How To Know You Have an Ingrown Hair and How to Take Care of It: Causes, Treatment

There are many skin conditions, some of which can be confused with an ingrown hair. The most outstanding characteristic of ingrown hairs is the appearance of small red bumps shortly after shaving or waxing.

Ingrown hair is not a serious skin condition. With the appropriate care measures, it will resolve even without treatment. This can take several weeks or even months. Treatment options seek to improve the symptoms, speed up recovery and prevent recurrence.

How do you know if you have an ingrown hair?

Bumps on the skin can be caused by other conditions such as herpes, acne and warts. So how do you know if you have an ingrown hair? You can tell by looking at the symptoms. Ingrown hair symptoms may include:

Itchiness and tingling

Before ingrown hairs form bumps, you will experience a bit of itchiness and tingling. This may go on for a day or two before the bumps appear.

Skin bumps

  • Papules – this are small, solid, round bumps that form around a hair follicle. They usually have a dead, scaly top. Upon close inspection, you can locate a dark spot at the middle which is basically the tip of the ingrown hair.
  • Pustules – pustules are painful red bumps that are filled with pus and resemble blisters. They occur due to irritation caused by bacteria.
  • Ingrown hair cysts – these are large bumps caused by deep ingrown hair. They usually form after waxing.


Naturally, the immune system will attempt to get rid of an ingrown hair. This results in irritation under the skin. Irritation in turn causes pain.


The skin around the affected follicle will likely swell due to irritation. Swelling caused by ingrown hair is usually mild and limited to affected follicles.


This is darkening of the skin. It is a common symptom of ingrown hairs.

Tenderness and warmth

Occasionally, ingrown hairs become infected. This leads to tenderness and warmth on the ingrown hair. Other signs of infected ingrown hair include pus formation and the appearance of a yellowish spot at the middle.

How do you know if you have an ingrown hair and what are the causes?

Ingrown hairs develop when hair grows into skin rather than above it. Below are the main contributing factors:

Shaving, tweezing or waxing

Shaving leaves a sharp tip on your hair. This makes it possible for the hair to pierce the skin if it is to curl in that direction. Tweezing may leave hair fragments under the skin which cause irritation. Waxing short hair encourages ingrown hair cysts as re-growing hair is forced to grow sideways in clogged follicles.

Thick, curly or coarse hair

People with thick and curly hair are more likely to develop ingrown hairs after shaving. This is commonly seen in Latinos and African- Americans. It is also for this reason that ingrown hairs tend to occur more in armpits, legs and genitals.

Hormonal fluctuations

People with more sex hormones tend to develop thick hair which is prone to ingrown hairs. Menstruating and pregnant women may produce excess sebum which clogs skin pores making it impossible for hair to break through.

Dry skin

Dry skin leads to accumulation of dead skin cells. These cells clog follicles which in turn forces hair to grow sideways. Ingrown hair follicle bumps are much bigger, more painful and take longer to heal.

How to take care of an ingrown hair

Ingrown hairs are fairly easy to manage. This should not fool you, however. Complications such as bacterial infection, razor bumps, scarring and skin darkening can occur without proper care measures. Below are tips for how to take care of an ingrown hair:

Leave it alone

The first thing you should avoid is irritating an ingrown hair. Resist the urge to scratch it, pop it or shave on an already affected area. This will not only increase inflammation but may also introduce or spread infection.

Exfoliate regularly

Exfoliation gets rid of dead skin cells. This ensures that follicles do not clog. Start exfoliating even before shaving. Immediately after shaving, apply salicylic acid ointment. Use body scrubs, ingrown hair brush and remedies such as sugar or baking soda regularly afterwards.

Try toning in bikini area

Toners are quite effective in getting rid of dead skin cells. To prevent ingrown hairs in the bikini area, apply small amounts of salicylic cream and use a toner on the area.

Improve your shaving skills

Shaving is the main reason as to why ingrown hairs formed in the first place. If you are to succeed in preventing them from worsening or coming back, it is very important that you focus on improving your shaving skills. There are many articles on the internet that guide you on how to shave properly.

Keep warm compressing

A warm compress is such an effective technique for how to take care of an ingrown hair. It gradually reduces swelling and draws the ingrown hair towards the surface. Warm compress several times a day until the ingrown hair breaks through the skin.

Use topical medications

Topical medications usually work by getting rid of dead skin, reducing inflammation, easing itchiness and preventing infection. Most anti-acne topical medications will also work on ingrown hair. Look for ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide and 1% hydrocortisone ingrown hair bump removal products. Don’t use salicylic acid on already formed ingrown hairs.

Consider medical treatment

Infected or deeply ingrown hair cysts are best treated medically. This can be achieved through medications, chemical depilatories, laser hair removal or electrolysis. The latter two are permanent hair removal options. They are considerable options when for how to prevent ingrown hairs on face in women. See your doctor if the ingrown hairs are proving intolerable.

How to take care of an ingrown hair with home remedies

Home remedies are a cheaper and quite effective option when it comes to how to take care of an ingrown hair. Below are tips on how to use the remedies:

  • Soak a cotton ball in diluted tea tree oil and apply directly. This should reduce swelling and prevent bacterial infection. Antibacterial properties are an added advantage when dealing with ingrown hair under armpit.
  • Massage aloe vera gel in a circular motion all over the affected area. Aloe vera fights bacteria and also soothes irritated skin.
  • Apply a thin layer of baking soda paste. Rinse with water after 5 minutes. Baking soda exfoliates the skin and eases itchiness.
  • Mix a cup of white sugar with half cup of olive oil. Scrub the affected area with some of the mixture and rinse after 5 minutes. Sugar exfoliates the skin while olive oil keeps it moisturized.
  • Use a cotton ball to apply a solution of water and salt. Like several other remedies in this list, salt is an effective exfoliating agent.
  • Apply a thick coat of castor oil to deep ingrown hairs and clogged follicles. Castor oil does a great job in unclogging follicles.
  • Apply witch hazel extract directly using a cotton ball. The herb is known for its astringent and antiseptic properties.

Finally, try keeping the affected area well aerated and moisturized. Since some moisturizers may contain grease or alcohol, consider using essential oils.