It seems no matter how careful we are about shaving or waxing, ingrown hairs are inevitable. They cause bumps, redness and worst of all -- they hurt like hell.
An ingrown hair occurs when one of two things happen. Either a hair curls and grows back into the skin instead of coming out of the pore. Or the hair grows sideways into the skin due to hardened, dead skin cells on the surface, according to Jessica Johnson, a Completely Bare brand ambassador.
As uncontrollable as the above situations may seem, there are ways ensure smooth skin after every hair removal treatment. Johnson and Hibba Kapil, the founder of threading and waxing salon Hibba NYC, list five things that may increase the chances of getting ingrown hairs, and provide some tips on how to avoid them.
1. Having naturally coarse or curly hair.
Yes, certain hair types are more prone to ingrown hairs, according to Kapil. Avoid digging into your skin with tweezers, or picking with your fingernails to remove an ingrown hair, as that can cause infection. Instead, Kapil suggests using an alcohol swab and sterilized tweezers to remove hair that is above the skin's surface and not infected (visibly red or blue).
2. Wearing clothing that is too tight.
Tight clothing and synthetic fabrics, like nylon leggings, skinny jeans and polyester underwear can exacerbate ingrown hairs. Johnson says it's best to stick to easy cotton clothing that is breathable and won’t rub against skin.
3. Tugging at skin with the razor.
You might not notice but there's a chance you're holding the razor too close to your legs, and basically scraping your skin as you shave. It often occurs when using a dull razor with a worn-down guard, and results in irritation that can lead to ingrown hairs.
That's why Johnson believes waxing is ideal if done with a good wax that doesn’t break the hair. She adds, “When shaving be sure to use a good, thick shave gel with a sharp razor. Razors should be used 6-8 times max, and then tossed. A fresh blade prevents razor bumps and ingrowns."
4. Shaving or waxing in the wrong direction.
If shaving, be sure to lather well in the direction of the hair growth with a pre-shave creme or gel like Completely Bare Moisturizing No-Bump Shave Gel to soften stubble. Look for professional grade at-home waxing kits that will grab short, coarse and curly hair.
Sugaring is also a natural alternative to waxing or laser hair removal. “Its gel is made of sugar, lemon and water. Because it only stick to the hair and not the skin, it hurts less and gets the hair out at the root,” explains Kapil.
5. Not exfoliating regularly after hair removal.
48 hours after hair removal is when Kapil believes you can get back to exfoliating. “It’s something I would do at the end of the shower since that gives my skin more time to soak and soften,” she says.
Use a mold-resistant wash cloth like Loofah It! by Hibba and an antiseptic body wash with skin-soothing ingredients like green tea and tea tree extracts, working in gentle and circular movements. “At the end, I would apply a bikini balm in my underarms and bikini area to relax and close the pores,” says Kapil.