Ingrown hairs are the bane of every woman’s bikini line and legs. Not only are they an eyesore, but they can also be painful and frustrating – especially when you are trying to strut your stuff in a swimming costume. Here is all you need to know about those unwelcome visitors.
THOUGH THEY BE BUT LITTLE, THEY ARE FIERCE
Ingrown hairs are proof that even the tiniest of things can cause major inconvenience. But what exactly are these pesky guests? Essentially, “ingrowns” are hairs that either grow back into the skin’s surface or hairs that cannot break through the skin’s surface and curl back on themselves. When this happens, the body responds to the ingrown as if it were a foreign object. This leads to swelling and the formation of little red bumps, called papules, or pus-filled bumps, called pustules.
While I have yet to encounter someone who has never experienced an ingrown hair, some people are more susceptible than others. If you have thick, curly hair then you might be one of the unlucky ones who experience ingrown hairs on the regular. Because fortune does not favour the coarse and curly, ingrowns are most common along the bikini line but they can occur just about anywhere like the legs and underarms.
Sayonara to squeezing
Those who have had an ingrown, know how tempting it is to squeeze it. As a natural-born squeezer, I have wasted copious amounts of time fiddling with ingrowns until the measly hair finally pokes out. But no matter how immediately satisfying this minor victory is, it’s just not worth it. In fact, squeezing, digging and picking are just about the worst things you can do to an ingrown. This is because it aggravates the skin and introduces bacteria which can easily lead to infection and even scarring.
Patience before plucking
When treating an ingrown hair, the goal is to be as least invasive as possible. Before reaching for the tweezers, you must wait for the hair to break through the skin and reveal itself. To help coax the hair out you can use a warm compress and exfoliate. For more severe cases I have applied drawing ointments, such as XTrax, to the ingrown and sealed it with a band-aid. After leaving it for a day or two, I will apply a warm compress, exfoliate and see if the process needs to be repeated. With encouragement such as this, the ingrown should eventually break through the skin and THEN you can begin to pluck. If, however, you decide to ignore the above and take to the ingrown with a needle (don’t do it) just make sure everything is super sterile.
Let it grow
Ingrown hairs can only occur if the hair has been removed. Ditching hair removal altogether is therefore the best way to stop ingrowns. This is probably not first-choice for most women but if you’ve had a bad bout of ingrowns, then perhaps you should give your body a break and let nature do its thing.
Get down to the root of the problem… literally
On the opposite end of the spectrum of going au naturel is permanent hair removal. Methods such as electrolysis or laser destroy the hair follicle which stops hair growth. And, well, you can’t get ingrown hairs if there is no hair, right? Although these methods are costly, I’ve heard they are well worth it.
(RELATED POST: Shedding light on laser hair removal)
Ditch the blade, or do it right
Although I have had my fair share of waxing-induced ingrowns, shaving is apparently the most likely to cause ingrown hairs. If you can’t part with your razor, make sure you follow these steps to reduce the risk of ingrowns:
1. Replace your blade regularly to allow for a cleaner shave
2. Shave with the hair growth. Shaving against hair growth gives the hair a sharper angle which makes it easier for the hair to grow back into the skin
3. Use shaving cream to prevent irritation
4. Moisturise after shaving to reduce friction and disruption of follicles
As part of the prevention and cure, regular exfoliation is essential. This is because exfoliation removes dead skin cells which clog follicles and make it unnecessarily difficult for hairs to break through. My favourite at-home exfoliators include a mixture of sugar with coconut oil and a combination of honey and cinnamon. If you are looking for something a little stronger, consider exfoliating with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is found in many exfoliating washes and helps keep follicles clear. Do not, however, use salicylic acid if you already have an ingrown hair as this could lead to further irritation. In the case of already visible ingrowns rather opt for a gentle loofah or washcloth.
Here are a few great exfoliators:
1. Pure Simple Lavender Soap Scrub, R46 BUY
2. Hey Gorgeous Strawberries & Black Pepper Body Scrub Bliss, R140 BUY
3. Botanical Buddha Wildflower Petal Powder, R269 BUY
4. Hey Gorgeous Coconut & Lime Body Scrub Bliss, R130 BUY
5. EcoPlanet Bamboo Charcoal Soap – Shea Butter & Rooibos, R62 BUY