As an irksome itch and visible skin irritation spreads across the face, some individuals are prone to and battle constant bouts of ingrown hairs. While the face is commonly associated with the formation of ingrown hairs, other parts of the body are also affected by hair that curls back or grows sideways into the skin. However, following proper prevention measures and decent hygiene practices, the severity and frequency of ingrown hairs can be controlled.
What are Ingrown Hairs?
Ingrown hairs (also known as folliculitis) surface when growth patterns cause hairs to curl back or develop sideways into the skin . Sometimes, an infection takes place within the hair follicle and an individual may suffer the formation of razor bumps. Although shaving the face is one of the main reasons an ingrown hair arises, these annoying occurrences may appear anywhere on the body, including the legs and neck.
There are many different reasons why an ingrown hair appears, as anything that causes the hair to become broken off and leaving behind a sharp tip is a prime suspect. One of the main reasons ingrown hairs surface is through the act of shaving, but wearing tight clothing comes in a close second. Once a hair becomes embedded, a localized inflammation sets in, causing the skin to display unwanted results. Affected skin becomes red, starts to itch, and sometimes creates stubborn hair follicles that remain despite a fresh shave.
While ingrown hairs are usually diagnosed upon a visual examination, a doctor may conduct a lab test to identify any bacteria or fungus that may cause infected hairs. An individual may then follow a host of treatment options, which range from manually removing ingrown hairs with a special pair of tweezers to treating persistence cases with NSAIDs.
The Negative Effects of Ingrown Hairs
While an individual can feel the irritation of an ingrown hair, it is the visual appearance that creates the most cause for concern. A bad case of ingrown hairs often makes an individual feel self-conscious, sometimes influencing them to hide their condition from others. Ingrown hairs are also quite troublesome when they become a recurring problem. At times, the infection associated with ingrown hairs is known to spread to other parts of the body.
Financially, when ingrown hairs have become grossly infected, it is often suggested to make an appointment with a dermatologist, who will then diagnose your problem and assess the best possible treatment. Sometimes, ingrown hair treatments require the purchases of special razors, blades, exfoliating facial scrubs, creams, and/or topical solutions containing glycolic acid. Other times, people waste a considerable amount of money on ineffective over-the-counter products and devices aimed at treating or preventing ingrown hairs .
When hair follicles become infected, visual blisters often form (some containing pus), which are painful and sometimes carry the threat of scarring. When the number of infected ingrown hairs is rather high, some people are forced to seek the assistance of a doctor who may help ease their discomfort and ingrown hair problem with more aggressive treatments.
Contributing Factors of Ingrown Hairs
While the most known causes of ingrown hairs are associated with shaving, there are additional risk factors to consider, such as:
When friction and other forms of intense contact damage hair follicles, folliculitis may arise. Clothing is also known to cause the kind of friction that results in the formation of ingrown hairs.
When hair follicles become blocked, ingrown hairs may surface, which is sometimes a result of an irritated response to shaving.
In the majority of folliculitis cases, the bacteria called staphylococcus (also known as staph infection) often accompany follicle damage. A common staph infection of the hair follicles is called “barber’s itch,” which often attacks the beard region on the face, especially about the upper lip.
Similar to barber’s itch, tinea barbae is an infection, but instead of bacteria, the condition is caused by fungus .
e) Sharp or Pointed Hair Tips:
When shaving, waxing, tweezing, or plucking causes hair tips to become “sharp” or “pointed,” the chances of the hair penetrating the sides of the skin (thus producing an ingrown hair) increases.
Not only does the odor of most hair removal products cause offense, but are also irritating to the skin and hinders the prevention of ingrown hairs.
g) Waxing, Plucking, and Tweezing:
The risk of creating damaged hair follicles and hair shafts increases when one relies of waxing, plucking, tweezing, or close shaves as their method of hair removal.
h) Curly Hair:
Individuals who possess curly and coarse hair face the highest risk of their hairs curving and growing into their skin.
i) Oil and Dead Skin Cells:
When oil becomes trapped in hair follicles, an ingrown hair is often the result. The buildup of dead skin cells within the pores, as well as on the surface of skin can also cause irritation and aid hairs in producing unwanted growth patterns. As pus and dead skin cells continue to trap hair, strands are unable to properly emerge .
j) Moisture: When skin lacks moisture, dehydration takes place, which is known to create the perfect environment for ingrown hairs to develop.
How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs
In order to avoid ingrown hairs, prevention is the best way to increase your chances of enjoying smooth and infection-free skin. While keeping the skin clean and adhering to proper hygiene habits are some of the best ways to prevent ingrown hairs, there is an assortment of suggestions to keep in mind, including:
a) Clean Shaving Equipment:
A clean, fresh razor blade should be used for each new shave. When relying on an electric razor to remove hair, it is important to keep all parts well maintained and clean. A gentle, non-irritating shaving cream is essential for providing the best conditions for a sanitary shave.
b) Clothing Friction:
The prevention of the infection associated with damaged hair follicles is lessened when individuals reduce the amount of friction caused by clothing . It is also suggested to avoid using dirty, sweaty, or contaminated clothing and washcloths on the skin, which can clog pores and cause skin irritations.
c) Grow Out Beards:
Some people have found that growing a beard out or allowing hairs to exceed well beyond the surface of the skin may prevent the hair tip from growing into the skin. This may or may not be an option for some, as work commitments and patience become a deciding factor.
d) Permanent Hair Removal:
Aggressive hair removal options (such as pulsed light treatments) are known to successfully prevent the formation of ingrown hairs. Individuals who have previously suffered the condition have reported impressive results that have lasted more than four years in some cases. Additional selections to consider include electrolysis and laser treatments, which have produced fewer ingrown hairs in many users.
e) Clean Skin:
Before shaving, ingrown hairs are prevented when one washes the skin. To lessen the irritation that sometimes accompanies a fresh shave, applying a non-scented aftershave lotion is suggested.
f) Manual Removal:
Using a pair of specialized tweezers to manually remove ingrown hairs will prevent future occurrences.
g) Acne Cream:
On the days you do not plan on shaving, the use of an acne cream containing salicylic acid helps to prevent irritated skin and ingrown hairs.
h) Special Razors:
There are unique razors that leave the hair longer during a shave, which helps to avert ingrown hairs.
The ingrown hair formation associated with waxing is prevented when using exfoliation techniques to remove some of the dead skin cells that can cause hairs to become trapped under the top layer of skin. A few suggestions include the use of facial scrubs, sponges, towels, body gels, abrasive washcloths, specialized gloves, and acid-containing creams.
When shaving, it is important to follow the direction of hair growth and do not shave against the grain. Men usually receive the best results when shaving downwards on the cheeks, chin, and moustache region, while the neck benefits most from an upward shave. Women respond better to shaving towards themselves when dealing with the legs, underarms, and bikini region.