What Do Ingrown Hairs Look Like?


The Mayo Clinic defines an ingrown hair as a hair that curls back and grows into the skin. It commonly occurs when a hair is shorn, tweezed or waxed, which results in a fragmented or sharpened hair just under the skin. As the hair grows, the tip reenters the surface of the skin, triggering an inflammatory response from the body. Almost anyone can develop ingrown hairs, but people with curlier hair tend to suffer them more often than others.


Ingrown hairs typically appear as a small, round bumps along the areas of penetration. They’re either solid or filled with pus and can develop into blister-like lesions. They’re often accompanied by some redness or discoloration as well as a pain and itching. In some cases you may even notice the actual curved shaft of the hair growing out and back into the skin.


Certain hair removal methods play a role in the development of ingrown hairs. When the hair is shorn or broken tightly to the skin, they’re more apt to grow back into the follicle. Shaving, waxing and tweezing leave the tip of the hair either sharp or jagged. This makes it much easier for the hair to breach through the surface of the skin.


While ingrown hairs are more often an annoyance than an actual medical condition, chronic cases can lead to significant problems, warns the Mayo Clinic. Hairs curling back into the skin can lead to skin infections and scarring. They may also cause hyperpigmentation, which is basically a darkened area along the penetration site on your skin.


As ingrown hairs develop, it’s recommended that you cease hair removal until the hair is no longer a problem. Retinoids, corticosteroids and antibiotics can all help to improve an ingrown hair. These products reduce inflammation, clear the pores and fight off bacteria, which can help correct ingrown hairs. You can also dislodge the tip of the hair manually with tweezers, needle or toothbrush, advises the American Academy of Dermatology. With a tweezers or needle, you need only hook the shaft and pull to remove the tip. The bristles of a soft toothbrush can create enough friction to dislodge the tip.


If you’re prone to developing ingrown hairs, switching from a razor blade to an electric razor may help. Shaving in the direction of hair growth is another useful tip. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests not pulling the skin taut as you shave as well as using shaving creams, avoiding daily shaving and trying a depilatory for hair removal. When ingrown hairs become a chronic problem, you may also want to consider permanent hair removal.