An ingrown hair is a hair that grows back into the skin. It is common in people who have tight, curly hair and often results after hair removal. When such hair is shaved or tweezed, it grows back into the skin. This may lead to signs of inflammation.
Where are Ingrown Hairs Commonly Seen?
Ingrown hairs are most prevalent in black men who shave the hair on their face. They can grow on the cheeks, chin and neck. But they can be seen on anybody who shaves, waxes or tweezes to remove hair.
In females, ingrown hairs are commonly seen in the region of armpits, pubis and legs.
What is the Cause Behind Ingrown Hair?
It is the structure of the hair and the direction of its growth that is responsible for the development of ingrown hair. If a person has tight curly hair because of curved hair follicles, there is a tendency for the hair to re-enter the skin when it is cut and starts growing again. This is especially true if the hair is cut when it is dry. This created sharp edges that are more likely to grow back into the skin.
In case the skin is pulled taut while shaving, the cut hair tends to get redrawn back into the skin. Similarly, during tweezing, a part of hair is left behind under the surface of the skin. This is likely to result in ingrown hair.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Ingrown Hair?
A hair growing back into the skin is treated like a foreign particle by our body. As our body tries to fight against it, there are all the signs of inflammation. Some of the common features of ingrown hairs are:
- Development of small, round papules on the surface of the skin.
- At times, these papules may get infected and become filled with pus forming pustules.
- The skin in the affected area may become hyper pigmented.
- Because of the presence of inflammation, the area may become red, painful and itchy.
- On examining carefully, one can see the ingrown hairs under the surface of the skin.
Are There Any Complications of Ingrown Hairs?
If the ingrown hairs that produce symptoms are not attended, they tend to become chronic. In such cases, they may give rise to complications. Some of the problems that may arise because of chronic ingrown hairs include:
- Infection of the hair follicle because of persistent scratching.
- Darkening of the skin above the ingrown hair.
- Permanent scarring which may even lead to the formation of keloids.
- A condition called as pseudofolliculitis barbae, commonly known as razor bumps, may also develop.
Prevention of Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hair can be prevented by taking the direction of the growth of the hair under consideration while shaving. Moistening the hairs or softening them by using shaving creams can also help. Skin should not be pulled tightly while removing hair.
Treatment of Ingrown Hairs
A sterile needle can be used to lift the embedded hair after inserting it into the hair loop. Moistening the area and moving a soft bristled toothbrush over it in circular motion for several minutes can also help in releasing the embedded hair.
Creams containing retinoids can be used for exfoliating the skin. This removes the dead cells in the skin and helps in reducing the hyper pigmentation.
In case of inflammation, the doctor may prescribe topical antibiotics or steroids.