Ingrown hairs are an aesthetic nightmare, causing not only social isolation but emotional distress and recurring pain, besides constantly burning skin. It effects a good proportion of the population, and people scramble to pinpoint the medical and non-medical remedies to cure themselves of this incurable affliction. However, it is not clear if the ingrown hairs owe their origins to shaving alone or if there are other causative factors beyond shaving and other skin removal routines.
Wavy and curly hair genetically predisposes people to ingrown hair.
If curly hair runs in the family, then the probability of ingrown hair troubling you multiplies. You would be doing yourself a great deal of harm if you chose to shave too closely or shave against the grain of the normal hair growth direction. What this does is increase the chances of undercutting follicles, thereby increasing the risk of shafts getting broken and curling inside.
Poor hygiene exemplified by poor skin cleansing increases the risk factor.
Regular bathing washes away harmful bacteria that proliferate on the skin surface. Additionally, bathing removes dead skin cells that tend to cluster around the mouths of the follicle openings. If left, unwashed skin tends to dry up, forming thick scabs of scaly cells. If improper hair removal causes hair to break unevenly, the dry upper crust of skin prevents broken hair strands from seeing daylight. The shaft instead grows inwards and remains in the follicle.
Touching, prodding, picking, tweezing, and breaking follicles creates ingrown hairs.
Any forceful manipulation of ingrown hairs and raised bumps only hastens the invasion of bacteria and full-fledged infections. Puncturing pus-filled follicles without a clear-cut disinfecting and cleansing routine only spreads infection and creates scabs that make the skin harden. This only encourages more ingrown hairs in areas that were previously supple and softer.
You might at times not notice, but there’s a chance that you are holding the razor too close to your legs, and you are basically scraping your skin as you shave. It usually occurs when you use a dull razor with a worn down guard, and this causes irritation, which eventually leads to ingrown hairs.
When shaving, make sure you use a high quality, thick shave gel with a sharp razor. Razors should be used a maximum of six to eight times, and then they should be thrown away. A fresh blade would prevent razor bumps and ingrown hairs.
Exfoliation, if repeated frequently, can undo the good work done by normally growing hair.
The obsession with clear and healthy looking skin makes people overdo the exfoliation routine. Exfoliation, if performed once or twice a week, can be helpful in regenerating skin cells, but, if performed on a daily basis, it can lead to poor skin quality. The danger lies in the skin being provoked to cover existing follicles even before normal hair grows out of them. This leads to recurrence of ingrown hairs.
Family history of dry skin and eczema can predispose a person to ingrown hairs.
Eczema makes skin extremely dry and scaly, requiring an exceptionally high level of skin care and moisturizing routines besides steroidal treatments. If such skin lies medically neglected, thick scaly layers of skin cells may prevent normal hair from emerging out of the follicles. Under the pressure of scaly skin layers, hair may even grow sideways into surrounding skin tissues.
Excessive accumulation of oil in follicles can create ingrown hairs.
Some people may be genetically programmed to show excessive glandular activity, and this becomes visible as oily skin. The filling up of follicles with oils, bacteria, and dead cell debris can trigger ingrown hairs. This may happen for various reasons, including:
- Large-scale fluctuation in the levels of major hormones
- A hyperactive thyroid gland that raises hormone levels, thereby speeding up cell metabolism, which leads to drier skin
- Excessive use of cosmetics and moisturizers that leave the skin oily in patches
- Lack of proper hygiene, leaving upper skin dry and crusty
Clothing that suffocates the skin may cause ingrown hairs.
Tight fitting brassieres and underwear that fit the skin as firmly as spandex can aggravate the skin, causing ingrown hairs. Tight garments suffocate the skin by not allowing it to breathe normally. This makes the hair grow inward under the pressure applied by the tight clothing. The solution is to wear loose clothing, which allows freer limb movement without irritating the skin.
Prevention of ingrown hair
We have discussed various reasons that can possibly cause ingrown hair. However, there are various measures which you can easily carry out to keep yourself away from this unwanted discomfort. Following are a few measures.
1) Get a pair of tweezers: Tweezers are basically small tools used for picking/plucking up objects too small to be easily handled by human hands. Therefore, before you shave, wax, or epilate, you can take a pair of tweezers and lift out the ingrown hair. It is a simple method, which only involves bringing out the hair to the surface of the skin. It’s best to do it like that, to just lift the hair, instead of plucking it from the root. However, you need to keep in my mind certain factors. If you have sensitive skin, it is advisable to stay away from this method. Sensitive skin usually takes a long period of time to heal, so you might develop scars if you are using a tweezer.
2) Apply baking soda: Baking soda, which is easily found in all kitchen shelves, scrapes away dead cells and exposes fresh tissues along with the covered ingrown hair. All you need to do is follow these basic steps:
- Take a small clean bowl and add water to it.
- Add some baking powder to the water. Mix them both well until it becomes a thick paste.
- Use a sterilized cotton cloth, and dab the affected areas with a fine layer of the paste made in the previous step.
- Expose the skin to the baking soda-water paste for at least fifteen minutes before thoroughly cleaning the affected area.
- Finish the routine with a deep pore cleansing routine and a good moisturizer.
3) Use physical exfoliation: Start with an exfoliating glove. It’s really cheap, and it gets rid of dead skin without being too harsh.
Ingrown hairs are a fairly common condition. This condition affects many people, especially if they have certain risk factors. However, ingrown hairs can be effectively prevented and treated.