such.

The important thing is to go slow and hold it at a 90-degree angle to minimize the occurrence of ingrown hair.

9. Try hair removal creams

One of the biggest culprits to ingrown hair is shaving because it grows back with a sharper edge and easily bends back under the skin.

An alternative to shaving would be using hair removal creams and remove hair chemically.

This method may not be the best option if you have sensitive skin.

10. What to just in case you have an ingrown hair

There are instances where you only get an ingrown hair, no matter how careful you are. Don’t panic. The worst thing you can do is squeezing it.

Doing so will push hair deeper into the skin or spread bacteria, thus increasing the risk of infection.

In minor cases where the hair is almost at the surface, you can use a sterile needle or tweezer to pull hair out. Doing force it if the hair is below the surface.

If all else fails, contact your doctor and have it professionally treated.

11. Prevention is better than cure

Knowledge is power, and one way to prevent multiple occurrences of ingrown hair is to know how it looks like.

Usually, hair follicles grow towards the surface of the skin. But when it fails to do so and curls inward under the skin, then we have a problem.

When hair grows sideways into skin reddish bumps, appear thus the term “razor bump.”

Technically both these conditions are the same and equally uncomfortable.

Another instance that’s also as bad. This occurs when hair follicles grow sideways into the skin. Reddish bumps appear, thus the term razor bump.

You can get ingrown hair anywhere, but the most common areas are the legs, face, and pubic area.

Shaving poses the most significant risk, particularly multi-blade razors.

The first blade pulls the hair follicle with the subsequent blades cutting closer and closer. Good in theory and a close shave. But in reality, men and women who have used multi-bladed cartridges complain about ingrown hair.

One option for women would be using an epilator. For men, it’s shifting from a cartridge to a safety razor.

Don’t ignore it

In mild cases, ingrown hair does not cause any discomfort, but ignoring it would be a big mistake. There are pretty harmful side effects if it gets worst, like infections and irritation. If it gets bad enough, it will leave scars and permanently darken the skin.

Apply some lotion

Don’t forget to apply moisturizer after removing hair via shaving, epilating, waxing, etc. As you get older, skin tends to dry out faster due to hormonal changes.

Some people are lucky that their skin ages gracefully, but for a majority of us, that isn’t the case.

One thing to consider in choosing a good lotion would be the ingredients list. Picking something that contains only natural ingredients that’ll help hydrate and moisturize skin.

Also, select a product that uses non-comedogenic oil. Comedogenic oils like coconut oil will clog the skin’s pores. Choose a product with a comedogenic rating of 0, if possible.

Great alternatives to coconut oil include argan oil, shea butter, jojoba oil, neem oil, hemp seed oil, and sweet almond oil.

The bottom line

Exfoliation is one of the best ways of preventing ingrown hair. It won’t irritate the skin, unlike chemical exfoliating products, and you can do it in the comfort of your own home.

It does not matter if you’re using a razor, epilator or wax kits, make sure to exfoliate.

Physical exfoliation is enough in most cases unless you’re dealing with something serious.

When shaving, please use sharp blades. For epilator users, go slow and choose the right epilator that’ll fit your needs.