Ingrown Hair

Overview

What is an ingrown hair?

An ingrown hair is a strand of hair that grows back into the skin after shaving, tweezing or waxing. Anyone can develop ingrown hairs.

Who is at risk for ingrown hairs?

Anyone who shaves, tweezes or waxes hair can develop ingrown hairs.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes ingrown hairs?

Removing hair by shaving, waxing and tweezing can cause ingrown hairs. New hairs grow from hair follicles under the skin. Hair removal methods only remove hair strands — they do not remove hair follicles. In some cases of ingrown hair, the hair enters the skin before it leaves the follicle.

When a new hair grows, it may curl back and enter the skin. This is especially true if the hair is curly or very thick.

What are the symptoms of ingrown hairs?

The symptoms of ingrown hair include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Small bumps with hairs in the middle on the face and neck
  • Small bumps filled with pus on the face and neck
  • Pain
  • Itching

In a skin condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae (razor bumps), hair that has re-entered the skin causes bumps to appear. Razor bumps are common on the face and neck.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are ingrown hairs diagnosed?

Ingrown hairs are easily diagnosed during a simple physical examination. In addition to noting your appearance and symptoms, your doctor may ask you about your skin care routine.

Management and Treatment

How are ingrown hairs treated?

You can treat ingrown hairs at home in the following ways:

  • Stop shaving and allow the hair to grow.
  • Use an electric trimmer.
  • If you don’t want a beard, you can use a product that removes hair without shaving.
  • To prevent scarring or infection, don’t pick at or scratch the hairs or squeeze the razor bumps.
  • To treat razor bumps, apply warm compresses to the affected skin.

If your symptoms don’t improve, your doctor may prescribe medications that can decrease inflammation and improve infections from ingrown hairs.

Prevention

Can ingrown hairs be prevented?

The best way to prevent ingrown hairs is to use proper hair removal techniques:

  1. Before shaving any area of your body, wet your skin and hair thoroughly with warm water.
  2. Apply a shaving gel or cream to your skin.
  3. Use a razor with a single blade.
  4. Shave in the direction your hair grows naturally. Rinse the blade after every stroke.
  5. Change the blade (or replace a disposable razor) frequently to help prevent skin irritation and cuts.

Other options for removing hair include laser hair removal, chemical shaving products or electrolysis.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the prognosis (outlook) for people who have ingrown hairs?

For most people, ingrown hairs get better on their own. Shaving less often or using an electric trimmer and home treatments, like warm compresses, may help improve your symptoms and promote faster healing.

Living With

When should I call my doctor about ingrown hairs?

Contact your doctor if ingrown hairs do not respond to home treatments, or if symptoms get worse.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/27/2018.

References

  • Merck Manual Consumer Version. Ingrown Beard Hairs (Pseudofolliculitis Barbae). (http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/skin-disorders/hair-disorders/ingrown-beard-hairs) Accessed 3/1/2018.
  • National Health Service. Ingrown Hairs. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ingrown-hairs/) Accessed 3/1/2018.
  • American Academy of Dermatology. How to Shave. (https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/skin-care/how-to-shave/) Accessed 3/1/2018.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Removing Hair Safely. (https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048995.htm) Accessed 3/1/2018.

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