A Step-By-Step Guide To Getting Rid Of Your Pesky Ingrown Hairs

·11-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Ingrown hairs are the scourge of shavers everywhere, and unless you're completely hairless (is anyone?), you've most probably noticed your skin peppered with the unsightly red bumps a few days later - not cool.

In some cases, ingrown hairs can be super-uncomfortable and even become infected (er, ew), but instead of squeezing or picking at them, there are so many more efficient, and much less painful, ways to stop them from rearing their ugly heads.

Flawless limbs, here we come.

Photo credit: Atsushi Yamada
Photo credit: Atsushi Yamada

What Are Ingrown Hairs?

'Ingrown hairs are caused when a growing hair gets trapped below the surface of the skin,' says Robin Parker, Technical Director at beauty innovators and Acheson & Acheson, 'it starts to turn back on itself as it grows.'

It sounds a little gross, almost as if they have a mind of their own, but they tend to curl back into the skin instead of growing outward, 'which can cause infection and result in small, infected spots,' says Parker.

While anyone can get an ingrown hair, Robin confirms they're most commonly caused by shaving, and those whose hair is curly and coarse.

Photo credit: Olena Troshchak
Photo credit: Olena Troshchak

How To Prevent Ingrown Hairs

You could stop all forms of hair removal and hope for the best. But that's not everyone's cup of tea. So here are some other ways to help prevent ingrown hairs from ruining your day...

1.Pick Body Products Packed With Glycolic or Lactic Acid

Ingrown hairs can crop up when the hair follicle is obstructed by dead skin cells, which is where exfoliation comes in. 'Exfoliation helps to prevent this happening by speeding up the removal of dead skin cells on the surface. It’s this build-up of surface cells that produces a barrier for the hair to grow through', says Robin.

Somewhat of a saviour for those ingrown hairs, as well as acne, glycolic acid breaks down the mixture of sebum and dead skin cells that cause obstructions to hairs, so that they can reach the surface much easier and without the area becoming inflamed.

In darker skin types, ingrown hairs tend to leave pesky pigmentation marks, but regular use of topical glycolic acid works wonders to blur them over time.

Photo credit: Saverio Marfia
Photo credit: Saverio Marfia

Try...

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Exfoliating Body Treatment - £58 SHOP NOW

There's a reason this top notch exfoliating treatment won our 2o21 ELLE Future of Beauty Awards. An extension of Dr. Dennis Gross's infamous Alpha Beta line, these pads provide an easy, fuss-free way to resurfacing the skin on your body (thicker than that on your face) thanks to the presence of no less than five different hydroxy acids.

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Photo credit: .

Ameliorate Transforming Body Lotion - £15 SHOP NOW

This rich lotion contains optimal levels of lactic acid which gently exfoliates the skin and helps remove this top layer, and regular use keeps the skin surface free from excess cell build up.

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Photo credit: .

Malin + Goetz Ingrown Hair Cream - £28 SHOP NOW

Slather yourself in this stuff after every shave and you'll notice a huge reduction in those unsightly red bumps. A savvy duo of glycolic acid and vitamin B5 means it chips away at blocked cells while promoting speedy skin repair.

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Photo credit: .

Frank Body Smoothing AHA Body Lotion - £14.95 SHOP NOW

This double action body lotion contains mango seed butter, lactic acid and glycolic acid to not only keep skin supple and moisturised, but free from pesky blemishes and ingrown hairs too.

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Photo credit: .

2. Exfoliate Your Skin With Salicylic Acid

Not just ideal for acne sufferers, salicylic acid is great for preventing and treating ingrown hairs.

A BHA (beta hydroxy acid), it penetrates deeper into the pores to dislodge the paste-like combination of dead skin buildup and oil, resulting in fewer blockages. 'This makes the skin softer and more penetrable for the emerging hair strands to grow through,' mentions Johanna.

It's also an amazing anti-inflammatory, so you can say a big fat 'see ya' to the burning redness that ingrown hairs bring with them, and according to Johanna, the powerful anti-bacterial properties are also helpful in reducing the risk of infection.

