Are you suffering from small bumps on your body that look like a pimple? Do these pimples like bumps appear on those body parts where hair growth is common? These bumps might be an ingrown hair.
First Thing First : What Is An Ingrown Hair?
Hair growth in the human body is an unstoppable process. New hair usually grows outwards and comes out of the skin. But sometimes this hair can turn around and grow back inwards often sideways and the hair follicle cannot move past a clogged pore. The pores may also clog, often trapping the hair inside so it cannot come out. This is known as ingrown hair
It makes the skin bumpy and can sometimes be painful, irritate the skin and create a raised bump, which may look like a boil or a lesion. People having coarse, curly and thick hair have higher chances of having an ingrown hair. It also usually affects people who remove hair by shaving, waxing or tweezing. Once you understand what ingrown hair is, it will be easy for you to treat it.
Ingrown Hair Causes
- Improper shaving
- Thick and Curly and coarse hair may bend and grow back into skin
- Hair that cut short result in sharp tip that pierce the skin
- Sex hormones induce excessive hair growth and may cause ingrown hair when shaved
- Dead skin debris that clog the openings of hair follicles
Razor bumps or Pseudofolliculitis is a type of ingrown hair that develops in persons with curly hair. These are small bumps on beard that develop after shaving, tweezing or waxing to remove unwanted hair.
Who Are Prone To Ingrown Hair?
Everyone may develop ingrown hair in general, but people with curly hair, thick and coarse hair develop ingrown hair often. African-American people, Latinos have short and curly, thick hair that result in ingrown hair. Adults and teenagers also are more prone to ingrown hair. Persons with high levels of sex hormones have excessive hair growth that causes ingrown hair.
Ingrown hair can be uncomfortable, itchy and painful. They can appear on beard area such as chin, cheeks, neck and on other areas like armpits, pubic area and legs. Ingrown hair is often found in areas that are shaved or waxed.
- Small red to flesh colored round bumps/ Papules
- Itching and tenderness
- Dry or Pus filled blister like lesions/ pustules
- Embedded hair
- Barely visible curled hair at the centre of bump
Difference Between A Pimple and Ingrown Hair
When we see a bump on our body, it can be confusing to identify it as a pimple or ingrown hair. Pimples are very different from ingrown hair and need to be treated differently, even though they look pretty similar. Pimples are caused by oil and dead skin cells that block a pore. Whereas an ingrown hair is born when the hair grows sideways into the skin, rather than out of it or a hair follicle is blocked by dead skin cells. There are a few ways to confirm if the bump is a pimple or ingrown hair. Ingrown hair is usually in an area where you shave or wax. So, if a bump occurs there, chances are it is an ingrown hair.
If the lesion or bump is in an area where you shave, then do not shave for some time to see if any new lesions appear. If they don’t then it is not a pimple, but an ingrown hair. Another way to check is to give a warm water compress on the affected area and see if any hair is visible. This step softens skin and then you can shave the area, in a direction that is against the hair growth. If the bump remains, it is likely a pimple. We will further talk about treating ingrown hair in the following paragraphs that can also help in differentiating pimples from the ingrown hair.
Ingrown Pubic Hair
Hair in pubic area is coarse, thick and curly that result in ingrown hair, hence called ingrown pubic hair. Pubic hair turns back and pierce the skin instead of coming out from the skin result in pubic ingrown hair. Usually they develop when shaved, waxed or plucked.
Infected Ingrown Hair
When hair turn back and grow inward the skin instead of coming out to the surface and gets infected is known as infected ingrown hair. These are recurring and often called as folliculitis. During initial stages of infection they may look like a small bump and subsequently it grow in size and gets filled with pus. It results in itching, pain, irritation and warm when touched.
Ingrown Hair Cyst
Ingrown hair turns into small painless lump or grown in size and gets infected, these are known as ingrown hair cysts. If cyst develops from ingrown hair, the area around cyst becomes swollen. Cyst varies in size that can be small to large and soft or hard. Cyst extends between skin surface to its deep underneath. They look like a pimple but have hair on the surface and develop white or yellow head. They can be red, white or yellow in color and painful if gets infected.
