How to Deal with Ingrown Hairs and the Dark Spots They Leave Behind
With about 5 million hair follicles on the surface of your skin, the odds of getting an ingrown hair at some point are fairly high. They’re itchy, painful, and they often leave behind dark marks as a not-so-subtle warning that you haven't seen the last of them. The worst part? All your efforts to keep your skin velvet smooth also happen to be the surest ways of triggering one of these sore, tender bumps. To avoid the dreaded ingrown hair and the marks they leave behind, here’s everything you need to know.
WHAT CAUSES INGROWN HAIRS
Ingrown hairs result from hair becoming trapped within the skin, leading to inflammation and sometimes infection. It can happen organically, but it's usually the result of trauma to the follicle.
Shaving stretches the hair beyond the follicle and then creates a sharp edge on the hair. The hair snaps back beneath the surface of the skin, and that new, fresh edge can get snagged instead of growing correctly out of the pore.
Plucking or Waxing
All hair removal processes can cause trouble by disrupting the hair’s natural growth path within the follicle.
A buildup of dead skin cells can also contribute to ingrown hairs as the follicle can become blocked, causing the hair to grow sideways.
Both men and women are candidates for ingrown hairs (they can appear on the face, neck,or the bikini line). It’s more common with thick or curly hair, which tends to curl back or grow sideways in the hair follicle.
HOW DOES AN INGROWN HAIR CAUSE HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Ingrown hairs are often accompanied by bacteria and inflammation in the follicle, which causes the skin to mobilize a protective response in the form of increased melanin. The dark spots that appear are known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
HOW TO TREAT AN INGROWN HAIR
1. Apply a warm compress to soothe and reduce inflammation.
2. Once the hair emerges above the skin, use sterile tweezers to gently lift it just enough to release it from under the skin. Do not pluck it out, and don't poke or break the skin. This is likely to introduce bacteria, further inflame the bump, and increase the chances of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
3. Keep the area cleansed and gently exfoliated to kill bacteria and keep the follicle open. Vivant's micro-exfoliating and anti-microbial Mandelic Acid 3-In-1 Wash is an excellent choice.
4. Apply a benzoyl peroxide gel like Vivant's BP 10% Gel Medication to flush the follicle, kill bacteria, and speed healing.
Don't continue to shave or remove hair in the affected region. This is "one of the worst things you can do," says Nada Elbuluk, MD, MSc, assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "Wait until razor bumps have resolved before going back to shaving or engaging in further hair removal at the site."
HOW TO AVOID INGROWN HAIRS
Exfoliate regularly, and especially before shaving, with ingredients like mandelic acid, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid to keep the follicles clear of impactions.
Use a vitamin A or mandelic acid serum to accelerate cell turnover and keep dead skin cells from clogging follicles and creating impactions.
When shaving, follow the direction of the hair growth and avoid shaving too close to the skin or going over the same area multiple times. Don’t pull the skin taut while shaving.
Using an electric razor and avoiding the closest shave setting will reduce the chances of getting an ingrown hair.
HOW TO GET RID OF THE DARK MARKS LEFT BEHIND BY INGROWN HAIRS
Use products that accelerate cell turnover to help disperse pigment from the skin's surface. Vitamin A, mandelic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid are good choices.
Pair these with brightening ingredients like vitamin C, kojic acid, or hydroquinone.
Mandelic acid and glycolic acid are both exfoliators and brighteners.
Wear sunscreen daily to protect against UV, which will worsen the dark marks.
Gentle exfoliating and brightening cleanser with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Mandelic acid, salicylic acid, niacinamide, and healing zinc decongest pores, remove surface debris, and help disperse pigment, leaving skin smooth, hydrated, and ready to drink in your favorite serum.
A brightening, antibacterial, micro-exfoliating serum clear, healthy follicles and radiant skin.
Accelerate cell renewal to fade pigment, decongest follicles, and promote smooth, even tone.
A daily booster for advanced photoprotection, brightening, and cellular repair. Formulated for purity and potency.
Concentrated antibacterial medication to peel impactions from the follicle and speed healing.
Daily foundational sunscreen to protect against UV damage. Lightweight, non-greasy, non-comedogenic.