Try...

Zitsticka Fizz Fountain - £23 SHOP NOW

Doing the dirty work for your hair follicles both inside and out, this body exfoliator is formulated with salicylic acid to dislodge anything clogging your pores, lactic and glycolic acid to refine the surface and niacinamide to reduce redness. Simply slot into your shower routine after your body wash to gain the full exfoliating effects with minimal effort.

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Medik8 Blemish Control Pads - £27 SHOP NOW

These are drenched in 2% maximum strength salicylic acid and allantoin to exfoliate the skin and bring down inflammation, and can be used on larger areas, not just the face. The tub also has two seals to stop the pads from drying out. Clever.

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Photo credit: .

PFB Vanish Roll On Gel - £18 SHOP NOW

Skin experts all over the globe recommend PFB Vanish for ingrown hairs because of it's ability to banish skin debris and lighten post-inflammatory pigmentation. We're sold.

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Zenii Salicylic Exfoliator - £40 SHOP NOW

2% salicylic acid in this exfoliating lotion brings down redness in next to no time and stops the ingrown hair from becoming infected - especially if you're prone to picking. After showering, simply saturate a cotton pad and swipe over the affected area.

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Photo credit: .

Murad Clarifying Body Spray - £38 SHOP NOW

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Photo credit: .

Give skin its speediest acid exfoliation ever with this genius salicylic acid body spray. Simply spritz onto clean skin as often as three times each day and let the antibacterial formula turn spots and inflammation into a thing of the past.

Paula's Choice 2% BHA Body Spot Exfoliant - £31 SHOP NOW

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

A potent combination of exfoliating salicylic acid, soothing chamomile flower extract and other antioxidants in this body scrub help to slough away dead skin cells that clog hair follicles whilst soothing any irritation caused by the ingrown hair.

3. Jump On The Body Brush Bandwagon

Diminishing cellulite, increasing energy and boosting your immune system aren't the only amazing results of dry body brushing.

'Exfoliation is key to helping reduce ingrown hairs.' say body-brushing experts Mio. 'As we get a little older, our skin becomes less efficient at this whole detox/elimination process and less effective at naturally shedding the layers of dead skin cells that clog up the surface.'

A quick scrub before each shower improves cell turnover, which means fewer clogged pores so that hairs can grow out normally.

Those undergoing IPL or laser hair removal will find that the process also helps to dislodge dead hair follicles from the root, resulting in less shadows and even less spikiness.

Photo credit: PeopleImages
Photo credit: PeopleImages

Try...

Mio Skincare The Mio Body Brush - £15 SHOP NOW

Cancel that massage. A clever duo of boar bristles and silicone nubs exfoliate rough, bumpy skin and pamper your body at the same time.

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Elemis Body Detox Skin Brush - £20.75 SHOP NOW

Not all body brushes are created equal. The long handle on this one means you can reach every. single. spot.

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Photo credit: .

4. Slough Away Dead Skin Cells With A Scrub

Calling all lazy girls! If you're after a quick in-shower fix, look no further than a body scrub.

Just like acid exfoliators, they uncover newer, softer skin cells that hairs can penetrate through easily, but they have a more stimulating effect on the skin, so you can rely on them to wake you up in the morning.

If you tend to get ingrown hairs on your thighs or bikini line, invest in a scrub packed with sugar, which is much gentler on sensitive areas than microbeads or pumice. Use once or twice a week to notice a real difference.

Try...

Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish - £35 SHOP NOW

The sugar crystals in Fresh's Body Polish are suspended in the most velvety, nourishing formula so that skin feels soft, not scoured. Apply to dry skin prior to shaving and remember to screw the lid on properly - any water that gets in will dissolve the sugar.

Ameliorate Smoothing Body Exfoliant - £18 SHOP NOW

This was more or less made for ingrown hairs. Together, biodegradable microdermabrasion grains and lactic acid banish skin buildup so that hairs can reach the surface without getting stuck.