Ingrown Hair Bump
Aggressive and repeated shaving results in small red bumps on skin especially over beard area. People with thick, curly, coarse hair develop bumps on skin due to ingrown hairs. These are also known as razor bumps or Pseudofolliculitis.
Ingrown Hair On Vagina
Small bumps may develop under the skin of vagina due to ingrown hair in pubic region that fill with pus and gets inflamed, these are also known as vaginal boils. Vaginal boils are red in color and look similar to pimples and sometimes soft or hard and usually one can notice hyperpigmentation. Main reasons for vaginal boils are shaving, waxing pubic area hairs and due to tight clothing.
Ingrown Hair – Not A Serious Skin Problem
Ingrown hair is not a serious skin problem, but they can be painful. Usually, they can be managed by personal care unless they are chronic. They often disappear on their own after some time. But if the ingrown hair is a chronic problem, then it is better to see a medical practitioner.
Ways To Treat Ingrown Hair
In reality, ingrown hair is common and cannot be completely prevented. However certain precautions and actions can take care of the problem.
- If the ingrown hair is near the skin surface, a sterile needle or tweezers can be used to gently ease it out. However, do not dig deeper to remove the hair.
- Gently scrub the infected area with warm soap and water, to help ease the hair out eventually.
- Over the counter medicines containing retinoids like Differin Gel, or benzoyl peroxide in Neutrogena On-the-Spot, reduces inflammation and the cyst size. Antibiotic ointments may reduce the risk of infection too.
- A medical professional may also prescribe steroid creams if needed.
- If the lesion is infected and there is pus oozing out with increased pain, then it is better to talk to a medical professional.
- People with chronic issues opt for electrolysis to completely stop hair growth.
- Glycolic acid or salicylic acid is also used in topical applications to manage ingrown hair.
How To Remove Ingrown Hair?
Ingrown hair can be removed by following certain methods but caution should be taken to avoid further complications like infection, pain, swelling etc.
- Use sterilized needle, tweezers to remove if hair is visible on the skin surface
- You can remove ingrown hair by using rotable medical device
- Apply warm and moist compress to soften the skin
- Use egg membrane to remove ingrown hair. Put egg membrane on the affected region and allow it to dry and pull it off
- Use acne medication along with exfoliation
- Exfoliation also helps in removal of ingrown hair
Home Remedies and Preventive Care
Ingrown hair is an acute, short-term medical condition. Such conditions can often be treated through preventive care. The simplest and most common method for prevention is to stop shaving. But because this may not be a feasible option for many, certain other techniques are advised.
- Shaving Carefully – Using a sharp and single razor with water and gel is a good exercise. Also shaving in the hair growth direction, with as few strokes as possible is also a good practice. Shaving cream and aftershave soothes the affected area.
- Moisturizing and Exfoliating – It is good to moisturize the skin if it feels too dry and application is advised even after you shave. Exfoliating dull and dry skin reduces the chance of ingrown hair, as it unclogs the pores. Sometimes toners can also help.
- Cleaning Skin Before and After Shaving or Waxing – Wash the skin with a mild cleanser and apply a warm compress. After shaving or waxing, clean the skin again, before applying a moisturizer.
- Clean Razor – Rinse the razor after each shaving stroke and replace your razor after every 6 months.
It is important to remember that we shouldn’t pop the lesion or scratch it too hard. It may cause further complications if the lesion gets infected. Hopefully, the few methods mentioned above will help you to get rid of ingrown hair.
Ingrown hair can take several days to clear up on its own and if they are not painful, should be left to heal on their own. Popping or picking the lesions can lead to infections, as it exposes the follicle to bacteria. Once infected, it may lead to pus formation and even if they are cured, they can leave behind scars and pigmentation. A good skin care routine can minimize the risk of ingrown hair too. If the bumps or lesions continue to exist for a prolonged time and/or is infected, it is best to seek medical help.
Although ingrown hair is a common problem, it may not be serious on its own. But then again, we need to be watchful and if we feel that there is something amiss, we must consult a doctor for underlying causes.