Ingrown hair is a change in the growth of the hair, in which its shaft remains under the skin and grows in the opposite direction. Ingrown hairs appear in places of frequent removal of unwanted hair (on the face, legs, neck, armpit, pubic area) and are defined as a site of swelling, inflammation, redness and itching of the skin. The problem of ingrown hair dictates the need to abandon the usual home method of hair removal (shaving, depilation with cream, etc.) and choose in favor of professional methods of epilation, the use of special cosmetics that prevent ingrown hairs.
Ingrown is a hair that cannot break through the skin barrier and begins to grow intradermally. In dermatology and cosmetology, the problem of ingrown hairs is also referred to by the term “pseudofolliculitis”. Ingrown hairs can be encountered by both men and women who practice regular removal of unwanted hair on various parts of the face and body. More often, pseudofolliculitis affects representatives of the Negroid race, as well as people with stiff, curly hair. The appearance of ingrown hairs, first of all, indicates that the epilation was carried out incorrectly and it is time to seek professional help from a beauty salon or cosmetology center.
Causes of ingrown hairs
As a rule, ingrown hairs appear after depilation at home, mainly with the help of a shaving machine, an electric epilator, cream or wax strips. Such methods remove only the supercutaneous part of the hairs; at the same time, the hair follicles remain intact. With each subsequent depilation procedure, the hairs become weaker and thinner. The keratinized scales of the epidermis do not peel off, closing the mouths of the hair follicles and making the skin rougher. In such conditions, weak hairs cannot break out, and therefore begin to grow intradermally. In the process of improper growth, the ingrown hair acquires a spiral shape (the so-called twisted hair).
In addition, the frequency of hair ingrowth is affected by the condition of the skin, the correctness of depilation, the stiffness of the hair, the depth and angle of the hair follicles in the skin, etc. The violation of the normal growth of the hair shaft is facilitated by the lack of preliminary preparation of the skin for epilation and proper care of it after hair removal, i.e. neglect of special means – foams, lotions, disinfecting wipes, etc. Other errors may be associated with a violation of shaving techniques: shaving hair against their growth, using a machine with a blunted blade, repeated shaving movements on the same area of the skin, shaving too often, etc. It is also noticed that people with dry skin, naturally curly hair, and an acute angle of inclination of hair follicles to the skin surface face the problem of ingrown hairs.
Regarding the role of the degree of rigidity of the hair, various, directly opposite points of view are expressed. Some dermatologists tend to believe that it is easier for the pointed tip of a rigid hair to overcome the dense epidermis and continue growing in the right direction; others believe that it is easier for the shaft of a rigid hair to change its direction, paving the way in the intradermal space. Ingrowth of hair into the skin is accompanied by the development of a foreign body type reaction – redness and inflammation of the skin area, so ingrown hairs are not only a cosmetic disadvantage, but also a medical problem.
Signs of ingrown hairs
Ingrown hairs can appear on any part of the body that is periodically subjected to the removal of unwanted hair. Favorite places for ingrown hairs are the legs, pubic area, armpits, submental area and neck (in men), i.e. those areas where the hair has a rigid or curly structure.
Early signs of ingrown hairs are local hyperemia and swelling of the area of the skin on which depilation was performed. After a few days or weeks, an inflammatory process develops at this place – dense painful and itchy papules (nodules) appear. Sometimes you can see the translucent dark tip of an ingrown hair through the skin. Attempts to self-remove an ingrown hair with a needle or tweezers can provoke the penetration of infection into the follicle and the transformation of nodules into purulent pustules (microabcesses). After the inflammatory process subsides, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation of the skin or unaesthetic scars may remain in this area. In some cases, ingrown hairs can turn around on their own and, having overcome the skin barrier, come out.
Ingrown hairs require differential diagnosis with folliculitis, ostiophylliculitis, follicular hyperkeratosis, vulgar acne, pyoderma. Pseudofolliculitis is characterized by the appearance of skin problems due to the beginning of regular depilation and disappearance after changing the method or stopping hair removal.
