How to Get Rid of Ingrown Hairs and Prevent Them in the First Place, According to Experts

Hand holds up tweezers; how to
Image By: nakaridore/Shutterstock

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Ingrown hairs occur when short hair curls back into the skin and continues to grow. They are a common consequence of tweezing and shaving, especially for people with curly and coarse hair. Figuring out how ingrown hairs occur and how to prevent them is pretty simple, but figuring out how to get rid of ingrown hairs is another challenge entirely.

First, the good news: ingrown hairs often go away on their own. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s pretty rare for ingrown hair to lead to bacterial infection, skin darkening, scarring and razor bumps. If you’re dealing with chronic or painful ingrown hairs, it’s best to speak with a medical professional and establish the best plan for you.

We called Dr. Corey Hartman, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder and medical director of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. He gave SPY advice on how to get rid of ingrown hairs, the risks involved in the process, how to prevent ingrown hairs and a few kinds of products to help.

In this grooming guide, we’re going to explore:

  • How to get rid of ingrown hairs
  • How to prevent ingrown hairs from forming
  • The best products for treating ingrown hairs and razor bumps
  

How To Get Rid of Ingrown Hairs at Home

Before we get to the details on how to get rid of ingrown hairs, let’s cover the basics and the risks. Hartman explained that the only permanent way to remove hair entirely is through laser hair removal. So even if you use tweezers to pull out an ingrown hair, it will grow back. Plus, you run the risk of further damaging and inflaming skin already irritated by the ingrown hair, not to mention scarring, discoloration, and infection.

“[Tweezing] might feel good in the moment, but it’s not the best practice. It’s more work to cause potentially more of a problem,” Hartman said. “The best way to avoid [these] problems is not to do it.”

But not all is lost for sufferers of ingrown hairs. You can do at least one mechanical thing to remove the ingrown hair temporarily: Dislodge it, then shave it. “Dislodging means going under where the hair is and lifting the distal end free,” Hartman said. That means using a safety pin, needle or other sharp object sterilized with alcohol to lift the outer end of the hair out of the skin. “You don’t want to dig around too much for it. You just want to go under the hair and pull it out. There should be no pain or blood. That loosens the hair so you can shave it,” Hartman explained. See the video below of Dr. Pimple Popper on Rachael Ray showing exactly how to do it:

With all that said, we know that reading the proper way to deal with ingrown hairs won’t deter some of you from using tweezers or, worse, digging at ingrown hairs. If you’re determined to lift out your ingrown hairs and understand it may cause more harm than good in the long term, it’s best to see how tweezing is done rather than simply reading about it. Below, you’ll find a video of Dr. Pimple Popper and Dr. Oz demonstrating the most common home remedy for ingrown hairs.

The steps are as follows:

  • First, apply a warm compress to the area
  • Pierce the abscess from the side with a sterile needle
  • Gently squeeze out any pus and wipe away
  • Using sterile tweezers, lift out the trapped hair, pulling slowly and directly upward
  • Do not pluck

If you need a visual guide to what’s going on below the skin, here’s a cross-section of how an ingrown hair looks. You’ll want to grasp the curled-in section of hair with your tweezers, as close to the root as possible without pinching your skin, and gently pull it free.

A photo illustration of an ingrown hair; how to get rid of ingrown hairs Image By: Elena Mitrokhina/Shutterstock

Once finished, clean the area thoroughly, apply a bandage, and finish with a cold compress to help soothe the skin.

We figure you have a washcloth for the compresses and cleaning, but for any tweezing and piercing, the Tweezerman Slant Tweezer won’t let you down, and the Zizzon Needle Acne Tool has a sharp point to help you expose the hair, as well as a traditional acne extractor tool.

Tweezerman Slant Tweezer; how to get rid of ingrown hairs Courtesy of Amazon

Zizzon Needle Acne Tool; how to get rid of ingrown hairs Courtesy of Amazon

  

How To Prevent Ingrown Hairs

Because ingrown hairs can be unsightly and painful, you’ll want to avoid them altogether. In addition the tricks on how to get rid of ingrown hairs, there are some simple things you can do to prevent them from ever happening. Some include basic grooming products, some just involve changing bad habits, and others are a combination of both.

Drawing on our own experiences and tips from Dr. Hartman and other medical sources like the Mayo Clinic, we’ve rounded up some advice and potentially useful products to help you tackle your ingrown hairs.

Because everyone’s skin and hair are different, we can’t 100% guarantee these things will fix your ingrown hair problem. But if you want to learn how to get rid of ingrown hairs and what works for our team, these tips should at least help keep them in check and hopefully prevent them from occurring in the first place:

  • Grow a beard and avoid shaving, tweezing and waxing
  • Exfoliate and cleanse your skin regularly
  • Shave in the direction of hair growth
  • Using shave cream before shaving
  • Using a fresh razor when shaving
  • Apply a post-shave lotion or balm
  • Incorporate a bump treatment into your regimen
  • Use an electric razor or trimmer
  • Brush the affected area with a soft-bristled toothbrush

Below, we break down all of these tips, plus the most effective products to help you get a handle on ingrown hairs once and for all.

