Ingrown hairs: we’ve all had ’em. And, chances are, we’ve all probably tackled them in the wrong way (picking at them till they bleed, anyone?). In the name of very serious investigative journalism, we’ve pledged to spare your bikini lines and beards the annoyance of ingrown hairs, by bestowing upon you some invaluable advice. We’ve enlisted Crickett Enos, an aesthetician and waxing educator of 12 year (check out her website here), and Anu Schreider, sugaring expert and director of beautysugaring.co.uk (the perks of which you can read about here), to dish on how to treat and avoid ingrowns. If you want a happy bikini line, read on…
What are ingrown hairs and what causes them?
Crickett: Ingrowns are hairs that are trapped below the surface. They can run parallel to the skin or grow back down into the follicle and, when they finally do come out, they can be up to six inches in length. They happen for several reasons:
1. Skin is dry or dehydrated (this is 95% of the cause of ingrowns). When skin is dry it prevents the hair from coming out of the follicle. The hair simply can’t push past the dead skin to get out, so it goes back in.
2. Tight clothes and friction, especially in the Brazilian area. Any clothing that rubs on the skin can create friction. This friction breaks the hairs and when the skin starts to grow back in, its path may be changed to regrow under the skin.
3. Wearing non-breathable clothing, again, especially in the Brazilian area. When clothing isn’t breathable it creates a humid sticky environment that can lead to more unnecessary friction.
4. Lifestyle. Those who work out a lot and wear spandex or non-breathable workout gear are very prone to ingrowns, due to the friction. Those who have to wear non-breathable uniforms for work are also prone to ingrowns.
Is it really bad if there’s pus in an ingrown hair?
Crickett: Pus is a sign of infection – usually bacterial. Keeping the area clean and free of sweat and oil can help.
What’s the best hair removal treatment to ensure you don’t get ingrown hairs?
Crickett: The only true answer here would be electrology or maybe laser. But if I had to pick between waxing, shaving or epilating, it would be waxing. Waxing performed correctly and with the right products is much more gentle on the skin and hair, and removes the hair cleanly at the root. Shaving simply cuts the hair off just below the surface and, if you are prone to ingrowns, you will be much more likely to get them from shaving. Epilation tries to remove the hair by the root, but depending on who’s performing the service, they may end up breaking more hair than they are removing which could lead to creating more ingrowns.
Can you prep your skin in a certain way before hair removal to prevent them?
Crickett: YES! Preventing ingrowns is all about what you do on a daily basis to make the skin soft and supple. When you think of hair removal, think skin first, then hair. The trick to preventing ingrowns is 80% skin and 20% hair; the softer and more supple the skin is, the easier it is for the hair to exit the follicle instead of becoming trapped underneath and creating an ingrown. Hydration is very important. A great product to hydrate the skin without leaving it greasy/oily and clogging the pores is Wonder Whip by Beelicious. It penetrates the skin to make it soft and supple from within so that the hairs can be easily released from the follicle when waxing and when growing back in. If someone has moderate to severe ingrowns (more than a handful at any give time) they should add an exfoliation product as well; a very gentle exfoliating cream then removes the dead skin and allows the hair to pop out of the follicle.
How can you tackle ingrowns if they’ve already happened?
Anu: In most cases ingrown hairs correct themselves over time. If possible it is best to not interfere as they don’t respond well to treatment with a tool (such as tweezers). You can try to free the hairs by exfoliating your skin; a dry exfoliation with a bath mitt or a body brush can be more efficient than a wet one in the shower. Exfoliation should be done in the direction of the hair growth working the trapped hair out. You can pull the ingrown hair out by using sterilised tweezers but ONLY if the tip of the hair is exposed. You can soak the affected area with a warm, damp cloth, leaving it on for a few minutes. This will moisten the skin causing the ingrown hair to loosen. Make sure the area and your hands are absolutely clean, removing any bacteria present before making the attempt of gently removing the ingrown hair. Apply an antiseptic product afterwards. You can apply special skincare products onto the effected area, which are designed to free ingrown hairs as well as preventing and treating infection. If you have a serious problem with ingrown hairs you should discuss further actions with your hair removal practitioner and your doctor.
What shouldn’t you do to your ingrown hairs?
Crickett: In my opinion you should never pick or poke at the ingrown; picking and poking may lead to creating bigger problems, such as infection. If the ingrown site if inflamed and/or infected, it’s best to see a doctor to safely remove it. It’s also not advised to use a lot of acids on the face or body to try to clear the follicle. Some acids create dry skin which can lead to more ingrowns. When in doubt, always see a physician.
Can you ever get rid of them once and for all?
Crickett: The truth is that those that struggle with ingrowns may always struggle no matter what form of hair removal they choose. Proper home care used on a daily basis does go a long way to alleviate the and lessen the problem. And in some cases it does get rid of them all together.
Anu’s parting words of wisdom? As hard as it can be to resist, never dig or pick into your skin in order to extract the hair, as this can lead to serious infection and permanent scars.
Now you’ve nailed (and not tweezed the life out of) your ingrowns, allow us to school you – should you so wish to be schooled – on the art of achieving the silkiest, slinkiest gams in the game. Here’s some hair removal experts dishing their top tips on achieving peak sleek. You’re welcome.