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 hair follicles. 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 thing entirely.
First, the good news: ingrown hairs almost always go away on their own. It’s only in extreme cases that ingrown hair leads to bacterial infection, skin darkening, scarring and razor bumps, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re dealing with chronic and/or painful ingrown hairs, it’s best to speak with a medical professional about how to get rid of ingrown hairs. Professional treatments could include laser hair removal or antibiotics if the affected area of skin is infected.
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 Hair at Home
The most common home remedy for getting rid of ingrown hairs involves using a needle or tweezers to lift the hair out of the skin. While you can do this at home, it’s risky. You could end up accidentally pushing the hair deeper into your skin. If the needle or tweezers you use aren’t properly sterilized, you could cause or worsen a skin infection. We definitely recommend working with a professional to get rid of ingrown hairs that don’t get better on their own.
However, we know that some of you won’t be deterred. In fact, you already have a pair of tweezers in hand. So if you’re determined to lift out your ingrown hairs, it’s best to see how it’s 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
- Squeeze out any pus and wipe away
- Using sterile tweezers, lift out the trapped hair
If you need a visual guide to what’s going on below the skin, here’s what an ingrown hair looks like. You’ll want to grasp the curled-in section of hair with your tweezers and pull it free.
Once you’re done, clean the area and apply a bandage, if necessary.
Any set of tweezers will do, just be sure to clean it before each use. We recommend this affordable 4-piece set from Amazon, which has a variety of sizes.
RoosterCo 4-Piece Tweezer Set
How To Prevent Ingrown Hairs
Because ingrown hairs can be unsightly and painful, you’ll want to avoid them altogether. There are many simple things you can do to decrease the likelihood of ingrown hairs developing and some basic things you can do that may help get rid of them. Some include basic grooming products, some just involve changing bad habits and some tips are a combination of both.
Drawing on our own experiences and tips from medical sources like the Mayo Clinic, we’ve rounded up some advice and some potentially helpful 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 will help with the next best thing, preventing ingrown hairs from occurring in the first place.
- Don’t shave too close to the skin or with too much pressure
- Don’t shave against the grain
- Don’t pull your skin tight
- DO wash your skin before shaving
- DO use a fresh, clean razor
- DO use shaving cream or shave butter
- DO use a moisturizer or aftershave when finished
Below, we break down all of these tips, plus the most effective products for getting rid of ingrown hairs once and for all.
1. Avoid shaving, tweezing and waxing
The best way to get rid of ingrown hairs is to avoid behavior that causes them in the first place such as shaving and waxing. Because shaving cuts your hair at the skin, it creates the perfect opportunity for newly shortened hairs to curl back into the skin and create an ingrown hair. Tweezing and waxing on the other hand can leave bits of hair under the skin, which can then continue to grow in the wrong direction.
Of course, we know that avoiding hair removal simply isn’t feasible for most people, but if you’re really looking to stop ingrown hairs in their tracks, the best way to do so is to completely avoid the activities that allow them to develop more easily. If you find ingrown hairs regularly developing in a certain part of your body, such as the bikini area for women or the back of the neck for men, try to avoid excessive shaving and waxing, at least temporarily.
2. Wash your skin with water and a facial cleanser before shaving
If you must shave — and let’s face it, whether for work or personal grooming reasons, you probably have to — you want to avoid working with dry skin and dry hair, which are more likely to result in ingrown hairs. Unfortunately, there isn’t a hard scientific explanation for why this is beyond the common sense understanding that dry hairs are stiffer. So we recommend washing your skin before shaving with one of our favorite facial skin cleansers, the Marlowe. No. 121 Facial Cleanser for Men. It’s lightweight and uses natural ingredients like green tea, willow bark and deep sea algae to gently remove sweat and oil from the day while repairing your skin.
3. Use shaving cream or gel before shaving
If you’re not using shaving cream of some kind, you’re missing out on the easiest thing you can do to help prevent and avoid ingrown hairs. Yes, guys, that means no more dry shaving with a week-old disposable razor! The best shaving creams and shaving butter not only stand your hairs up to make shaving 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 whole list of great shaving creams that we like for different reasons, but for an overall great shaving cream, we recommend The Art of Shaving Shaving Cream. 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.
