As if shaving (or waxing or tweezing; whatever your hair-removal preference) weren't annoying enough, having to figure out how to deal with ingrown hairs can make the whole depilating process pretty groan-inducing. But before you go trying to dig out ingrown hairs (which you should never do), there are actually easier ways (ways that won't cause infection) to remove those pesky ingrowns.
Because you should never try to remove an ingrown hair that you can't clearly see, the first step of safe removal is to bring the hair closer to the surface of your skin. Just remember to be patient with this part. It can take a few days for an ingrown hair to work its way to the surface and break through the skin.
Hair removal expert Naomi Torres told About.com that one way to do this is to regularly exfoliate. This can be with a physical exfoliant like a washcloth or a chemical exfoliant like an acne cleanser. Washing in small, circular motions around the ingrown hair will help loosen dead skin cells and other dirt that may be clogging the area.
Another way to help bring an ingrown hair closer to breaking through the skin (that can be used in addition to exfoliating), according to The Organic Beauty Expert, is by using a warm compress. Soak a washcloth in hot water that is still comfortable to the touch, squeeze out the excess, and then apply gentle pressure to the affected area for five to ten minutes at a time. The heat should help open the pore and soften the skin, making the ingrown ready for extraction.
If you don't notice that the hair has become more visible, continue to exfoliate and use a warm compress on the area two to three times daily until hair breaks through. Once the hair has broken the surface of the skin, it's time to grab the tweezers.
Removing ingrown hairs is a delicate procedure, so pointed tweezers (like the ones on the right) can be more helpful so as to not damage any surrounding skin in the extraction process. However, as long as they are not too blunt, slanted tweezers will still work. But before you start trying to grab the ingrown, make sure to sanitize your tool with some rubbing alcohol.
After cleaning the affected area and your tweezers, gently try to grab the ingrown hair. Sometimes the hair will easily slide out, but if it doesn't, first try to lift out the coiled end of the hair. Once the tip of the hair is exposed, Her Campus suggested that you can either stop here, or continue to pluck out the hair.
Whichever way you decide, just make sure to clean everything when you're done. That means sanitize your tweezers again with rubbing alcohol, and clean the site. Torres, from About.com, suggested using hydrogen peroxide before applying a topical antibiotic like Neosporin.
But how do you prevent ever having ingrown hairs again? Unfortunately, the only way to truly keep these pests from coming back is by not removing hair in the first place. If you still choose to remove the hair anyway, make ingrowns less likely by not making any of these common shaving mistakes.
The Mayo Clinic also suggested not pulling skin taut while shaving and finding out which shaving direction is best for you (some people experience more irritation shaving against the direction of hair growth, while others experience more irritation shaving with the direction of hair growth). And for a more permanent option, laser hair removal and electrolysis both, over time, prevent hair and therefore ingrowns from growing back.
By utilizing one or more of these preventative measures, maybe you can retire those tweezers for good.
Images: Miki Hayes