Ingrown hairs are the scourge of shavers everywhere, and unless you're completely hairless (lucky you), you've most probably noticed your skin peppered with the unsightly red bumps a few days later — not cool. In some cases, ingrown hairs can be super-uncomfortable and even become infected (er, ew), but instead of squeezing or picking at them, there are so many more efficient, and much less painful, ways to stop them from rearing their ugly heads.
Flawless limbs, here we come.
What are ingrown hairs?
"Ingrown hairs are hairs that are trapped beneath the surface of the skin," says Johanna Ward, skin specialist and founder of Zenii.
It sounds a little gross, almost as if they have a mind of their own, but they tend to curl back into the skin instead of growing outward, resulting in the inflamed 'bump' you see on the surface.
While anyone can get an ingrown hair, Johanna mentions that they are most common among those who shave and wax, and those whose hair is curly and coarse. So yep, you can blame your genes!
Here's how to get rid of ingrown hairs for good.
Pick body products packed with glycolic acid
Ingrown hairs can crop up when the hair follicle is obstructed by dead skin cells, which is where glycolic acid comes in. Somewhat of a saviour for those ingrown hairs as well as acne, the lightweight acid breaks down the mixture of sebum and dead skin cells that cause obstructions to hairs, so that they can reach the surface much easier and without the area becoming inflamed.
In darker skin types, ingrown hairs tend to leave pesky pigmentation marks, but regular use of topical glycolic acid works wonders to blur them over time.
- Malin & Goetz Ingrown Hair Cream, Rs, 1,986
Slather yourself in this stuff after every shave and you'll notice a huge reduction in those unsightly red bumps. A savvy duo of glycolic acid and vitamin B5 means it chips away at blocked cells while promoting speedy skin repair.
- NIP+FAB Glycolic Fix Body Cream, Rs, 611
As well as dead skin-busting glycolic acid, this sweet-smelling body cream harnesses salicylic acid to dissolve excess oil and lactic acid to refine rough skin texture, all without scrimping on hydration. Silky smooth limbs? Yes please.
- bliss Ingrown Eliminating Pads, Rs, 2,139
Star ingredient glycolic acid is teamed with niacinamide in bliss' Ingrown Eliminating Pads. Together, they regulate sebum, improve congestion and calm bumps.
Exfoliate your skin with salicylic acid
Not just ideal for acne sufferers, salicylic acid is great for preventing and treating ingrown hairs. A BHA (beta hydroxy acid), it penetrates deeper into the pores to dislodge the paste-like combination of dead skin buildup and oil, resulting in fewer blockages. "This makes the skin softer and more penetrable for the emerging hair strands to grow through," mentions Johanna.
It's also an amazing anti-inflammatory, so you can say a big fat 'see ya' to the burning redness that ingrown hairs bring with them, and according to Johanna, the powerful anti-bacterial properties are also helpful in reducing the risk of infection.
- Medik8 Blemish Control Pads, R,s 2,063
These are drenched in 2% maximum strength salicylic acid and allantoin to exfoliate the skin and bring down inflammation, and can be used on larger areas, not just the face. The tub also has two seals to stop the pads from drying out. Clever.
- Paula's Choice Resist Weightless Body Treatment With 2% BHA, Rs, 1,528
Totally non-abrasive, this feather-light lotion absorbs in seconds so you can get dressed without getting trapped in your clothes. We found it worked quickly to soothe painful, bumpy ingrown hairs on our legs
- PFB Vanish Roll On Gel, Rs, 1,146
Skin experts all over the globe recommend PFB Vanish for ingrown hairs because of it's ability to banish skin debris and lighten post-inflammatory pigmentation. We're sold.
- Zenii Salicylic Exfoliator, Rs, 3,438
The 2% salicylic acid in this exfoliating lotion brings down redness in next to no time and stops the ingrown hair from becoming infected - especially if you're prone to picking. After showering, simply saturate a cotton pad and swipe over the affected area.
Jump on the body brush bandwagon
Diminishing cellulite, increasing energy and boosting your immune system aren't the only amazing results of dry body brushing.
A quick scrub before each shower improves cell turnover, which means fewer clogged pores so that hairs can grow out normally.
Those undergoing IPL or laser hair removal will find that the process also helps to dislodge dead hair follicles from the root, resulting in less shadows and even less spikiness.
- Mio Skincare The Mio Body Brush, Rs, 1,146
Cancel that massage. A clever duo of boar bristles and silicone nubs exfoliate rough, bumpy skin and pamper your body at the same time.
