How to Get Rid of Ingrown Hairs

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Photo: Evgeny Kuklev

What are ingrown hairs? It’s all in the name. An ingrown hair, in essence, is one that started growing outward (like any other kind of hair), but then curled under itself and began to grow inward, under the top layer of your skin. This inward growth creates a little bump that might look like a pimple. You are much more likely to experience ingrown hairs if you have curly hair; the very nature of curled hair lends itself to ingrown hairs. But literally anyone can develop them anywhere — including around your eyebrows, your underarms, or your bikini line. Here’s your guide to getting rid of them for good.

Drop Acid

The cure for ingrown hairs is exfoliation. There are a few ways you can exfoliate, but exfoliation via acid is the easiest (and fastest) route. The acid in moisturizers and pre-soaked pads loosens the outermost layer of skin cells and works to both prevent and treat ingrown hairs. What formula to use depends on what body area you want to address. But no matter where you apply the acid, it’s important to follow up with sunscreen, as acids make your skin more vulnerable to sun damage.

Try this for bikini-area ingrown hairs:

Bliss Ingrown Hair Eliminating Peeling Pads
$37, Amazon

With glycolic acid, these pads offer both chemical (acid) and physical exfoliation.

Try this for ingrown hairs on your legs and arms:

Paula’s Choice RESIST Skin Revealing Body Lotion 10% AHA
$28, Dermstore

The 10 percent alpha hydroxy content smooths your skin and loosens gnarly ingrowns.

Try this for facial ingrown hairs:

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8 Percent AHA Gel Exfoliant
$29, Dermstore

The glycolic acid encourages your skin to shed at a faster rate, thus helping with ingrown hairs.

Brush It Out

Dry-brushing — the treatment where you vigorously brush your body with stiff bristles — is common practice pre-spray tan, but it does a lot more than make self-tanner last longer. This form of physical exfoliation prevents ingrown hairs from forming, since it’s constantly moving hair out of the way, and also releases tucked-under ingrown hairs. Because dry-brushing is a harsher way to exfoliate, limit yourself to weekly body treatments. If your skin is sensitive or prone to redness, you might want to skip this method entirely.

Try this:

Natural Bristle Body Brush
$4, Amazon

Invest in a Scrub

Scrubs are less intense than dry-brushing, and a good alternative to help alleviate ingrowns around your bikini line and body (they are still too harsh for your face). Use a sugar or salt scrub that’s not too oily — too much oil runs the risk of clogging pores, encouraging more ingrown hairs to develop. You don’t need to scrub your skin daily to notice an improvement; scrub one to two times a week if you want to get rid of ingrown hairs for good.

Try this for your body:

Herbivore Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polish
$36, Sephora

It has a perfect mix of graininess and moisturizing emollients.

Try this for your face:

Clarisonic Smart Profile
$349, Ulta

No, this isn’t a scrub, but it’s a safe way to physically exfoliate your face.

Stop Shaving

Shaving isn’t bad per se — after all, it is another form of physical exfoliation — but the way hair grows after a shave can lead to some problems. A razor cuts hair at a sharp angle, and as the shaved hair regrows, it’s more likely to grow as an ingrown hair because of its sharp, precise tip. Think about it this way: what’s more likely to penetrate the outermost layer of skin in the way an ingrown hair does? A soft, weak hair, or a sharp pointy hair? Waxing is one way to weaken new hair growth and thus prevent ingrowns. If waxing sounds too painful, try depilatory creams. Anything is better than a razor.

Try this:

Nair Hair Removal Lotion
$7, Amazon

Yes it stinks, but the smells dissipates quickly.

Lighten Up Your Lotion

All of this exfoliation means nothing if you plan to top your skin with thick, heavy moisturizers. Heavy creams make exfoliation much harder, and thick oils can also clog pores and exacerbate any ingrown hair problem.

Try this:

Philosophy Renewed Hope In A Jar
$39, Ulta

See Your Doctor

There are a lot of DIY tips on how to pluck an ingrown hair, and as harmless as this advice may seem, it’s much better to visit your dermatologist instead. Ingrown hair plucking is not normal plucking — you will have to create a small incision on your skin to grab the trapped hair. Will you get an infection? Well, that depends on a lot of factors, including the cleanliness of your tweezer and whether you disinfect and closely monitor the area you plucked. Overall, it’s just too risky. Go to the doctor and save yourself the headache.

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Here’s How to Get Rid of Ingrown Hairs