The Causes of Ingrown Hair and its Removal

Ingrown hairs are often annoying and unsightly. On top of everything, they can become infected. This is why knowing how to prevent them comes in handy. Learn all about it here!
The Causes of Ingrown Hair and its Removal

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Ingrown hairs are a common problem that most people experience at some point throughout their lives. The causes vary. However, they’re often the result of waxing or shaving. (It’s part of the price we pay for hairless smooth skin).

The technical name for this problem is folliculitis. Also known as ingrown hair, this is a condition in which some of the hair that fails to grow settles under the skin instead. These ingrown hairs sometimes become infected and are quite annoying but rarely have serious consequences.

Ingrown hair usually appears on the beard, chin, or cheeks in men. It’s more frequent in the armpits, legs, and pubic areas in women. Also, the scalp is another area where these hairs tend to appear in both sexes.

Let’s take a closer look.

Description and causes of ingrown hairs

A pussy ingrown hair.
The hair originates on the inside of the skin and traces a path from the inside to the outside. This forms what we refer to as a hair follicle, a kind of canal. It originates deep inside the skin, right at the location of the cells that form the hair.

The sebaceous glands are also in this inside-out path and secrete a substance of oily composition. Its function is to maintain the skin properly hydrated. There are times when the exit from the canal becomes blocked or damaged, and this keeps the hair from coming out.

This is when the hair begins to grow inward, under the skin, and leads to ingrown hair. These usually give rise to small bumps or papules, which could become infected and pussy. The skin becomes darker in that area and there’s also pain and itching.

Causes of ingrown hair

The factors that most affect the formation of ingrown hairs are the structure of the hair and the shape of the follicle. It’s more common for a hair to become ingrown if it’s curly and if the hair follicle curves. This configuration makes the hair go back into the skin when you cut it.

It’s also common for hair to become ingrown when the skin is tight during waxing or shaving. This is because tension makes the hair retract into the skin after it’s cut and then, begins to grow inward.

Tweezing is also a frequent cause of ingrown hairs. It’s easy for part of it to remain under the outer layer of skin and continue to grow abnormally when plucked. This is more common when the hair has tight curls though.

Ingrown hairs can also lead to complications, as suggested by a study conducted by a team from Aventura Hospital and Medical Center in the USA. As you can see, it’s important to try not to scratch yourself and to maintain the area clean.


A woman shaving.
One of the recommendations for treating ingrown hairs is to skip shaving until the follicle heals.

The main care measure for ingrown hairs is to not shave or wax until the area heals. It takes from one to six months. However, the best alternative is to undergo laser treatment if you just can’t stand the Au Naturel look. This is because this technique removes hair at a deeper level and also inhibits hair growth.

Many women don’t follow the advice of specialists because society taught them that body hair is dirty. This is why it’s important to know that adhering to fashions at the expense of one’s own health isn’t only irresponsible but also dangerous.

The best thing to do in this case is to consult a dermatologist and run any doubts you may have about them. These types of specialists should be able to advise you on the best measures to take for your own particular condition.

As we have mentioned above, you must keep the affected area clean so wash it with water and mild soap. It’s also a good idea to rub the skin lightly with a horsehair glove while you bathe or shower and apply an antibiotic cream — under medical supervision.

Other interesting facts

The following measures are recommended to prevent the formation of ingrown hairs:

  • Don’t shave or wax. Instead, cut the hair with scissors or have laser hair removal instead.
  • Use an electric shaver and don’t shave too close to the skin.
  • However, if you opt for shaving then use a razor with a sharp blade.
  • Always apply shaving or depilatory cream.
  • Don’t stretch your skin before shaving or waxing.
  • Shave in the direction of the hair growth.
  • Use extreme hygiene during hair removal.
  • Exfoliate your skin frequently.
  • Apply a moisturizer after waxing or shaving.
  • Don’t wear overly tight clothes.

Consult a dermatologist to find out the causes of your ingrown hair

The causes of ingrown hair are benign in most cases but are still annoying and unsightly. Moreover, they can lead to infection if left untreated.

This is why you must consult a physician or dermatologist at the first sign of complications. Only they can offer the best advice in this regard. Likewise, it’s important not to use home remedies without their supervision.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Zaballos, P., Ara, M., Rodero, J., Grasa, M. P., Agurruza, J. M., Carapeto, F. J., & Seral, C. (2002). Foliculitis postdepilación por Mycobacterium chelonae. Actas Dermo-Sifiliográficas, 93(4), 259-262.
  • Winters RD, Mitchell M. Folliculitis. [Updated 2019 Sep 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from:
  • Aleem S, Majid I. Unconventional Uses of Laser Hair Removal: A Review. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2019;12(1):8–16. doi:10.4103/JCAS.JCAS_97_18
  • Winters, Richard., Mitchell, Mark. (2019).Folliculitis.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.