  

1. Grow A Beard

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. It sounds simple, but it’s true. If you know you regularly develop ingrown hairs, the best way to avoid them entirely is to dislodge them if necessary and let them grow out. “At the end of the day, you can’t stop your hair from being coarse or curly,” Hartman noted.

Shaving, tweezing, and any hair removal process can always increase the opportunity for a hair to curl inward or otherwise not grow properly. Of course, we know that avoiding hair removal isn’t feasible for most people. Hartman advised figuring out a good regimen or routine that works to keep your ingrown hairs in check if that’s the case.

“You can find products and get into a good rhythm where [ingrown hairs are] just part of the deal, and you can keep everything under control,” he said. “It might seem like a ton of work, but once you get into a routine, it’s not too hard to keep [ingrown hairs] from flaring up.”

  

2. Exfoliate & Cleanse Your Skin Regularly

If you must shave, there are things you can do to minimize your risks of ingrown hairs. Having an excellent exfoliating cleanser is step one.

Hartman said that dead skin, oil and grime can gunk up the skin’s hair follicles, but an exfoliator used regularly helps break it down, allowing for more optimal conditions for your hair to grow out. The Geologie Everyday Face Wash Exfoliating Cleanser uses 2% salicylic acid to work, which has the added benefit of clearing up acne. We found it to be effective but not too strong in our testing, perfect for more frequent use as needed.

Geologie Everyday Face Wash Exfoliating Cleanser; how to get rid of ingrown hairs Courtesy of Geologie

  

3. How To Shave To Minimize Ingrown Hairs

Before we get to all the reasons you need the best shaving cream or gel, fresh razor and aftershave balm below, here are some best practices from our experiences and Hartman’s advice to minimize the chances of ingrown hairs developing:

  • Use a warm compress beforehand to prepare your skin and hair
  • Don’t shave against the grain
  • Try to avoid multiple passes, especially if you’re using a razor with more than one blade
  • Don’t pull your skin tight
  • Don’t shave too close to the skin or with too much pressure
  • Try a cold compress afterward, which can help calm skin down
  

4. Add a Shaving Cream, Gel or Oil Into Your Shaving Routine

If you’re not using something to help lubricate the blade during your shave, you’re missing out on the easiest thing you can do to help prevent and avoid ingrown hairs. Yes, that means no more dry shaving with a week-old disposable razor. Please.

The best shaving creams, shaving butter and shave oils not only help lift up facial hair, making the process easier, but they also can soften and moisturize your hair and skin, both of which will decrease your odds of developing ingrown hairs. We’ve got a list of great shaving creams that we like for different reasons, but we recommend The Art of Shaving Shaving Cream as an excellent choice. You don’t need much of it to develop a nice, foamy lather — with or without a shaving brush — and it hydrates and softens facial hair and skin while working to protect your skin from irritation and razor burn.

the art of shaving shaving cream sandalwood; how to get rid of ingrown hairs Courtesy of Amazon

  

5. Use A Fresh Razor or Blade

The more you use a razor or blade, the duller it gets. While you can still get decent shaves out of more worn blades, dull blades clog more easily, and they won’t cut as smoothly or evenly and may require additional passes, all of which can contribute to circumstances conducive to ingrown hairs. Dull blades can also pull and tug on hairs, affecting cutting angles while also being downright unpleasant. Though the jury is still out on using single-blade or multi-blade razors to prevent ingrown hairs, we fall into the single-blade razor camp because multi-blade razors generally lead to more irritation and blade clogging, all of which are bad for preventing ingrown hairs. However, we know everyone has their preferences, so we’ll recommend one of each.

Since you’re going to want to use a fresh razor, we think disposable razors are perfect for this. We like the BIC Sensitive Single Blade Shaver. Because it only uses one blade, it tends to cause fewer razor bumps and doesn’t shave as closely, meaning you’re less likely to have an errant hair curl back into your skin and develop into ingrown hairs. If you’re really looking to upgrade your single-blade experience, we also recommend using safety razors, which keep the same razor but allow you to use a fresh blade every time.

bic sensitive single blade shaver 36 count; how to get rid of ingrown hairs Courtesy of Amazon

We like the Gillette Sensor3 Men’s Disposable Razor for a great multi-blade disposable. The three blades can help you cut down the number of passes, and the lubricant strip will minimize irritation along the way.

Gillette Sensor3 Disposable Razor pack; how to get rid of ingrown hairs Courtesy of Amazon

  

6. Don’t Skip The Aftershave

The softer your skin and hair, the less likely you will develop ingrown hairs. So though you might typically skip the aftershave balm or lotion, now’s a good time to invest. It doesn’t need to be fancy or burn, but it does need to work for you and your skin and hair type. Trust us; once you find the one that works for you, you’ll never want to finish your shave without one.

