Ingrown hairs are caused by shaving and other hair removal methods. These bumps are usually harmless, although they can cause skin irritation and they are thought of as unsightly by most people. Unfortunately, there is no cure for ingrown hairs, and they must be allowed to heal naturally as the hair grows out, which can take weeks.
An ingrown hair is a hair that has grown into the skin rather than out of the skin as it would naturally. This occurs after shaving or waxing. The skin curls during regrowth and grows back into the skin. Ingrown hairs are more common among those with curly hair, and in African American men who often suffer from ingrown hairs in the beard area.
Ingrown hairs surface within days after a close shave or other type of hair removal. They appear as small bumps on the skin resembling pimples and may have a red or white head. The hair trapped within the bump is usually visible upon close inspection. There may be one bump or several on an affected area and the skin around them may be red and irritated.
Ingrown hairs will go away as soon as the hair is allowed to grow out naturally. This process could last anywhere from a few days to several weeks depending upon the severity of the ingrown hair. Warm compresses applied to the skin will help ease discomfort during this time. Loosening the hair follicle from the bump with a sterile needle will help to speed up the healing process. Plucking the hair or continued hair removal may cause hair to become ingrown again and extend the recovery time.
Persons suffering from ingrown hairs should stop shaving and allow the skin a chance to heal. Continued hair removal can irritate the skin and cause conditions such as Barber’s Itch (Tinea barbae). This happens when the ingrown hairs are infected by the bacteria Staphylococcus or a fungus. Infection will slow down recovery times and may require medical treatment.
Consult a doctor in cases where ingrown hairs appear to be spreading or when the bumps have not healed after several weeks. You should also seek medical treatment if the irritation and pain of ingrown hairs is severe. This may be due to an infection, and you will need lab tests to determine the cause and the proper treatment.
References and ResourcesSkin Deep; Carol Turkington, Jeffrey S. Dover, M.D.; 2007
U.S.Department of Health and Human Services
American Academy of Dermatology