7 Habits That Can Cause Bumps & In-Grown Hairs

by Carina Wolff

It's annoying enough to deal with the removal of body hair, but it's even worse when you end up with a number of unwanted bumps and blemishes on your body. You might think you're doing everything you can to avoid them, but there are a number of surprising habits that cause red bumps and in-grown hairs beyond just using a dull razor or skipping exfoliation. Red bumps are not only unsightly but uncomfortable, so you might want to avoid these habits to make sure you're skin isn't causing you any problems.

"If you shave or wax areas frequently, you may be the victim of chronic in-grown hairs causing the appearance of red bumps or unevenness in the texture of the skin," says dermatologist Kachiu C. Lee over email. "Be cautious though, because not all red bumps are ingrown hairs. Other common causes of red bumps include folliculitis, keratosis pilaris, and miliaria rubra (heat rash). Treatment and prevention regimens for each of these conditions differ, so it’s important to make the right diagnosis."

In addition to properly treating these bumps, you can also do your best to prevent them. Here are seven surprising habits that can cause red bumps and in-grown hairs.


Having Long, Curly Hair


This isn't really a habit completely in your control, but if you tend to have longer, curly hair, you're at a higher risk of getting some blemishes. "Red bumps due to ingrown hair are more common in people with naturally curly hair," says Lee. "As the hair is trying to grow out, curly hairs have a higher tendency to 'curl' and grow back into the skin, thus causing inflammation and irritated red bumps."


Tight Clothing


Avoid wearing those yoga pants or tight jeans for too long. "Tight clothing can result in chronic friction, which can cause these bumps to become inflamed (and thus enlarged)," says Lee. "Avoid rubbing, scratching, or squeezing these bumps, and definitely avoid overly tight clothing."


Shaving Against The Grain


Many people shave against the grain for a smoother look, but you might end up regretting it later. "Shaving against the direction of hair growth may give you a closer shave, but it also causes more irritation to the skin, leaving you with a higher chance of developing red bumps," says Lee.


Working Out


No one's saying you shouldn't workout to get that perfect skin, but just be mindful about what kind of clothing you wear when doing so. "When you work out you're doing repetitive motions," says dermatologist Dr. Margarita Lolis over email. "Running, working out on a spin cycle, or even a Zumba class can lead to in-grown hairs if your workout wear isn't fitting well."


Shaving Without Shaving Cream


Using regular soap is convenient, but it will leave you bumpier than you began. "You need to prep skin before you shave it with a warm water compress," says Lolis. "Shaving cream opens the follicle, making the shave smoother without any roughness."


Pulling Hair Taut


Again, this habit is used to get a closer shave, but it can cause problems with bumps and in-grown hairs down the line. "Pulling the skin taut while shaving can cause the remaining hair shaft to retract into the skin and have difficulty making its way back to the skin surface," says dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse MD, FAAD over email.


Shaving Too Close


It's tempting to go after that completely hairless look, but in some areas of your body, shaving too close can cause some unwanted bumps. "Shaving too closely either in the bikini area or under the arms [can cause bumps]," says dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban. "Anywhere that the skin is more delicate it’s harder for the hairs to poke through."