4. Use a fresh, sharp razor when you shave
The more you use a razor or razor blade, the duller it gets. While you can definitely still get decent shaves out of duller blades, duller blades will clog more easily and they won’t cut as smoothly or evenly and may require additional passes of the razor, all of which can contribute to circumstances conducive to ingrown hairs. Dull blades can also pull and tug on hairs, which will also affect cutting angles and is just 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.
Since you’re going to want to use a fresh single-blade razor, we think disposable razors are perfect for this. We recommend the BIC Sensitive Single Blade Shaver. Because these razors only use one blade, they tend to cause fewer razor bumps and don’t shave as closely, meaning you’re less likely to have an errant hair curl back into your skin and develop into an ingrown hair. 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.
To avoid ingrown hairs while shaving, don’t shave too close to the skin, don’t shave against the grain, and don’t pull your skin tight. While a close shave is good, if you’re trying to get rid of ingrown hairs, avoiding these typical bad habits will help.
5. Apply a lotion, balm or moisturizer after you’re finished shaving
The softer your skin and hair, the less likely you are to develop ingrown hairs. So though you might normally skip the aftershave balm or lotion, now’s a good time to make the investment. And trust us, once you do, you’ll never want to finish your shave without one.
For an aftershave balm, we recommend Lather & Wood Shaving Co. Aftershave Balm. It’s alcohol-free so there’s no burning sensation, and organic aloe leaf juice, coconut oil and jojoba seed oil work to moisturize and soothe skin irritated by the razor. It also smells of sandalwood for a pleasing masculine touch. For a good facial lotion to use after shaving, we recommend Marlowe. No. 123 Men’s Facial Moisturizer. Similar to its facial cleanser cousin, this moisturizer from Marlowe is lightweight, uses the same proprietary blend of ingredients to nourish and revitalize your skin and smells of aloe, citrus and wood.
6. 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 can avoid the wooly mammoth look while still avoiding shaving and the increased likelihood of ingrown hairs. Of all the beard trimmers we love, we recommend the Phillips Norelco MultiGroom Series 7000 Trimmer. Self-sharpening blades mean you’ll get 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. For best results, don’t use the closest shave settings and consider holding the trimmer a bit further away from your skin than you normally would.
7. Apply a solution to break down the ingrown hair or razor bump
If you already have an ingrown hair, these prevention tips won’t get you as far as a cream or solution specifically designed to break down ingrown hairs. Their effectiveness is ultimately debatable, but they do work to break down bumps and exfoliate skin, which can help even if you already have an ingrown hair. These solutions frequently contain acids, which help break down the skin and encourage the growth of new skin. Over time, this process can minimize the bump and ultimately break down the hair underneath the skin.
We recommend Tend Skin’s Tend Skin Solution. Acetylsalicylic acid, the same kind of acid used for acne washes, does the heavy lifting to break down skin here and will also work to prevent new ingrown hairs from forming when used daily. Just apply a thin coat of the solution on dry skin after shaving, and let it dry. If you like, you can apply a moisturizer too once the solution is dry. Just don’t use too much and be sure to test it on a small area of skin first before applying it to your face, especially if you have sensitive skin.
If you’re looking for something geared more toward men only, Jack Black Bump Fix is a great oil-free solution that uses salicylic and lactic acids to break down skin, bumps and ingrown hairs. This formula also includes chamomile and aloe leaf juice to soothe the skin after the damage from the acid, so you’re skin won’t feel too dry or damaged.
8. Wash the affected area using a washcloth or soft-bristled toothbrush
If you already have ingrown hair, but don’t wish to go the acid solution route, 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 for this purpose because you don’t want to be transferring gunk between your skin and mouth by using the same brush.
We recommend the PRO-SYS Extra Soft Toothbrush two-pack. The bristles are nice and soft so you can gently rub your skin to break down skin cells. Though you’re not using it for your teeth, this toothbrush is one of only a dozen or so toothbrushes to receive the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, which can only be received after a product provides scientific evidence for its safety and efficacy. It’s also simple and cheap, which doesn’t hurt when you’re buying extra toothbrushes.