Ingrown hair on the legs mostly affects individuals with coarse or curly hair who are fond of shaving, waxing or tweezing. This causes red bumps which are often painful.
It is unlikely that ingrown hairs on legs will develop into anything serious. The probable complications include bacterial infection, irritation and scarring. Sometimes, ingrown hairs can become a chronic problem.
Most people deal with ingrown hairs at home with simple removal methods and preventive measures. If the problem is to persist, medical attention may be necessary.
This is also true in cases where you are not sure whether some bumps on your legs are actually caused by ingrown hairs. In this article, we will look at what causes ingrown hairs on legs, their symptoms, prevention measures and available treatment options.
What causes and symptoms of ingrown hairs on legs after shaving
- Coarse or curly hair – coarse or curly hair is left with a sharp edge after shaving. Sometimes, the shaved hair will curl and pierce the skin.
- Hair removal – any hair removal method can result in ingrown hairs. Bad hair removal techniques are. however, more likely cause the problem. Examples of bad hair removal techniques include shaving against the gradient, shaving too close to the skin, shaving on dry skin and plucking hairs.
- Blocked hair follicles – blocked hair follicles force hairs to grow sideways into the wall of the follicles. Clogging or blocking can be caused by dead skin cells, excess sebum and some skin care products.
- Lack of exfoliation – Exfoliation ensures that there are no accumulated dead skin cells to clog hair follicles. It should be done regularly after shaving.
- Friction – friction caused by wearing tight clothing or fabrics that prevent free circulation of air encourage ingrown hairs as well as accumulation of bacteria.
- Genetic factors – factors such as having curly hair, a tendency to grow thick hair and other similar factors contribute to formation of ingrown hairs.
Sometimes after shaving, you may experience tingling, burning or itchiness. This will soon be followed by red and painful bumps. The affected skin regions may also become tender. And what do ingrown hairs feel like? Normally, they feel like small bumps on the skin.
Ingrown hairs on legs may form small, round bumps that resemble pimples. These are known as papules. If infected, they will form red, painful and pus-filled bumps known as pustules. A common symptom of ingrown hairs is darkening of the affected skin, a condition referred to as hyperpigmentation.
How to treat ingrown hair on legs
Below are tips for how to treat ingrown hair on legs:
Try warm compress
A warm compress helps keep the skin soft enough for hairs to break through. It also reduces inflammation so that deep ingrown hairs can become visible when tugging them with a needle.
- Soak a small clean piece of cloth in water
- Squeeze dry and press it against the affected area
- Hold it for about 5 minutes. For deep ingrown hairs, hold it for 15 minutes. You can always soak it again should it cool when warm compressing.
- Repeat this at least 5 times in a day
Use a sharp object
A sharp needle or tweezers are commonly used. Here, the ingrown hair is practically pulled out of the skin into which it has grown.
- Make sure your hands and the affected area have been cleaned and patted dry
- Sterilize the tools with alcohol. You can alternatively leave them to boil in water for 15 minutes
- Locate the point at which the ingrown hair has formed a loop or a U-turn
- Gently, get the needle into the loop and pull the hair. It should softly retract from the skin into which it has grown. Avoid forcing it out or ‘digging’ it out.
- Afterwards, wash off any blood or pus from the skin and apply antibacterial ointment.
Practice good hair removal techniques
Most people don’t realize that there is so much to learn about shaving. You find that it is also possible to have ingrown hairs even after epilating or waxing. This means that regular hair removal by shaving is even more likely to cause ingrown hairs especially if done poorly.
Exfoliation is removal dirt that may end up clogging skin pores. It is a very effective long-term ingrown hair on legs treatment option.
You can use physical exfoliation with body scrubs. In this case, avoid too-abrasive scrubs for they can cause minor skin damage and encourage infection. You can also use chemical exfoliation. In this case, try products containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or hydrocortisones.
Consider home remedies
There is a long list of home remedies that have for a long time been used to treat skin conditions such as ingrown hairs, folliculitis and acne. You can try some of them to see the effects. For example, Epsom salt baths are effective when dealing with extensive affected areas or for how to remove ingrown hair on head. Adding 2 tablespoons of salt to a cup of warm water makes a good exfoliation remedy for ingrown hairs on the legs. Sugar scrubs are quite effective, especially on body areas prone to skin dryness, such as the legs. Essential oils are of several benefits in relation to ingrown hairs. For example, they soothe irritated skin, prevent infections and reduce swelling. You can try several home remedies to see which works best for your case. In any case, ingrown hairs are not a one-time problem.
Medications such as prescription retinoids and antibiotics are very strong. They are preferable for chronic or severe ingrown hairs.
Go for laser hair removal
If you have chronic ingrown hairs, it may be time you considered laser hair removal. The technique is quite expensive but guarantees permanent removal of hair on the legs.
How to treat infected ingrown hair on legs
Infected ingrown hair on legs is usually not serious and in fact heals on its own. All the same, it can lead to unwanted complications which can be avoided. Infection between legs on thighs or near the pubic area can also be confused with other types of infections.
If you are not sure as to what may be causing bumps in upper legs, learn more on the difference between ingrown hair and herpes, folliculitis and cysts. See your doctor if doubts persist. Below are tips on how to treat ingrown hairs on legs when infected.
- Use water and antibacterial soap to keep the affected area clean.
- Warm compress on the affected areas several times a day. It helps bring the ingrown hair and pus closer to the surface.
- Use topical antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading. For severe infections, have your doctor prescribe stronger oral antibiotics. Sometimes, a combination of prescription medications is used for how to treat an infected ingrown hair.
- Ask your doctor about retinoids. These are stronger exfoliating medications. They remove dead skin cells and encourage the trapped hairs to break through the skin.
- Avoid shaving already affected areas. This will not only aggravate the infection but may also spread it.
- Consider medical treatment, especially for how to get rid of ingrown hair cyst. Your doctor can perform a quick surgery with sterilized equipment.
How to prevent ingrown hairs on legs
- Tweezing and waxing may be advantageous in a number of ways but are more likely to cause severe ingrown hairs. This is because these methods completely remove hair from follicles. As the hair grows back, it has to break through the skin which increases the chances of growing sideways and into the skin.
- Avoid shaving on already affected areas. This irritates the skin more and encourages infection. Instead, you can consider other removal alternatives such as use of depilatory creams.
- Take a hot bath or wash your legs with warm water before shaving. This exfoliates the skin as well as keeps curly hairs erect.
- Apply lubricating oil such as baby oil and shaving cream before shaving. Avoid soaps or shampoos.
- Avoid pressing the shaving razor on the skin. You can consider trimming long hairs with a pair of scissors before shaving. Short hair is easier to shave.
- Always shave along the gradient. In most people, leg hair grows towards the foot. Shaving against the gradient causes close shaves and sharp-edged hairs. Make sure to rinse the shaving razor after every stroke.
- After shaving, apply salicylic acid astringent solution.
- If you wear tight underpants or skinny jeans, you are more likely to develop ingrown hairs. This is because the hairs have no room to grow into and are forced to curl back and pierce the skin. Lack of air circulation encourages bacterial infection.
- Always keep the skin moisturized. To this end, avoid harsh cleansers, greasy moisturizers and alcohol-containing products. You can even make a home-made moisturizer by mixing sugar with olive oil and raw honey.
As you can see, how to prevent ingrown hairs on the legs mostly revolves around good shaving techniques. It may therefore be of added advantage to learn more on how to shave on and between the legs.
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