Though ingrown hairs are most typically experienced on the neck and bikini areas, ingrowns can pop up anywhere hair grows, says Anya Stassiy, PA-C, a dermatology physician assistant and owner of High Point Medspa. She says the best exfoliators for ingrown hairs contain skin-safe chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid and glycolic acid. Deciding whether to go with a leave-on treatment, a scrub, or pads mostly comes down to personal preference. Similarly, Stassiy suggests treating any red, inflamed bumps with topical ointments containing benzoyl peroxide or retinoids.
As for what causes ingrown hairs in the first place? "People get ingrown hairs because the skin heals faster over the growing hair than the hair itself. When the hair meets resistance from the overlaying skin, it continues to grow, but instead curls inward. The body produces an inflammatory response, which causes a bump and redness trying to push the hair out to the surface," Stassiy explains. So if you're prone to ingrown hairs, exfoliating products will help with both prevention and management.
Some other tips on how to prevent ingrown hairs: shave skin when it's moist, and if you can, shave daily, because shaving itself is a form of exfoliation, which will help prevent ingrown hairs from popping up. Take care of your razor to avoid a dull blade, and don't use a razor with any more than three blades: "More blades in your razor will give a closer shave, but also more ingrown hairs," Stassiy says. Finally, she says switching to an electric razor (for your face) may help, too.
With that in mind, scroll on to shop six of the best products for ingrown hairs, from toners to scrubs to spot treatments and beyond.
1. The Overall Best Exfoliating Toner
This Jack Black toner contains two key chemical exfoliants — salicylic acid and lactic acid — as well as skin-soothing ingredients like aloe, chamomile, and allantoin. It's fragrance-free, oil-free, and gentle (thanks to the addition of hydrating hyaluronic acid), so it shouldn't irritate sensitive skin. Apply it with a cotton pad anywhere from one to three times a day to keep your skin smooth and bump-free.
2. A More Affordable Alternative
Here's another great leave-on exfoliant, but it's almost $10 cheaper. The exfoliating ingredients in here are glycolic and lactic acids, while hyaluronic acid helps restore hydration, vitamin C promotes a brighter complexion, and witch hazel, a natural astringent, provides more skin-tightening benefits. InstaNatural's toner is made almost entirely of natural ingredients and is Leaping Bunny-certified cruelty-free, too.
3. The Best Exfoliating Body Scrub
Before shaving or waxing, use an exfoliating scrub to lift up the hairs and remove any layers of dead skin so the hairs can grow out and not in. You can also use your scrub a few days after shaving to keep ingrowns at bay. First Aid Beauty's KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub harnesses the power of physical (pumice buffing beads) and chemical exfoliants (lactic acid and glycolic acid), while skin-conditioners and antioxidants help keep skin feeling smooth and soft. It's fragrance-free, vegan, and cruelty-free, too.
4. The Best Exfoliating Facial Pads
Aveeno's cleansing pads are a convenient, fuss-free way to exfoliate your skin. Infused with salicylic acid, these dual-sided, pre-moistened pads are smooth on one side and textured on the other, so you're getting some mild physical exfoliation here as well. The pads are alcohol-free, but note that they do have a light fragrance. And while you can use them on your body, they're technically designed for use on your face.
5. The Best Exfoliating Body Pads
These pads from Completely Bare were designed for use on your body, and they're even safe for use on your sensitive bikini area. Key ingredients in here include salicylic and glycolic acids, the astringent witch hazel, anti-inflammatory niacinamide, antioxidant-rich green tea, and soothing oat kernel extract. This combo should help calm existing irritation and prevent ingrowns and bumps from popping up.
6. The Best Spot Treatment To Heal Existing Ingrowns
"Differin gel (which used to be a prescription medication and is now available over the counter) is a retinoid that will help to exfoliate the skin," explains Stassiy, who suggests using it on any bumps or ingrowns that have become red, irritated, or inflamed. Since it's primarily designed to fight acne, you'll get a ton of use out of this little tube — use it to clear breakouts and clogged pores, too!
Anya Stassiy, PA-C, a dermatology physician's assistant and owner of High Point Medspa and a dermatology physician assistant practicing in New Jersey