If you make the effort to remove your body hair on a regular basis, chances are you’ve experienced your fair share of ingrown hairs. And as a result, we’re sure you know just how tempting it can be to pick at those irritating little red bumps - which only ever ends up making matters worse. But why did those little red bumps appear in the first place, and what can you do to prevent them from occurring? We spoke to Regulatory and Medical Affairs Director for Veet Australia, Janie Heywood to find out.
Heywood explains that an ingrown hair “is where hair curls back or grows sideways into the skin”. She adds, “while ingrown hairs most commonly appear in areas where the skin is shaved or waxed, they can pop up anywhere”. But what makes those hairs grow so wonky? It’s all to do with blocked hair follicles says Heywood. “Ingrown hairs are unfortunately an accepted risk of all non-permanent hair removal methods and occur when the hair follicle becomes blocked by dead skin cells.” She adds, “this is particularly common if the hair is curly or coarse”.
While ingrown hairs are a pain to deal with, there are three simple steps you can follow to avoid them.
By far the best way to avoid ingrown hairs is to exfoliate. “This is because exfoliating your skin gets rid of the dead skin and built-up oils that can clog your follicles and cause the hairs to grow back on themselves,” says Heywood. While you can use chemical exfoliants formulated with salicylic acid to unclog your hair follicles, Heywood recommends using a dry loofah or exfoliating sponge on dry skin before jumping in the shower. “Use the loofah to make small circles on your skin, starting from your feet before working your way up your body, being very careful around sensitive areas such as the bikini zone,” she advises. “This shouldn’t take a lot of time, but this simple routine goes a long way to help avoid ingrown hairs.”
Choose the right hair removal method
If you want to banish ingrown hairs for good, a permanent hair removal method like laser is one of the most effective options. However, if you’re on a budget or simply don’t like the sound of permanently removing your hair, Heywood notes you can stick to traditional methods such as shaving or waxing as long as you master each technique.
Because shaving cleanly cuts the ends of the hairs off rather than removing them at the root, they’re more likely to dig into the skin and grow inwards. The best way to prevent ingrown hairs when shaving is to use a sharp razor and shave in the direction of the hair growth i.e. down your leg rather than up.
Since waxing involves removing hair directly from the root, exfoliation is even more critical because you need to keep the follicle as clear as possible. In addition to regular exfoliation both before and after removing hair, Heywood recommends using a heated wax like Veet’s Warm Wax as the heat “causes the pores to open, so the hair can be removed cleanly”.
Don’t forget to moisturise
After removing hair, your last step is to moisturise. New hairs are able to grow out of the follicle evenly when the surrounding skin is soft and hydrated. For best results, apply a fast-absorbing and nourishing moisturiser (we like L’Occitane’s Shea Butter Extra Gentle Lotion for Hands & Body) onto damp skin immediately after shaving.
Looking for more body and health tips? Then check out Jessica Alba’s go-to workout for when she has no time, plus find out how to get rid of back acne.
Do you suffer from ingrown hairs? Let us know the ways you keep them at bay in the comments below.
Main image credit: @tashoakley
Kate started working for BEAUTYcrew in early 2016, first as a contributor, and was then named Beauty Writer in 2017. She loves picking the brains of the industry's top experts to get to the bottom of beauty's toughest questions. Bronze eyeshadow palettes are her weakness and she's forever on the hunt for the perfect nude nail polish to suit her fair skin. Her words can also be found in Men's Health magazine, and she now works in PR.