Ingrown hairs we've all heard of them but what are they really? Ingrown hairs, also known as razor-burn folliculitis, occur when repeated passes of a razor while shaving causes tiny cuts in the skin that allows bacteria to make its way in and leave an itchy and sometimes painful bump (or group of bumps) in the cut's place.
Another factor that leads to the formation of ingrown hairs is sweat and other particles mixing with dead skin cells, which block up the hair follicle.
Upon observation, you might notice that the bumps are filled with pus or even see the hair that's become trapped inside. That same inflammation and irritated bumps can be caused by waxing and tweezing because of the way the hair is torn from the follicle. They are not necessarily an indicator of poor hygiene either.
The development of ingrown hairs is not a dangerous medical condition and it is extremely rare that it evolves into further complications.
Anyone can get ingrown hairs, particularly anyone with curly or coarse hair. Curly hair tends to be especially problematic after shaving because of the way it bends back, meaning it can re-enter the skin. Lack of proper exfoliation can even cause dead skin to build up and clog pores, preventing the hair from growing outward.
However, exfoliating too frequently causes the skin to regenerate too soon after a hair removal treatment and can block the follicle before the hair has had a chance to grow out. The prime example of this would be ingrown hairs on the buttocks.
Men might notice them as a bunch of bumps on the cheeks, neck, and chin after shaving. Women may discover more to be on their legs, underarms, and the pubic area. Those with hormonal factors that cause excessive hair growth should also be wary, as the rate for developing ingrown hairs is significantly higher than those without.
Ingrown hairs can sometimes go away on their own but in some circumstances they can turn into infections if one attempts to treat the bumps themselves using non-sterile tools, such as tweezers or needles. These infected bumps can darken the skin and leave behind scars so it is best to avoid picking at them.
In some cases, the infection gets to the point where steroid medication or antibiotics are required. If left untreated for too long the ingrown hair could turn into an ingrown hair cyst, making its treatment more difficult but not impossible.
Dead skin buildup usually forms after hair removal and before exfoliating so bathing should help with keeping that buildup at bay. The best preventative measure is to stop shaving for several days or weeks depending on how reoccurring the ingrown hairs are.
Additional preventative treatment includes laser hair removal, which is the best method to assure complete removal of the razor bumps since there is no danger of cuts or any bacteria getting inside as hair is not being torn from the follicle, but rather zapped away.
It is important to note that while permanent removal of future ingrown hair is not possible, it is possible to drastically reduce their occurrence by following these practices and consulting with your health care provider should you notice any ingrown hairs making an appearance.