Ingrown Hairs

INGROWN HAIRS (pseudofolliculitis barbae), also known as "razor bumps", occur in both men and women of varied ethnic origin. The cause can be twofold: (1) hair grows out and curls back on itself, and (2) hair is trapped under the skin. The result is skin that is red, tender and unsightly. Scarring and darkening of the skin can result. Plucking or tweezing may also cause ingrown hairs. This damages the hair shaft and results in abnormal hair growth.


Temporarily stop shaving. If the hair is allowed to grow, it usually "pops" out of the skin. Although this is not an option for most men, if there is serious involvement, it is a sure-fire remedy. If stubble is acceptable, a 30-gauge hair clipper can be used for everyday shaving. Some men use an electric razor with a high setting. If using a straight edge razor, try one with a "bump" guard or foil-guarded edge. Use a shaving gel instead of a cream. This is usually less irritating to the skin. Shave in the direction of hair growth and not against the grain. Do not stretch the skin. Finally, some people benefit from daily use of a stiff toothbrush in the direction of the hair growth. This dislodges and redirects the hairs so they do not curve back into the skin.

Daily Care

There is more than one treatment for this condition. Determine the treatment that "fits" your skin type. Give the treatment at least six weeks to determine its effectiveness. If darker pigmentation is present, apply a bleaching agent (lightening gel) twice daily to the dark areas.

Oily Skin

Use a beta-hydroxy acid wash twice daily. A beta-hydroxy acid lotion should then be applied in the morning with the addition of a retinol in the evening. Anti-inflammatory creams can be used if needed for irritation.

Normal to Dry Skin

Use a mild soap twice daily. A mild benzoyl peroxide lotion is then applied at bedtime. Some people add a retinol to this regimen but it can be over-drying. Anti-inflammatory creams can be used for any irritation.

Sensitive Skin

Use a mild soap twice daily. Depilatories (hair removers) can be used and are very gentle to the skin. Barium sulfide powder depilatories seem to be the best. An alternative depilatory is calcium thioglycolate that is also effective. Anti-inflammatory creams can be used for any irritation.

As in any persistent condition, daily maintenance is a must. If conservative treatments are ineffective, you should consult your dermatologist.

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