Hairs normally grow up from the skin surface having its root beneath it. But certain types of hair would curl around to grow back into the skin which is called ingrown hair. Dead cells of the skin can accumulate on the follicles of the hair which would force the hair to grow inwards instead of upward. Ingrown hair is harmless but in rare cases infection can develop on it.
Some of the signs of infected ingrown hair are itching and painful sores on the area. A group of ingrown hair would join together to form raised bumps resembling a pimple on the surface of the skin. Sometimes it may look like boils or sores. Ingrown hairs can cause discomfort and embarrassment and it becomes more if the person has got lot of them.
In some cases the bumps would contain pus filled fluid inside. Ingrown hairs usually pop up like little lesions on the cheeks and chin and even on the neck of men. They develop on the legs and more particularly on the pubic area in women. For some women it occurs around the buttocks.
Any person can develop ingrown hair at any age. But people who have got curly hair have more chance of getting ingrown hair than others. Curly hair always tends to bend back or curl to penetrate the skin. An individual with plenty of sex hormones will have more of hairs on the skin. This makes him/her prone to develop ingrown hair.
Ingrown hair is common in certain ethnic race of people like Hispanics and African Americans. They would have the so called “razor bumps” on the beard area soon after they have shaved the hair. This hair would have sharp edges and hence they can protrude easily into the skin growing inward.
No tests are needed to detect ingrown hair since it is prominent by its appearance.
Home Remedies :
Ingrown hair cannot be cured unless the exact cause is known. You should keep the skin well hydrated to prevent dryness since it can reduce the growth of ingrown hair. Before shaving you should apply liquid on the hair so that its tip would lose its sharpness. This would prevent its re-entry into the skin. You can use a soft toothbrush or wet sponge and dip it in a mild soap solution to apply on the beard several times to make its tip smoother.
Alternatively you can use mild exfoliates like sugar water or salt to manage the irritation and redness caused by infected ingrown hair. Avoid close shaving and never shave against the direction of the hair while shaving. While using electric razors do not apply it too close to the surface of the skin and shave in a circular motion. Pressing the razor harshly on the skin can increase the growth of ingrown hair. By following these simple techniques you can prevent the growth of ingrown hair to the maximum. You can also use a needle (sterilized) and alcohol to remove the stubborn hairs gently. But this would make the skin rough and more of ingrown hairs would develop on the same place.
Medical Treatment :
Unless infected ingrown hair causes you great discomfort or pain you can ignore it. Topical antibiotic creams, chemical depilatories and laser therapy method are available for removing infected ingrown hair. Often combination of one or more therapies is effective. Your dermatologist may suggest using Neet and other chemical depilatories for removing infected ingrown hair. These chemical agents would loosen the hair structure making them blunt for easy shaving. The roots or follicles of the hair would open so that it becomes easy for getting it shaved. These chemicals are to be used every alternate day to prevent skin irritation.
Topical creams like tretinoin are useful in skin plugging. This cream would unplug the epidermis layer of the skin to reduce hair deposits in the follicles. For severe infection of ingrown hair your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid ointment with mild strength. This would reduce inflammation of the skin and infection also. Oral antibiotics are given for severe cases of infected ingrown hair that has given rise to abscess. There is a chance of secondary infection for which antibiotics like erythromycin or clindamycin are given. For some people infected pustules are managed with tetracycline drugs.
Vaniqa cream that contains eflornithine HCL is given for reducing the growth of ingrown hair. It can be used for long term also to control excess of hair growth in the face. Prescription fading creams like hydroquinone or azelaic acid are effective in getting normal skin color and to prevent scarring of skin. Those who are concerned about their appearance laser therapy is the first line treatment for removing ingrown hair. But this therapy is beneficial for dark complexion people only. And it is expensive therapy also. At present more and more people opt for electrolysis for removing unwanted hairs permanently. In this method therapist would destroy the hair follicles totally to prevent further growth. Even now many people prefer to traditional removal of hair using scalpel.
Ingrown hair cannot be prevented totally. But you can follow simple rules while shaving to reduce the growth of ingrown hair. Use only sharp razor with single blade. Wet your hair/skin fully before shaving. Apply lubricating gel liberally so that the hair follicles give way for shaving. Don’t shave in the opposite direction. Wash the blade after each stroke of shaving. Avoid shaving very close to the skin which would give skin irritation and scarring.