As summer comes hurtling toward us at record speed (seriously, where have the last few months gone?), we’re getting ourselves prepped for warmer climes. We’re slowly starting to pack away our cardigans and knits and pull out last year’s shorts and sleeveless tops to take their place. And it’s not just our wardrobes that are getting a summer overhaul. We’re turning our attention to our beauty routines too.
Special attention is being paid to the areas that we have spent the past few months neglecting. Our toes, for instance, are getting treated to at-home pedicures, and our limbs are finally getting the TLC and golden glow that they’ve been crying out for. However, while we’re overjoyed that the sun is finally showing its face, there is one issue that crops up around this time every year. As we adopt a more thorough hair-removal regimen, we face the very real issue of ingrown hairs. Red, bumpy and often sore, they crop up at times when they are least welcome.
Determined that this summer will be different, we’ve enlisted the help of Alexis Granite, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic, to help us bust these unsightly pests for good.
Annoying as they are, it’s worth knowing that actually, a lot of the time, we bring ingrown hairs on ourselves. “An ingrown hair is caused when the tip of a hair curls back inwards or grows sideways in the skin. This results in bumps, tenderness and redness in the affected area,” explains Granite.
So why do they occur? Most of the time, it’s from shaving or other forms of hair removal as well as wearing tight clothing that causes irritation. “Ingrown hairs are more common in areas with coarser, thicker hair such as the bikini area,” adds Granite.
Given that we are likely all gearing up to start taking some more time with our hair-removal routines as we enter the summer, it’s worth knowing what preventative actions you can take. “Shaving in the direction of hair growth with a sharp, clean razor blade can help prevent ingrowns, as well as regular light exfoliation to help remove surface dead skin cells that may contribute to trapping hairs,” advises Granite. If you still find that those pesky bumps are cropping up, instead try electric shavers or depilatory creams.
While most of the time, ingrown hairs will gradually work their way out, you may sometimes encounter a stubborn one that refuses to budge. The expert advice? Never squeeze. “Squeezing an ingrown hair too aggressively can lead to infection and scarring. It’s best to use a warm compress and gentle exfoliating treatments,” says Granite.
But what about when this doesn’t work? It’s imperative you see a professional, especially if they are causing discomfort or become seriously inflamed. Granite goes on, “If an ingrown hair is especially persistent, a healthcare professional can remove this by using a sterilised needle to pierce the skin and use tweezers to gently remove the trapped hair.”
As previously mentioned, the best way to help tease out an ingrown hair is through gentle exfoliation. And the key here is the word “gentle.” Vigorous scrubbing can only irritate the skin more. “A warm compress can help soften an ingrown hair and allow the hair to emerge more easily,” says Granite.
When you think it might need a little more of a push, avoid picking and squeezing and instead opt for specialist treatments. “Generally, products for ingrown hairs work by gently exfoliating the skin, allowing trapped hair to emerge from the surface more readily. Ingredients to look for include salicylic acid, glycolic acid and tea tree oil,” says Granite.