We’ve all been there before: You shave your face or get a haircut with a beard trim, and everything is copasetic and cool. Then two or three days later, an unsightly and sometimes painful ingrown hair pops up and ruins the cool vibes.
Now, there’s a hair growing out of the bump that’s causing pain, and most likely, you don’t know whether to try and help the hair grow out of the afflicted area or leave it be and let your body handle the rest. We’re here to tell you that there are ways to alleviate the pain of having ingrown hairs.
According to Mayo Clinic, ingrown hair occurs when shaved or tweezed hair grows back into the skin. It can cause inflammation, pain, and tiny bumps in the area where you removed the hair.
We spoke with a dermatology expert, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman, to understand how ingrown hairs grow and develop. Hartman is the founder and medical director of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL.
READ MORE: Best Beard Trimmers for Men
“It’s called pseudofolliculitis because it’s not a real inflammation of the hair follicle, but it’s a pseudo-inflammation,” says Hartman of ingrown hairs. “Not because of an infection but because the hair, which is curly and coiled, grows back into the skin where it does not have the protective sheath that it has when it grows out. So, it’s seen as something foreign, and the skin sets up a reaction, and you get red bumps as a result.”
Hartman explains that ingrown hairs are difficult to deal with, but there are not many options that patients have to treat the afflicted areas.
“The only way to prevent ingrown hairs is to laser the hair and get rid of it or to grow a full beard. Other than that, you can’t really stop the hair from growing into the skin,” Hartman explains.
But Hartman also states that certain hair textures are more prone to developing ingrown hairs.
“Anybody with curly, coarse hair: Black, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean [are more prone to ingrown hairs],” says Hartman. “Anybody with dark, curly, coarse hair is susceptible; obviously, people from the African Diaspora are going to be most likely to develop them.”
Below, we list the options that Hartman recommends and some products that will help your beard stay healthy and feel soft all winter long.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ingrown Hairs
According to the Mayo Clinic, ingrown hair happens when shaved, or tweezed hair grows back into the skin. It can cause inflammation, pain and tiny bumps in the area where the hair was removed.
Ingrown hairs can come in a variety of forms and colors. Most common is a raised itchy, painful red, yellow, or white bump where the hair has grown back into the skin. According to NHS, you're more likely to get ingrown hairs on the face, neck, legs, armpits, chest, back and pubic hair regions.
When an ingrown hair becomes infected, puss will start to form at the opening of the bump and it might swell in size due to the inflammation.
According to NHS, if you have coarse or curly hair, the only guaranteed method of preventing ingrown hairs is not to shave. If you must shave, there are a few ways to minimize the chances of getting ingrown hair, such as wetting your skin and using shaving gel, shaving in the direction the hair is growing, and using as few strokes of the razor as possible.
According to Dr. Hartman, the only guaranteed way to get ingrown hairs to go away is to grow your beard out or get laser hair removal or reduction. Hairs go away when the shaft dies and falls out or if you take matters into your own hands and extract the hair from the bump yourself. Remember, if you have more melanin in your skin and therefore a darker skin tone — generally considered a 4 or above on the Fitzpatrick skin type scale — not all lasers are created equal. Make sure you check with your doctor to ensure they are using the best laser for you.
1. Mr. Pen Safety Pins
Hartman suggests that if your ingrown hairs are visible and you can see the hair loop sticking out from the bump, dislodging the hair could be a helpful way of alleviating the pain. Take a sterile safety pin, stick the pointy end under the hair loop, and gently pull to help dislodge the follicle.
While this seems to go against everything you were taught about picking your face, if done correctly and carefully, this can actually help minimize scarring and lower the chances of the hair becoming ingrown again due to plucking.
2. Bevel Beard Grooming Kit
When it comes to ingrown hairs, as stated before, there are minimal things that one can do to prevent them or get rid of them. But keeping your skin and hair moisturized can minimize the chances of your skin creating very painful ingrown hair bumps.
Tristan Walker created Bevel to focus on Black men and their curly, kinky hair texture needs that weren’t being prioritized until 2013. What makes these products great is that they include natural ingredients such as skin-friendly oils from grapeseed, macadamia seed, argan, jojoba, avocado, and evening primrose. These help keep your beard nourished and happy, which helps prevent the causation of slightly ingrown hairs. These products also don’t include any bad things like sulfates, alcohol, silicones, parabens, phthalates, artificial dyes, or fragrances.
This grooming kit from Bevel comes with oil, conditioner and balm that’s sure to keep your hair looking good and feeling good. The products will also help to prevent clogged pores and irritation as well.
3. Laser Hair Removal
Hartman also recommends laser hair removal for the extremely pesky and painful ingrown hairs. Laser hair removal helps alleviate pain and kill the active hair follicle by getting to the root of the issue — no pun intended — and extracting the hair. It’s a quick, semi-painless procedure that yields the advantage of having no ingrown hairs.
The cost for a procedure like this varies from the low $100s to the mid $400s. Factors such as where you live, how large the surface you’re looking to treat, and how many required sessions can all affect the total cost.