Ingrown hair (or pseudofolliculitis barbae) is a condition where hair fails to cut through the top layer of the skin (called the epidermis) and causes the hair to curl or grow sideways instead of straight up through this layer. It can appear anywhere but is most prevalent where skin is shaved or waxed. Most ingrown hairs will eventually disappear or finally burst through the skin, but occasionally the area can become inflamed and the follicle become infected. An ingrown hair can be treated easily if not too infected. Of course if the infection remains or becomes too infected seek medical advice from your local GP.
These natural remedies can help with inflammation and tenderness.
Honey has natural antibacterial properties, is soothing on the skin and reduces swelling. Honey can be applied straight into the inflamed area. Leave it on for 10 minutes or as long as you are comfortable then wash off with warm water.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an anti inflammatory as well as potent antibacterial. Be careful putting ACV directly onto skin as it may irritate, test a small area before applying to a whole area. The ACV can be mixed with the honey for a stronger potion.
Cucumber has a soothing effect as well as anti inflammatory properties. Slices of cucumber can be applied directly onto the skin to bring the swelling down. You can also blend the cucumber into a paste and apply it directly onto the skin.
Granulated sugar mixed with olive oil and even a touch of tea tree oil (great antibacterial, antiseptic and anti inflammatory properties) can be used as an exfoliating scrub. Treat your entire body once a week to keep it super soft and smooth.
Hot towel therapy
Dehydrated skin is 95% of the cause of ingrown hairs. Applying a hot moist towel to the area of the ingrown hair can soften the skin around the hair just enough to help the hair cut through the skin layer, enabling you to use sterilised tweezers to pull the hair out. Apply the hot towel for 10 minutes, then lightly rub the area in a circular motion for 5 minutes. Use this method every day until the skin becomes soft enough and the offending hair protrudes above the skin. Watch carefully for signs of infection after the hair has been removed.
Preventing ingrown hairs
Daily exfoliating is one of the best preventions for ingrown hair. It will not only prepare skin to prevent them, but will also release any hair that may be trapped or starting to grow inwards.
Shave in the direction of skin growth when shaving or waxing. Don’t shave across the natural skin growth direction. This avoids irritation to the skin and although you could be tempted to do this as it gives a closer shave, if you are prone to ingrown hairs, this technique will likely cause more as the hair is cut at a sharper angle. Use a new sharp blade if shaving, and if using disposable razors, only use them once.
Underwear, our most essential piece of clothing and the most common trigger of ingrown hair. Friction from underwear and clothes rubbing on freshly shaved skin, can cause pore linings in the skin to swell and prevent proper hair growth. According to Susie, my waxing therapist and plastic surgeon nurse for thirteen years, ingrown hairs happen more in winter than summer due to the lighter clothing worn in summer. Hmmmm in my case a little less waxing goes on in winter than summer as legs and bikini area are under wraps during the hibernating months.
Minor ingrowns should be left alone and will normally go away without any problems. The most important thing, is that you don’t dig around into the skin trying to release the hair. Squeezing the hard lump that can sometimes be caused from infection is also a no-no. Squeezing and digging can lead to scarring which will never go away. As they say – prevention is the best cure – so try to use natural healthy exfoliating and preparing the skin to prevent ingrown hairs in the first place.
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