- ARK Skincare Massaging Body Brush, Rs, 1,146
ARK's body brush harnesses both stimulating nodules and ingrown hair-fighting bristles to take your pre-shower scrub to the next level. 'Aim to use for a minimum of 3 minutes, 2-3 times a week,' say the experts at ARK.
Slough away dead skin cells with a scrub
Calling all lazy girls! If you're after a quick in-shower fix, look no further than a body scrub.
Just like acid exfoliators, they uncover newer, softer skin cells that hairs can penetrate through easily, but they have a more stimulating effect on the skin, so you can rely on them to wake you up in the morning.
If you tend to get ingrown hairs on your thighs or bikini line, invest in a scrub packed with sugar, which is much gentler on sensitive areas than microbeads or pumice. Use once or twice a week to notice a real difference.
- Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish, Rs, 2,674
The sugar crystals in Fresh's Body Polish are suspended in the most velvety, nourishing formula so that skin feels soft, not scoured. Apply to dry skin prior to shaving and remember to screw the lid on properly - any water that gets in will dissolve the sugar.
Not only does this make your tiny shared bathroom smell like a luxury spa, but it chips away at dull skin and moisturises as well as a thick body butter sans any scratchiness.
- AMELIORATE Smoothing Body Exfoliant, Rs, 1,375
This was more or less made for ingrown hairs. Together, biodegradable microdermabrasion grains and lactic acid banish skin buildup so that hairs can reach the surface without getting stuck.
Invest in laser hair removal
If ingrown hairs are the bane of your life and you've tried more or less everything to get rid of them, make laser hair removal your next step.
Instead of targeting the skin, it makes a beeline for the hair follicle, damaging it at the root. It's an effective, long term method of preventing unwanted hair but it's important to note that hair is only ever reduced, not permanently removed.
As well as this, not all lasers are the same. Options include: IPL, Alexandrite or Nd:Yag (a better option for darker skin tones) and the right one should be chosen based on your skin type, so it's worth booking a consultation with a specialist to determine which one will be most beneficial.
Laser hair removal isn't for the commitment phobes, though. A course of treatments is usually needed at four week intervals to catch the hairs at the right stage and missing treatments could lead to regrowth.
And if you aren't keen on baring all?
We think the Philips Lumea device is on par with in-salon IPL (intense pulsed light), which emits a wavelength into the skin and targets the hair pigment. It has a number of different strength settings from 1-5, five different-sized heads to make light work of zapping hairs and it won't give you arm ache. After just two sessions, our hair was significantly reduced.
Try a retinoid treatment
Not only do retinoids (vitamin A containing agents) treat both acne and wrinkles, but their exfoliating abilities result in fewer obstructions to hairs, and regular use can fade the dark spots of pigmentation that ingrown hairs cause in darker skin types.
Even better? Alternate use with your salicylic acid products. 'Together, they are great at preventing ingrown hairs,' says Johanna.
- Hand Chemistry Retin-Oil, Rs, 1,451
This citrussy body oil works a dream to soften skin and to lessen the appearance of marks, so if you're a squeezer, snap it up ASAP.
- Chantecaille Retinol Body Treatment, Rs, 6,265
The retinol in Chantecaille's body treatment encourages cells to regenerate at lightning speed so scars are diminished and skin looks clearer. It feels silky, not sticky and does the job with minimal irritation.
Switch up your shower gel
Anything that saves time and effort gets our vote, so if you can't be bothered with a scrub, swap out your shower gel. Look for products packed with AHAs to exfoliate, refine and soften the skin to make hair growth a little easier.
Bacne and ingrown hairs don't stand a chance against Mario Badescu's Botanical Body Soap. It smells great, diminishes bumps, and stops ingrown hairs from springing up after shaving and waxing all without stinging, irritating or drying out the skin.
Tweeze with caution
Letting loose on your ingrown hairs with a pair of tweezers isn't exactly ideal, but if you're going to do it, do it properly.
"There is a safe way to tweeze out ingrown hairs," say the experts at Tweezerman, but only when you can actually see the hair.
"When the ingrown hair is fresh and near the surface of your skin, you can use a specifically designed ingrown hair Tweezer to gently pull it out."
But make sure it's sterilised, first.
- Tweezerman Ingrown Hair/Splintertweeze, Rs, 1,528
- Tweezerman Point Tweezer, Rs, 1,757
And when shouldn't you reach for them?
"Tweezing out ingrown hairs becomes unsafe when you are using sharp tools to dig around under the skin," say Tweezerman. 'You should also leave the ingrown hair if the bump is inflamed or sore as this could be a sign of infection. In this case, always consult your GP first.'
From: ELLE UK