We pluck, we shave, we wax… and that’s just the start of our beauty regime! So when you’ve got your extensive pampering and beautifying down to a T, the last thing you need is ingrown hairs! Beauty by the Geeks is here to shed a little light on the situation and tackle this beauty problem!

What exactly are ingrown hairs?
As you might have guessed, ingrown hairs are hairs that have curled round and grown back into the skin. They often appear like small spots or pimples (they may well have a little bit of puss in them), and the trapped hair might be visible below the skin. Sometimes ingrown hairs haven’t even grown out of the skin’s surface before turning back on themselves and becoming problematic.

Ingrown hairs can happen to us all, but they can make us a little self-conscious, especially as they can become inflamed and may become infected. Not good!

So what causes ingrown hairs?
A number of factors can contribute to those pesky ingrown hairs. In people whose hair is naturally more curly or coarse, ingrown hairs can be much more common, simply because their hair is more inclined to curl back on itself and grow into the skin.

Another big factor for ingrown hairs is clogged hair follicles. Hair follicles are the small holes in the skin from which the hair grows – it contains the ‘bulb’ at the base, which is where cells grow and divide to form the growing hair shaft itself. A hair follicle can become clogged with dead cells (particularly when combined with an excess of the skin’s natural oil, sebum), which can cause a whole manner of beauty bothers – including acne. If the follicle is clogged, then hair growth can be disturbed, and the hair may be pushed sideways and doesn’t grow away from the skin like it should. This can lead to ingrown hairs!

Why are ingrown hairs more common in places we shave?
Quite simply, ingrown hairs are more common in places where we’ve shaved because the hair that’s left after we shave is sharper than hair that has been allowed to grow out. Because the hair is sharper, it can penetrate the skin more easily if it starts growing back towards the skin – hey presto, ingrown hair!

So what are we supposed to do when we spot an ingrown hair?
It’s recommended that we don’t pick, scratch or squeeze ingrown hairs (as tempting as it might be!). This is because when the skin is broken it’s more susceptible to becoming infected by bacteria. For those of us that just can’t leave them alone, sterile tweezers can be used to try and retrieve the hair from under the skin, but we really can’t recommend digging around in the skin, as it can do more harm than good and even leave scarring!

The official recommendation is to leave well alone, as many ingrown hairs resolve on their own. If you’re concerned that ingrown hairs are looking like they’ve got a little puss in them, or may be infected, try using antibacterials and antiseptics (tea tree oil is our go-to favourite), and see your GP if things aren’t resolving in their own!

How can we stop ingrown hair happening in the first place?!
Because ingrown hairs can be caused by the hair follicle becoming clogged, keeping the skin cleansed is a big step towards fending off ingrown hairs. Products that cleanse and exfoliate the dead skin cells from the top of the skin are very popular, and should help prevent follicles becoming clogged with these excess dead cells and oil. If you’re getting lots of ingrown hairs in areas you’re shaving, then you might want to consider changing beauty weapons to hair removal creams, as these are less likely to promote ingrown hairs.

Mild chemical exfoliants like alpha and beta hydroxyl acids (AHAs and BHAs) are popular options for exfoliation, and are frequently found in high street products, including our recently reviewed SASS Intimate Perfect Skin Concentrate. These work to break down the bonds between cells on the outermost layer of the skin, to speed up shedding and promote cell renewal. With these excess cells shed away, follicle clogging and resulting ingrown hairs should be prevented.

We hope we’ve shed a little light on ingrown hair, but if you’d like to read more the NHS page on ingrown hairs is very useful, particularly if you’re unsure whether what you think are ingrown hairs might actually be something else!

Loved this article? We think you’ll like these ones too!
Cellulite – The Science behind the Problem
DIY Ginger Facial Scrub!
Acne – The Science behind the Problem

Ingrown hair – The Mayo Clinic
Ingrown hairs – NHS Choices
Skin Problems and Treatments – webmd
Images (thank you!): http://www.justaboutskin.com/2015/02/tips-for-preventing-ingrown-hairs/, https://slibeauty.wordpress.com/tag/cuticle/