We recommend the NIVEA Men Sensitive Post Shave Balm as a great aftershave balm. It features soothing ingredients and a light fragrance while skipping out on the drying alcohol. It’s one of our longtime favorite cheap-but-great products formulated to help reduce inflammation and irritation while also providing freshly shaved skin the moisture it needs.

Nivea Men Sensitive Post-Shave Balm, three bottles; how to get rid of ingrown hairs Courtesy of Amazon

  

7. Give A Razor Bump Treatment A Shot

If you already have an ingrown hair or bump, these prevention tips won’t get you as far as a cream or solution specifically designed to break down ingrown hairs. These solutions frequently contain gentle exfoliating acids, which help break down excess oil and dead skin while your face is its most vulnerable — immediately following a shave. Over time, this process can minimize the bump and ultimately break down the hair underneath the skin.

We like the Tend Skin solution for a bump treatment and alternative aftershave. We’ve tried it many times before, and we think it lives up to the promise of instant post-shave relief and fewer ingrown hairs over time. It’s impossible to say whether it’s stopped ingrown hairs, but it has been shown to reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs with continued use.

Tend Skin Courtesy of Amazon

  

8. Use An Electric Razor or Trimmer

If you can live with some stubble instead of going for the full shave, electric razors or trimmers can be great compromise grooming solutions.

“You might not be used to it, but it’s a great method,” Hartman said. “It’s definitely safer, it’s not going to cut the hair as closely, and you’re not going to risk as much irritation from shaving, but it may not get you as close a shave as possible.”

In short, with an electric razor or trimmer, you can avoid looking like a wooly mammoth while still avoiding shaving and the increased likelihood of ingrown hairs.

We recommend the Phillips Norelco MultiGroom Series 7000 Trimmer of all the beard trimmers we love. Self-sharpening blades mean you’ll keep getting a close trim for years to come, and a wireless battery with five hours of charge means you can use it again and again without having to plug it in. Throw in over 20 attachment pieces, and you’ll be keeping your beard in check without exposing your face to any ingrown hairs. Don’t use the closest shave settings for best results, and consider holding the trimmer a bit further away from your skin than you normally would.

philips norelco 775049 multigroom series 7000 trimmer, men's grooming kit Courtesy of Amazon

  

9. Brush The Affected Area With A Soft-Bristled Toothbrush

If you already have ingrown hair but don’t wish to go any acidic routes, the Mayo Clinic recommends using a soft-bristled toothbrush to wash and exfoliate your skin before shaving and before bed. By cleaning and breaking down the skin a bit around the ingrown hair, you might be able to weaken the skin enough that the hair will be able to break through, which will help get rid of it. Since you’re using a toothbrush on your skin every day, you’ll probably want a dedicated toothbrush because you don’t want to be transferring any gunk between your skin and mouth by using the same brush. (We hope that’s obvious.)

The EasyHonor Extra Soft Toothbrush more than gets the job done for that task. The bristles are nice and soft, so you can gently rub your skin to break down skin cells and help free up ingrown hairs.

EasyHonor Extra Soft Toothbrush Courtesy of Amazon

  

How to get rid of ingrown hairs FAQ

How do ingrown hairs develop?

Ingrown hairs occur when short hair curls back into the skin and continues growing. They are a common consequence of tweezing and shaving, especially for people with curly and coarse hair.

What's the best way to get rid of an ingrown hair?

The best and safest way to get rid of an ingrown hair is to dislodge it and shave it.

It's simpler than it might sound. If you've identified an ingrown hair, use a sterile safety pin or needle to lift the ingrown end out of your skin. Then, shave the hair away to minimize the chance it curls back in again.

How do I use tweezers to get rid of an ingrown hair?

Tweezing the hair out will offer some temporary relief, though it's going to be back to cause more trouble later. But if you wish to pluck out the ingrown hair, here's what you should do:

  • First, apply a warm compress to the area
  • Pierce the abscess from the side with a sterile needle
  • Squeeze out any pus and wipe away
  • Using sterile tweezers, lift out the trapped hair, pulling slowly and directly upward.
What can I do to prevent ingrown hairs?

The following tricks are not necessarily guarantees, but the more of the following you do, the less likely you are to develop ingrown hairs.

  • Grow a beard and avoid shaving, tweezing and waxing
  • Exfoliate and cleanse your skin regularly
  • Use a shave cream, gel or shave oil before shaving
  • Use a fresh razor when shaving
  • Apply a post-shave lotion/balm
  • Incorporate a bump treatment into your regimen
  • Use an electric razor or trimmer
  • Brush the affected area with a soft-bristled toothbrush
Are ingrown hairs unsafe or dangerous?

In rare cases, ingrown hairs can lead to bacterial infection, skin darkening, scarring and razor bumps. But in the vast majority of people and cases of ingrown hairs, they'll go away on their own without causing any issues.

  

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