how to prevent ingrown hairs

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs: 5 Clever Ways to Make Sure They Never Return

Ingrown hairs. That even sounds ugly, doesn’t it? Hairs are supposed to grow out! But there are some that do a U-turn, like they’re trying to get back into the pore – curly, coarse hairs in particular are the worst offenders when it comes to ingrown hairs.

Then there are the hairs that want to come out but can’t. They’re bent over from trying to work their way through a hair follicle that is damaged or cluttered with dead skin cells, oil plugs and and any other debris that has found its way in there. Or because they couldn’t break through that stubborn layer of dead cells coating the surface of the skin.

However they got there, you get stuck with small round bumps with hairs trapped in them.

And it doesn’t end with a simple bump. Sure, an ingrown hair bump may just sit there for a while and go away on its own, but more often than not, ingrown hairs tend to hurt, itch or become inflamed, causing all sorts of discomfort on top of the unsightly bump.

Sometimes they become infected, darken the skin or leave behind a scar (more so if you scratch or pick at it). They can fester, and now you have boils on your skin or cysts or fluid-filled blisters. Not fun.

You shaved or waxed your hair to look your best and you end up with these things on your skin. Totally counterproductive.

So let’s avoid all that! Here’s how to prevent ingrown hairs – it’s surprisingly simple and once you know the many ways to prevent ingrown hairs, you won’t have to deal with those pesky bumps again.

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs: Exfoliate

Exfoliation is the single most important way to avoid ingrown hairs. Since dead skin cells are paramount in causing ingrown hairs, get rid of them! Adding exfoliating to your beauty regimen will give those hairs a clear, smooth path to the surface (while making your skin healthier, brighter, smoother and more youthful).

And there are so many ways to do it. Here are several ways that you can exfoliate – just take your pick and add it into your hair removal routine!

Exfoliating Glove

The glove is gentle enough to use every day, and it’s inexpensive. Also, in our multi-tasking society, you can do it while you’re watching television or talking on the phone (using the speaker). You can use the glove dry or with a small amount of body wash.

Simply rub the glove over your body in gentle circular movements. In addition to exfoliating your skin, the glove massages and tones and firms your skin. Rinse after use and hang to dry.

Loofah Sponge

Use a plant-based loofah rather than a synthetic, aka plastic, one. The luffa plant is “multi-dimensional.” It gives us fruit and flowers in addition to the sponges that are made from the fibers in the gourds. Those with green thumbs can even grow their own loofah sponge!

Break in a new loofah by letting it soak in hot water. Before use, wet the loofah in hot water and squeeze it out to soften. Apply a small amount of facial or body wash or rub the loofah a few times with a bar of soap. Wash your body in gentle circular motions.

It’s not necessary to scrub and it’s not advised – a gentle rub is all you need. You may want to use two loofahs, one with fine fibers for the face and other sensitive areas and a coarser one for body and feet. Rinse the loofah, squeeze out excess water and hang it to dry for next time!

Face and Body Scrubs

There seems to be an endless supply of facial and body scrubs on the market and, frankly, most are both effective at removing dead cells and kind to your skin. Just check the ingredients.

The abrasive particles should be natural (i.e. jojoba beads, oatmeal, finely ground nut shells), which is both better for your skin and the environment, and the product should contain natural ingredients (i.e., tea tree, chamomile, rose hip) that soothe and moisturize your skin.

You don’t even have to fork out money for these scrubs – you can make them right at home, which is fun and very inexpensive. One mix that is especially effective and refreshing is granulated sugar with olive oil that moisturizes with a few drops of tea tree oil to combat bacteria. Perhaps the easiest and least expensive do-it-yourself scrub is adding Epsom salts to your bath gel.

For chemical exfoliation, rather than physical as described above, use products that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid or lactic acid or beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid. These lovely ingredients exfoliate without you having to manually scrub yourself – they work by simply “un-gluing” dead skin cells to expose the new, fresh skin underneath.

Not to mention, these chemical exfoliators are super helpful for those prone to breakouts and acne so there’s a win-win!

Note: Moisturizing is a must after exfoliating. Exfoliation tends to dry your skin, especially if it’s sensitive.

Together with the obvious reasons to moisturize, if your skin is dry, hair is more likely to break off at the surface rather than be pulled out by the root during waxing. (Waxing too frequently will also cause the hair to break off.) Also, wait 48 hours after shaving to continue your exfoliating routine!

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs: Become a Shaving Pro

All those years you’ve been shaving and now someone is going to try to tell you how to do it? Well, yes. If you have been plagued with ingrown hairs, making some minor adjustments in the way you shave can make all the difference.

Here’s how to master shaving!

Prepare your skin

Soften your skin and hair with warm water. Apply a shaving oil or gel (foams are more drying) to create a buffer between your skin and the razor. Products that contain aloe, extra-virgin coconut oil (which is also antibacterial), olive oil or, better yet, any combination thereof, are good. The main thing is to avoid products with alcohol that dries and irritates your skin.

Shave with a sharp blade

Using a dull blade is begging for ingrown hairs. A dull blade will not cut the hair cleanly and leaves behind an uneven tip that is more likely to turn back into the follicle. It also forces you to press down to get a smooth shave, and hair is shorter than the surrounding skin and more likely to get stuck in the skin.

Going over and over an area increases the chances of a hair slipping back into your skin. With a sharp blade, you will only need to make one or two (at the most) passes.

Shave in the direction that your hair grows

One exception: You can shave your legs in the opposite direction.

Soothe your skin after shaving

Aftercare is key. Rinse the shaved area with warm water, then run some cool water over them to reduce irritation. Pat your skin dry  and apply a thin layer of a moisturizer or bikini balm. (Bikini balm is also recommend for under the arms.)

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs: Loosen Up

That would be with your clothing. Tight clothes, such as nylon leggings, synthetic skinny jeans and underwear, contribute to ingrown hairs, because they prevent free air circulation and suppress the outward growth of the hair and push it back into the skin.

Especially avoid wearing tight clothes right after shaving or waxing. Natural fabrics, such as cotton, breathe and do not chafe against the skin.

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs: Powder Up

Perspiration from sports or exercise or simply lolling about on those hot, humid summer days can contribute to ingrown hairs, because it suffocates your hair follicles. If your body parts are rubbing together, such as your legs (and those thighs have a bad habit of doing that!), the risk of ingrown hairs is worse.

Apply talcum powder or cornstarch to keep you dry and prevent chafing. When you are finished your activity or come in from the heat, rinse sensitive areas to make sure the hair follicles are free to breathe.

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs: Give Up

If you have tried all these measures and are still getting ingrown hairs, all I have left to suggest is that you give up on shaving and waxing and have your hair removed by laser or electrolysis.

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