One of the greatest risks of hair removal is an ingrown hair. At best, an ingrown hair can be painful and cause a great amount of discomfort. This is likely to be the case if it happens to be in an area that will not be visible. However, since much of hair removal takes place on the legs and bikini line, ingrown hairs can also cause embarrassing blemishes on the skin. You can prevent ingrown hairs by regular use of a chemical exfoliant, as well as treating existing ingrown hairs.
What is an ingrown hair and how is it caused?
An ingrown hair is a condition in which the hair grows sideways or curls into the skin. Curly hair is especially prone to ingrown hairs, as are the bikini line and the face, primarily due to shaving or hair removal. Ingrown hair doesn’t actually go through the follicle itself as some people might believe. Instead, the sharp tip of short hair can pierce the skin and grow inwards. Improper hair removal is the most common cause of an ingrown hair but excess dead skin can also contribute. The hair follicle can be clogged by the skin, causing the follicle to grow sideways and increasing the chances of an ingrown hair.
How can you prevent an ingrown hair from hair removal?
Ingrown hairs can be reduced by shaving and waxing with the correct technique. Don’t shave too close or aggressively. When waxing, be sure to apply wax in the direction of the hair and to pull away from the direction of hair growth. Also be sure the hair is the correct length for waxing. Hair should be about 1/4 inch in length in order to wax. Hair that is too long or short when waxed may cause an ingrown hair. Overly tight clothing may also contribute to ingrown hair.
How can a chemical exfoliant prevent an ingrown hair?
Dead and rough skin is one of the key risk factors for ingrown hair. Clogged hair pores cause the hair to grow sideways, meaning the tip of the hair will be in contact with the skin. Exfoliating to remove the dead skin and clear pores will help prevent ingrown hairs. For fine, straight hair often found on the lower leg, manual exfoliating should be sufficient, but coarse and thick hair will likely require a chemical exfoliant. A chemical exfoliant will target the root of the hair follicles. Make sure to use either a mild salicylic acid exfoliant or one based on alpha and/or beta hydroxy acids.
What if chemical exfoliation doesn’t help?
Regular exfoliation should greatly reduce the appearance of ingrown hairs. However, if the condition is persistent, you may wish to try more drastic measures. A dermatologist can give you a chemical peel that exfoliates much deeper than the mild chemical exfoliants you use at home. With softer, more pliable skin at the surface, the risk of hair penetrating is reduced.
A chemical exfoliant can be one of your greatest tools against ingrown hairs. You typically won’t think about the condition until it actually occurs but you can be assured of smooth, blemish-free skin if you prepare correctly. Before waxing or shaving, be sure to exfoliate to clear your follicles and pores of dead skin and debris. This, combined with proper technique, should keep you free of ugly ingrown hairs.