Embarrassing, irritating, and occasionally even painful. No, not your office holiday party, we’re talking about ingrown hairs. If there’s one place you really don’t want them, it’s your bikini line. But if you’ve ever waxed, shaved, or plucked the hair down there, you’ll know that avoiding them can feel impossible.
The good news is, with a little care you should be able to get rid of ingrown hairs more quickly and maybe even prevent them from forming in the first place. Allow us to fill you in.
What are ingrown hairs, anyway?
When you remove body hair, that cuts off its growth prematurely, which sometimes makes it grow back into the skin instead of outward. The thicker and curlier your body hair is, the more likely you are to have ingrown hairs.
They often irritate the skin and cause it to become inflamed and cause a bump or series of bumps, known as papules. Sometimes these itch, and they can become infected and sore. In most cases, they will clear up on their own. But if they don’t, you might need to take action to treat them, and to prevent more of them in future.
Here’s our guide to handling them:
- Leave them alone, at least at first. After a month, most ingrown hairs will come out on their own and any bumps should settle down.
- If they’re sore, apply diluted tea tree oil or baking soda (try a tablespoon in a cup of water) to soothe the area.
- If you want to try removing the hairs yourself, be gentle. Make a compress from a warm washcloth, and press it against the skin. Then use sterilized tweezers to gently tease the hair to the surface. If they don’t come out easily, then stop.
- If you want to prevent them in future, (gently) exfoliate when you shower as this makes it easier for hairs to reach the surface of the skin. Once or twice a week is ideal.
- Use a product designed to prevent ingrown hairs after your shower, to reduce the chances of those little lumps.
- If you shave your bikini line, make sure to choose a moisturizing shaving cream and always shave in the direction of hair growth, or switch to an electric razor.
- You could also consider look into laser hair removal or electrolysis, both of which are a bigger financial investment but aren’t known to cause ingrown hairs.
- See your doctor if the problem persists, and tell them if you could be pregnant – some of the creams they may prescribe contain retinoids, which have been linked to birth defects.
- Squeeze those bumps! You could make them worse and may cause scarring. Either way, it won’t help.
- Pluck. If you’re trying to treat the ingrown hairs yourself, you don’t want to remove them or you’ll exacerbate the problem. The idea is just get the hairs heading in the right direction.
- Wear too-tight underwear, swimsuits, or anything else that cuts into your bikini line. This can cause ingrown hairs to form, as they’ll have no room to grow, and will make any that you already have more irritated.
- Wax hair that’s shorter than a quarter of an inch. It’s much more likely to break, leaving the back half stuck in the skin, where it may well grow in the wrong direction.
- Shave, wax or pluck over the winter, to give your hairs time to grow and your skin time to heal. If that’s too radical, at least aim to do it less.
- Use the same old razor. Chuck it every 5-10 shaves (sooner if the blade seems dull) and get a new one – one with a single blade is best.
- Tackle an ingrown hair yourself it’s infected (that, is painful and pus-filled). That’s what dermatologists are for.
Illustration from Oprah.com