On the hunt for simple yet effective home remedies for ingrown hair? You are so not alone. Pretty much anyone and everyone who removes hair on a regular basis has dealt with these pesky ingrowns. Of course, people with curly or coarse hair are more often the victims, but, at one time or another, almost everyone will be afflicted.
And it's not because you're cursed or unlucky - an ingrown hair occurs simply because, instead of growing out straight, a hair curls back into the skin and gets stuck there. Or a hair has trouble getting to the surface because the follicle is cluttered with dead skin cells.
The hair bends, can't exit and is caught in the follicle. Then you have a small to sizable bump on your skin (sometimes filled with pus, sometimes not), which can be inflamed, painful and/or infected. The bump can progress into a rash, blister, cyst or boil. You could be left with darkened or scarred skin where the bump was. Rather amazing, isn't it, the havoc that one small errant hair can wreak.
You'll be tempted to scratch or pick the hair out, but don't - and definitely not with your fingers. Likewise, do not squeeze or try to pop it. You will only make it worse.
So what should you do? There are oh, so many options. But since you want something you can use right now at home - here's a list of the best, most effective home remedies for ingrown hair!
Tea Tree Oil
Oils attract oils. Tea tree oil, therefore, draws out follicle-clogging oil to help rid your skin of an ingrown hair. It is also antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. In other words, it does everything: soothes the inflammation, redness and itchiness; reduces the swelling; and hydrates, all of which is great for calming down an ingrown hair.
Once all of that is taken care of, the hair can release itself. Once the hair is out, the oil effectively treats a variety of bacteria, prevents infection and heals the skin.
You can use tea tree oil by itself unless you have sensitive skin. Then you'll want to mix it with a carrier oil, such as olive, grapeseed or jojoba (one part carrier to three parts tea tree oil) or just dilute it with water.
Here are a few different ways to use tea tree oil for ingrown hair:
- Simply "soak" the ingrown hair with the oil and massage it in. Leave it on the skin for 10-15 minutes before rinsing.
- Add 10-20 drops of tea tree oil to warm water. Moisten a washcloth with it and apply to the ingrown hair. Hold it there until the washcloth cools. Repeat as needed.
- Put a few drops of tea tree oil on a cotton swab. Find the side of the hair with the tip of the ingrown hair. Hold the skin taut and gently swipe the swab across the ingrown hair in the opposite direction that the hair is growing to help ease the tip out.
Tea tree oil isn't the only ingrown hair-fighting oil - you can also add handy coconut oil to the list! Its claim to fame? Almost 50% of the fatty acids found in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is a powerful weapon against ingrown hair.
Lauric acid kills harmful pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and fungi and even helps breaks up the dead skin cells that are blocking the hair follicles. The antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties prevent or treat infections, sanitize the skin, reduce redness and swelling and heal. It does all this while moisturizing your skin. What a deal, right!
- Coconut oil can be used on its own. Apply a thin layer to the affected area and rub in until absorbed.
- Add 12 drops of tea tree oil and 7 drops of lavender oil to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil. Use in the same manner as above. It works wonders and has a lovely fragrance. Keep the mixture in a small, resealable jar for use as you need it.
- Combine coconut oil with baking soda for a natural scrub that provides all the benefits of coconut oil while it removes dead skin cells. Mix together 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of baking soda to make a thick paste. If your skin is sensitive, increase the amount of coconut oil. Gently massage onto the affected area and leave for a few minutes. Rinse off with warm water. Repeat the process twice a day as necessary.
Witch hazel is a natural antioxidant, antiseptic and astringent that kills or inhibits the growth of bacteria in the skin's pores, treats and prevents infection, reduces swelling and inflammation - all the conditions that are imprisoning the ingrown hair. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties also expedite healing.
Dip a cotton ball in the witch hazel extract and apply it on the affected area.
