How to get rid of ingrown hairs

Ana Sanchez

Ingrown hairs can naturally resolve without intervention, but it can take one to six months to go away on its own.

Safe removal of ingrown hairs

Ingrown hairs can be inevitable if you shave or wax your body hair. These red bumps and the irritation that forms at hair removal sites can be unsightly and painful. What’s worse is it’s hard to get rid of ingrown hair on your own.

While it’s best to seek out a dermatologist to safely remove persistent ingrown hairs, there are several steps you can take at home to prevent it from forming in the first place, and to help hair naturally emerge.

If you’re dealing with ingrown hairs on your own, keep reading our guide, which includes our top product suggestions at the end to help in your undertaking.

What are ingrown hairs?

Ingrown hairs are generally a harmless result of hair removal, but they can be painful. Shaving, tweezing or waxing can all result in ingrown hairs. Signs of ingrown hairs, according to the Mayo Clinic, are solid bumps and pus-filled bumps (much like pimples), hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) or itching.

Ingrown hairs happen when a hair emerges from its follicle only to double back and reenter the skin where it becomes embedded. Sometimes the trapped hair is visible through a bubble of skin but not always. The skin becomes inflamed because the body mistakes the reentered hair as a foreign object.

Ingrown hairs most commonly occur on the jawline, cheeks, bikini line, chin, neck, armpits and legs — wherever hair removal has taken place.


If you’re scratching the irritated area of an ingrown hair, you can put yourself at risk for bacterial infection. The Mayo Clinic states that a doctor can treat infected ingrown hairs with antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics. Try not to touch the area with your fingers.  And don’t try to squeeze or “pop” the ingrown hair because this can cause infection or scarring.

How to get rid of ingrown hairs

The resounding medical advice to getting rid of ingrown hairs is to stop all hair removal until the symptoms clear.

Also, dermatologists can prescribe retinoids to help exfoliate and clear away dead skin cells or a steroid cream to reduce inflammation. The doctor can also remove the embedded hair by inserting a sterile needle under the hair loop and gently pulling it out.

Steps for removing ingrown hairs on your own

If you don’t have access to medical treatment, there are safe ways to help the trapped hair to unfurl on its own.

Step 1: Apply a warm compress or washcloth to the ingrown hair to allow the skin to soften. Press the cloth gently to the affected area for a few minutes.

Step 2: After applying your compress, gently exfoliate the skin using an exfoliating glove or exfoliating washcloth in a circular motion. Do this for several minutes. You can also use a soft-bristled toothbrush

Step 3: After physical exfoliation, apply a lotion featuring chemical exfoliants to remove the dead skin cells, which keeps the hair submerged more deeply beneath the surface. Look for an over-the-counter product containing salicylic acid or alpha-hydroxy acids.

Products we recommend:

Soothing the pain from ingrown hairs

Itching and pain are associated with ingrown hairs. There are over-the-counter products that feature calming ingredients that can help soothe the skin. Look for a cream containing soothing colloidal oatmeal or a cream with the anti-itch ingredient hydrocortisone. Applying a warm compress to the area can also soothe the pain associated with ingrown hairs.

How to prevent ingrown hairs from happening

Prevention is the name of the game when it comes to stopping ingrown hairs before they start. Here are a few ways to prevent ingrown hairs from forming.


Because ingrown hairs are most commonly associated with shaving, whenever possible use an exfoliating body wash in the shower on the area you’re going to shave. Be sure to use a lubricating shave gel or cream and don’t pass your razor twice over one spot.

While shaving, resist pulling your skin taut and always shave in the direction of your hair growth. Rinse the razor blade well between strokes. Moisturize the skin afterward to prevent skin from becoming dry and flaky and from clogging follicles.   


Clean and gently exfoliate the area you’re going to wax. You can use an exfoliating soap or exfoliating mitt. Be sure that the hair is pulled in the correct direction and that too much wax is not applied.

Don’t wear tight clothes immediately after waxing because it can irritate freshly waxed skin and cause ingrown hairs in future. Exfoliate and moisturize the area regularly — at least twice a week. 


When tweezing a hair, you want to remove the entire hair, including its small bulb at the end. A hair that breaks in the process is more likely to become ingrown. Tweeze the hair out at an angle with the tweezer head as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Also pull in the direction the hair is growing and not against the grain.

Follow up with one of the listed products below.

Best products for ingrown hair prevention

With consistent use, these products will prevent ingrown hairs from developing. They conveniently combine exfoliating and moisturizing ingredients in easy to apply methods, like pads or rollerballs.

Wait 48 hours after waxing or shaving to apply. Then, we recommend applying one of the following products daily on the area where hair has been removed.

Products we recommend:

When to seek medical attention

If you’ve tried all the steps outlined to coax out an ingrown hair, or are experiencing chronic ingrown hairs, contact a dermatologist. Also, if you’re experiencing pain or irritation, it’s a good idea to seek medical advice.

In some cases, chronic ingrown hairs can leave scarring called keloids. Remember, removing the hair yourself can cause skin damage and infection. Please resist the urge to gouge yourself with a needle. A dermatologist can remove the hair in a safe and sterile way as well as prescribe medications when necessary. 

Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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