A quick search on the internet resulted in a confusing number of images and an abundance of information on how ingrown hairs are formed, but not necessarily on how to tell the difference between ingrown hair and something else. After all, these lumps, bumps and dots on the skin look remarkably similar to the general populace.
Generally, ingrown hair appears as small, solid, rounded bumps, which are red-ish in colour due to inflammation. Sometimes these bumps may have pus and can form a boil-like sore that hurts. And the biggest ‘tell’ is when you can actually see a hair just under the skin. Mostly, they are itchy and irritating.
People with curly or coarse hair have a higher propensity towards developing ingrown hair but that having been said, anyone can develop ingrown hair. This is especially true when the person regularly waxes, shaves or tweezes. In men, ingrown hairs often develop along the chin, cheeks or neck. In women, they pop up on the legs, pubic area, underarms and on the buttocks as well. Ingrown hairs do not develop in areas without hair follicles such as the soles of the feet, palms of the hand, labia and mouth.
Often, the problem will disappear on its own but a little help wouldn’t be remiss either.
Exfoliation and keeping the skin soft and supple go a long way towards preventing ingrown hair from developing. But even if they have already made an appearance, it is advisable to continue exfoliating and moisturising the skin. Removing dead cells on the skins’ surface means reducing the chance of clogging up the pores. The hair follicles of ingrown hair can sometimes become infected and inflamed due to the bacteria which normally inhabit the skin. This condition, called folliculitis, may present as pus filled spots. It can also lead to skin darkening or hyperpigmentation in severe cases.
If ingrown hair is causing some discomfort, a trained beauty therapist who has all the correct tools can help gently tease the hair out. If there are only one or two spots, home removal might be an option. To soften the skin and to bring the hair to the surface, press a hot compress, as hot as can be tolerated, to the area for approximately 10 minutes. This opens up the pores as well, making it easier for extraction of the hair. As soon as the hair has breached the skin surface, tweeze it out. If you still do not see any signs of the hair after 10 minutes of hot compress, you are not going to be able to remove it by yourself.
Apply products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid several times a day for several days. This, combined with exfoliation is often enough to alleviate ingrown hair problems since dead cells are dissolved and removed, inflammation is reduced to give the hair more room to grow out as opposed to growing in.
Products containing these ingredients such as the TONIC Microexfoliant+ has extra fine granules and is gentle enough to be used on the face and bikini area. Combined with its cleansers, TONIC has a power packed duo that is effective, resulting in optimum skin conditions to reduce the incidence of developing ingrown hair. Ingro Stopper can be used in addition to good cleansing and exfoliation to keep the skin and hair supple and malleable.
Be forewarned. Today’s ‘informed’ culture has a downside. Self-diagnosis may be fantastic but we are not experts. Many other skin conditions that look similar are keratosis pilaris (“chicken skin”), acne, pimples, eczema, impetigo, heat rash, pustular psoriasis and more. The caveat is ‘when in doubt, consult a medical practitioner’.