Aspirin is the common name for acetylsalicylic acid, the result of a chemical reaction between salicylic acid and acetic acid. It is an effective anti-inflammatory agent that reduces redness and calms the inflamed area around the ingrown hair.
Salicylic acid absorbs the excess oil that clogs hair follicles and loosens the ingrown hair. You can use aspirin to exfoliate, but it can be too drying for your skin.
- Dissolve two aspirin in water to make a fairly thin paste. Add some honey and apply the paste to the affected area. Leave on for 10 minutes, then wash off with warm water.
Note: Do a skin test first. Aspirin is overall well tolerated - it's definitely gentler than most salicylic acid products - but it's still not advised for highly sensitive skin.
Dead skin cells, debris and hardened oil create an “obstacle course” for a hair making its way through a hair follicle. The hair might arrive at the surface sideways and be unable to exit. Result? Ingrown hair.
Exfoliating clears away the “obstacles” so that the hair can extricate itself. It also helps to manipulate the tip of the hair out of the skin. Plus, it leaves your skin smooth and soft and makes it less likely you'll get ingrown hair in the future.
To exfoliate, press a warm dampened towel against the area(s) with ingrown hairs to soften the skin and hair. On your wet skin, apply a small amount of scrub and work it into the ingrown hair in gentle, circular motions, first in one direction, then the other, with a washcloth or your fingers. Rinse and pat dry.
By the way, there are a ton of wonderful body scrubs out there but you don't need to spend a dime on any of them - you can whip up your own DIY sugar scrub right at home, using what you've already got, like sugar. Sugar is a natural and gentle exfoliator for use on all skin types, even the most sensitive. It not only helps release the trapped hair, it also helps gently buff away dead skin cells that are making your skin rough, uneven and dull.
There are many ingredients that you can mix with the sugar for an effective scrub. Here are three of our favorite recipes:
- Mix two cups of white cane sugar with the juice from two lemons (without seeds or pulp) and three tablespoons of water. The lemon juice disinfects and tones the skin.
- Mix one cup of white cane sugar with one cup of virgin olive oil or jojoba oil (for a facial scrub, ½ cup for a body scrub). Olive oil and jojoba oil hydrate the skin. Dry skin contributes to keeping the hair trapped. You can add essential oils (20 drops) if you wish. Lavender oil, for example, calms inflammation; tea tree oil reduces swelling. Many, perhaps all, essential oils have properties that will assist you in your “Out, damn hair!” mission.
- Mix ½ cup of raw sugar with ½ cup of coconut oil, then add ten drops of tea tree oil to the mixture. This is a potent homemade sugar scrub for infected ingrown hairs.
Note: These mixtures will last for a few to several months in a plastic airtight container when kept in the fridge. Oh, and go for plastic, not glass, in case you take the container into the shower with you and drop it.
Coffee grounds are another natural exfoliator and the perfect consistency for a scrub. Caffeine reduces redness and inflammation, and caffeic acid increases collagen production to heal and protect your skin. You need do no more than make a paste out of coffee grounds and warm water.
If you want to add a little “oomph” to the scrub, try the recipes below by apply the mix to the ingrown hair in gentle, circular motions, leave on for 10-15 minutes and rinse off.
- Mix the coffee grounds with olive oil or coconut oil. Add a few drops of your preferred essential oil, if you like.
- Mix together three tablespoons coffee grounds and one tablespoon of brown sugar. Add a tablespoon of a natural oil (e.g., olive, grape seed, coconut, or almond). Use more brown sugar for a stronger scrub, less for a gentler one.
- Ground coffee and yogurt are a great team against ingrown hairs. Ground coffee loosens the hair and yogurt soothes the inflammation. Add two tablespoons of ground coffee to ¼ cup of plain yogurt, then mix in one tablespoon of coconut oil and the juice of half a lemon.
Here's an unusual but brilliant ingrown hair remedy you can take advantage of right away. Start by cleansing and drying the ingrown hair area and then break an egg and remove the yolk and egg white.