Drunk Elephant Sugared Koffie Almond Milk Scrub - £24 SHOP NOW

If you're partial to a delicious body scrub or five, you can't miss with this sweet smelling delight from Drunk Elephant. An indulgent mix of almond milk, sweet almond and jojoba oils melt into the skin while coffee seed extracts work as a physical exfoliant to say 'hasta la vista' to dead skin cells.

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

5. Invest In Laser Hair Removal

If ingrown hairs are the bane of your life and you've tried more or less everything to get rid of them, make laser hair removal your next step.

'Laser hair removal will not instantly banish ingrown hairs but can reduce the chances of getting them,' says Senior Consultant at Pulse Light Clinic Jo Wells.

Instead of targeting the skin, it makes a beeline for the hair follicle, damaging it at the root. 'It will take approximately two weeks after a treatment for those hairs to work their way out of the follicles and then fall out entirely, meaning the client would then be hair-free for a few weeks before the new hair growth cycle would come through,' explains Wells.

'This hair should grow back softer and finer, and growth should be much slower than usual. When a client has an issue such as ingrown hairs, with every treatment they do with a laser, those ingrown, inflamed follicles will shed entirely; as time goes on with each new treatment, clients find that their ingrown hairs go completely, and pigmentation begins to fade as the skin recovers.'

Laser hair removal isn't for the commitment phobes, though. A course of treatments is usually needed at four week intervals to catch the hairs at the right stage and missing treatments could lead to regrowth.

And if you aren't keen on baring all?

Try...

Philips Lumea BRI949/00 Prestige IPL Hair Removal Device for Body, Face and Precision Areas - £449 SHOP NOW

We think the Philips Lumea device is on par with in-salon IPL (intense pulsed light), which emits a wavelength into the skin and targets the hair pigment. It has a number of different strength settings from 1-5, four different-sized heads to make light work of zapping hairs in all places and it won't give you arm ache. After just two sessions, our hair was significantly reduced.

6. Switch Up Your Staples

Anything that saves time and effort gets our vote, so if you can't be bothered with an extra step, try swapping out an existing product like shower gel or oil. Look for products packed with AHAs to exfoliate, refine and soften the skin to make hair growth a little easier.

Try...

Mario Badescu AHA Botanical Body Soap - £7.95 SHOP NOW

Bacne and ingrown hairs don't stand a chance against Mario Badescu's Botanical Body Soap. It smells great, diminishes bumps, and stops ingrown hairs from springing up after shaving and waxing all without stinging, irritating or drying out the skin.

How To Get Rid Of Ingrown Hairs

If all of the above is great and useful but you've ALREADY got the ingrown hairs, here's how to deal with them...

1.Tweeze With Caution

Letting loose on your ingrown hairs with a pair of tweezers isn't exactly ideal, but if you're going to do it, do it properly.

'There is a safe way to tweeze out ingrown hairs,' say the experts at Tweezerman, but only when you can actually see the hair. When the ingrown hair is fresh and near the surface of your skin, you can use a specifically designed ingrown hair Tweezer to gently pull it out.'

But make sure it's sterilised, first.

Try...

Tweezerman Ingrown Hair/Splintertweeze - £19.95 SHOP NOW

And when shouldn't you reach for them?

'Tweezing out ingrown hairs becomes unsafe when you are using sharp tools to dig around under the skin,' say Tweezerman. 'You should also leave the ingrown hair if the bump is inflamed or sore as this could be a sign of infection. In this case, always consult your GP first.'

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

2. Soothe Your Ingrown Hairs Away

Rather than picking and stabbing at them, which can cause scarring and infection, try soothing your ingrown hairs with a product that will soften them, banish redness and encourage the hair to show itself.

Try....

FUR Ingrown Concentrate - £28 SHOP NOW

This oil is packed with tea tree to soothe the spots and comes with a slightly-textured finger-mitt to help gently exfoliate and encourage the hair to come free.

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Photo credit: .

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