How To Treat & Prevent Ingrown Hairs This Summer, According To A Beauty Editor

By Ashleigh Cometti
Bianca Jagger at Halston’s house, New York, photographed by Andy Warhol in 1976.

Dear Beauty Editor,

While I’m excited for the sunny weather and days spent lounging by the pool or on the beach, I am dreading getting into my bikini.

I’m prone to ingrown hairs around my bikini line, some of which have left behind red, angry-looking scars in their

Is there anything I can do to treat the existing ingrowns and prevent future ones from coming back?

Thank you,

Bumping Along.

Dear Bumping Along,

I feel your pain! These pesky, painful bumps are irritating at best — more so when the beach beckons!

But you’re not alone in your strife, ingrown hairs are incredibly common, especially on legs, bikini lines, underarms and jawlines.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, adults have approximately five million hair follicles all over their body, so it’s hardly surprising, then, that some hairs can curl around and grow back into the skin, causing itchiness, redness, pigmentation and whiteheads.

What causes ingrown hairs?

Ingrown hairs typically occur post-hair-removal, whether that be waxing or shaving, where the hair grows inside the skin due to being trapped beneath layers of dead skin or getting confused about which way is up and out to the surface.

In some cases, ingrowns can crop up on the buttocks or behind the legs, due to the long periods of time during which we’re sitting. They’re also common in areas subjected to tight clothing, like activewear.

What can I do to treat an ingrown when it crops up?

Whatever you do — don’t pick or pop it. You could end up pushing the hair deeper into the skin, or worse still — you could spread bacteria into your hair follicle which can cause infection and inflammation.

Trying to force your way through the layers of dead skin cells to reach the trapped hair can also lead to post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation, which is notoriously tricky to treat.

Instead, wash the area with a flannel or a soft-bristled toothbrush using circular motions to gently exfoliate the ingrown without causing any trauma or breaking the surface of the skin. Follow this by daubing on a chemical exfoliant (more on that below) or an ingrown hair serum to speed up the healing process.

Otherwise, your pesky ingrown may be a case for your GP or dermatologist, who will be able lift out the embedded hair without exacerbating the problem.

How can I get rid of ingrown hairs for good?

The best way to banish bumps? Laser hair removal. It damages the hair follicle so it can no longer produce hair. It’s an excellent option for those with thicker hair, as it can slow growth and drastically reduce thickness. Although many clinics claim laser hair removal removes hair for good, being completely hairless isn’t guaranteed — rather, they should say it results in a permanent reduction in hair instead.

If you can’t bring yourself to be zapped, consider going down the waxing route, which pulls hair from the follicle’s root. It’s a better option than shaving, which just lops off surface hair, which can mean that more hair stems can develop in the same root follicle.

The proper prep before you opt for your chosen hair removal method will help prevent future ingrowns from surfacing (or not surfacing, as it were). Chemical and physical exfoliants are a great place to start, as they help to remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, meaning the hair doesn’t have to work so hard to reach the surface and grow out properly.

Chemical exfoliating acids like lactic, glycolic or salicylic acid work by dissolving the connections between the cells on the skin’s surface, which releases the top dead layer of skin.

If you must shave, ensure the area is well lubricated before you start, that your razor is sharp and that you shave in the same direction as the hair growth. While shaving in the opposite direction can result in a closer shave, it makes it easier for the hair to curl back over and grow into the skin. Shave with the grain, always.

Or consider trimming instead. If you’re not completely removing the hair, whatever stubble is left will be long enough to ensure it doesn’t grow back into skin.

Afterwards, ensure skin is kept hydrated with a nourishing moisturiser to reduce irritation and keep the skin barrier intact (especially important if you’ve exfoliated beforehand, too).

There’s a handful of excellent ingrown hair serums on the market today, which couple the benefits of a chemical exfoliant with the hydrating tenets of a moisturiser — and can help to prevent irritation and future infection. Check out our top picks below.

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Swipe one of these single-use pads over skin 24 hours post-hair-removal to help sidestep razor bumps or burns. Each pad is soaked in a blend of glycolic and salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and resurface skin, while witch hazel and aloe vera calm and soothe.

Toronto-based beauty brand Kaia Naturals has developed a two-step system when it comes to preventing and treating ingrown hairs. First, use The Ingrown Bar over areas prone to ingrowns like the bikini line, underarms, face and neck and allow the volcanic sand, tea tree oil and salicylic acid gently exfoliate and disinfect skin. Next, roll on The Bikini Bright to reduce the appearance of post-shave pigmentation, irritation and redness.

Boxed with Fur’s finger mitt, this soothing spot treatment helps treat existing ingrown hairs and prevent future bumps from forming. Use the finger mitt in the shower to first buff areas prone to ingrown hairs, before applying a couple of drops of concentrate on dry skin to target ingrowns, bumps, or razor burn.

This smoothing body scrub has received rave reviews online for its ability to treat keratosis pilaris, body acne, uneven skin texture and ingrown hairs with a three-pronged approach to addressing body bumps. It combines a chemical peel, microdermabrasion treatment and moisturiser in one, with its 10 per cent concentration of AHAs, PHAs and micro-crystals to smooth and soften bumps, alongside hyaluronic acid, cucumber and squalane to calm redness and hydrate skin.

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