Inside the shell is a thin membrane. Carefully peel off the membrane right away, while it's still wet. Place it on the ingrown hair. As it dries, it will shrink about the bump.
When it's completely dry, pull off the membrane and the hair should come out with it. If the hair is deeply embedded, you may have to do it two or three times. As a bonus, the membrane has anti-inflammatory properties that will soothe the area where the hair was.
An egg membrane will also gently draw out blackheads, splinters, and glass fragments - enough that you can remove them safely with tweezers.
Quick tip: If peeling off egg membranes isn't for you, the NuSkin Face Activator performs a very similar role. It contains albumin, an egg white-derived ingredient, and elastin, a structural protein found naturally in the skin, but its real purpose? It has a way of intensely tightening the area where you apply it, which makes it easier to coax ingrown hairs out without forcefully digging your way in. Oh, and of course, it's wonderful as a face mask too 🙂
You may know it as black ointment or black drawing salve. Or you may not know it at all. Ichthammol ointment is made from shale oil and is readily available at your local drug store or on trusty Amazon.
Because it's antibacterial, antimycotic and anti-inflammatory, it's used for many skin problems, but right now we're interested in its ability to draw out that ingrown hair. Just so you know, the smell is horrendous. Like tar. So you have to weigh an unpleasant smell for a short time against an ingrown hair (and all the ugly ramifications) for a long time.
- Wash and dry the ingrown hair area. Apply a bit of the ointment with a Q-Tip and cover with a band-aid. If you do it before going to bed, the hair should be gone in the morning.
Ichthammol also draws pus out of an infection and slivers of wood or glass out of your skin - actually anything at all that you want out of your skin. You'll probably want to pass on using it your face - there is that smell to deal with.
A warm compress is an easy and effective way to remove an ingrown hair. The heat from the compress softens the skin and draws the ingrown hair closer to the surface of the skin, making it easier for you to pull it out with fine tip tweezers afterward.
- Soak a washcloth in hot water, wring it out and press it on the ingrown hair. When the washcloth starts to cool, around 10 minutes, soak it again and reapply. Repeat until the tip of hair comes out of the skin, and you'll be able to remove it with tweezers.
- Another way you can do this is with milk and bread. Warm some milk (not real hot) and dip in a piece of bread. Place the bread on the ingrown hair and hold it there for a couple minutes until the bread cools. Repeat two or three times, until the hair is loose and at the surface. Go to town with tweezers. Speaking of which...
Once you've any of the above ingrown hair remedies to coax the ingrown hair out to the surface, it's time to grab a pair of tweezers. Which ones are best? Go for tweezers specifically designed for removing ingrown hairs. You'll know them by their fine, pointed tips that allow them to pick up the very smallest, finest individual hair without damaging the skin.
Like anything else, there are degrees of quality among the tweezers. It's worth buying a pair on or near the upper part of the range. They are likely to be more precise and last forever. Some brands are guaranteed for life.
For starters, you need to be able to see the hair, where it exited and where it reentered the skin. Once you have it in sight, sterilize your tweezers. Wipe them down with alcohol or the kind of cleaning wipe that disinfects. Then sterilize the skin surrounding the ingrown hair in the same manner.
Gently, very gently, slip the tip of the tweezers under the loop. You do not want to break the skin in the process - definitely do not dig into your skin. Gently (still) pull the hair up and away from the skin. Grasp the hair as close to the follicle as you safely can. Pull the hair out smoothly. The last thing you want is to have it break off and turn into your next ingrown hair.
Once the hair is out, dab on aloe gel or witch hazel to soothe the spot.
Parting note: As wonderfully effective as ingrown hair remedies can be, there is a time and a place for home remedies. If you've got your average ingrown hair, pluck that thing out with the ingrown hair remedy of your choice. But if the hair is badly infected or too deep to be tweezed, please see a professional so they can gauge whether it can be removed the old fashioned way or if it need surgical removal.