Ways to eliminate ingrown hairs
If you practice home depilation, the following tips will help you minimize the likelihood of ingrown hairs. To begin with, you can try to abandon the usual method of epilation in favor of another, alternative method of hair removal. For example, replace a razor or an electric epilator with wax or a depilatory cream. After some time after the disappearance of ingrown hairs, you can try to return to the usual method of removing unwanted hair.
Men can be recommended to radically change their image and give up shaving, and hairdressers-stylists will help you choose the shape of a mustache and beard and take care of it.
In addition, regardless of the method of epilation practiced, the skin needs preliminary preparation for the procedure. Before removing the hair, it is necessary to steam the skin: a hot bath is suitable for this, possibly with sea salt, herbal decoctions or a few drops of essential oil; a warm shower or compress on the area of the intended epilation. Then you need to do a mechanical scrub-peeling, gommage or a delicate massage of the skin with a washcloth. Such an exfoliating procedure will allow you to remove the keratinized layer of skin, reduce the severity of hyperkeratosis and slightly lift the hairs above the surface of the skin, which will make shaving or epilation more qualitative.
When shaving with a machine, it is necessary to apply a special gel or foam to the skin beforehand, which moisturize the skin and make it easier for the razor to slide over the body. The razor blade should be sharp, ideally disposable. In order to avoid injury to the hair follicles, shaving should be carried out in the direction of hair growth. During shaving, it is necessary to avoid stretching the skin, and also do not use a razor twice in the same place. It is necessary to finish the shaving procedure by treating the skin with special moisturizers. Hair removal using an electric epilator should be carried out on clean and perfectly dry skin.
In all cases, to prevent the appearance of ingrown hairs after epilation, the skin needs to be treated with an antiseptic and then applied a special lotion (spray, gel, cosmetic milk, etc.) that slows down hair growth. The skin, which is subjected to regular epilation, must be moistened and softened using creams, balms, oils to prevent roughening and dryness of the skin. To reduce the amount of ingrown hairs will help the refusal to wear synthetic underwear and clothes with a stiff collar.
A radical way to solve the problem of ingrown hairs is professional removal of unwanted hair: waxing, sugaring, electroepilation, laser or photoepilation. The most suitable method of epilation can be recommended by a cosmetologist, taking into account the type of your skin, the features of the hair structure and the area of their ingrowth. Laser hair removal, ELOS hair removal and photoepilation have proven themselves best to prevent the appearance of ingrown hairs. These methods are non-contact, atraumatic and allow you to act directly on the hair follicles. Absorbing heat, the hair rods become, in fact, conductors delivering light energy to the growth zone of the follicle and causing its destruction. Such a mechanism of epilation leads to the loss of unwanted hair that has already grown out and the cessation of the appearance of new ones. In addition, laser and photoepilation exclude the very fact of ingrown hairs. An additional pleasant bonus is rejuvenation and improvement of the overall condition of the skin.
In addition to light hair removal methods, electroepilation and professionally performed bioepilation (waxing, sugaring) are able to solve the problem of ingrown hairs.
How to remove an ingrown hair yourself
In the event that the hairs have grown under the skin, and an inflammatory reaction has developed, to prevent impetigo, you can resort to the local use of steroid or antibacterial ointments, creams with tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide, ANA acids. After the inflammation is relieved, the skin should be steamed and the epidermis exfoliated with a scrub, thus freeing ingrown hairs from subcutaneous “traps”.
If, as a result of the measures taken, the hairs remain under the skin, you can try to remove them yourself mechanically. To do this, you need to prepare a thin sterile needle and tweezers. The problem area of the skin must be treated with medical alcohol, gently pry the ingrown hair with a needle and pull out with tweezers. Then re-treat the wound with a disinfectant solution and apply an antibacterial ointment. Before the complete regeneration of the skin, you should abandon the epilation of this part of the body. It is strictly forbidden to squeeze out pustules, try to pick out ingrown hair with nails or untreated tools, remove them by re-shaving or depilation.
The ideal option would be to contact a dermatocosmetologist to remove ingrown hairs, since independent actions can lead to further damage to the skin. Women suffering from hirsutism may need to consult an endocrinologist or gynecologist-endocrinologist to exclude hormonal disorders.