If you develop a painful bump on your face, and you’re positive that it’s not a pimple, you’re probably suffering from an ingrown hair.

An ingrown facial hair occurs when a hair that’s been shaved, waxed, or tweezed curls and grows sideways into your skin instead of toward the surface. They can also happen when dead skin cells clog hair follicles, forcing the hair to grow at a different angle under your skin. The odds of having an ingrown hair increases if your hair is naturally curly.

Signs of an ingrown hair include a red or raised bump, or you may have larger painful bumps similar to cysts or boils. Ingrown facial hair can also be itchy, uncomfortable, and unsightly. But in most cases, this problem improves on its own without treatment. Aside from being annoying, most ingrown facial hairs are rarely a cause of concern. An exception is if an ingrown hair becomes infected. In this case, you may need an antibiotic to treat the infection.

If you have ingrown facial hair, one of the best ways to prevent reoccurrence is to avoid shaving or removing hair from your face. Of course, this isn’t always an option. However, there are techniques and products to prevent ingrown hairs from happening.

1. Wash your face daily

Washing your face with only water may not be enough to prevent ingrown facial hair. To avoid this problem, wash your face daily with a mild cleanser to remove any dirt or oil that’s clogging your pores. This is important, because clogged pores raise the risk for ingrown hairs.

If possible, use cleansers that exfoliate your skin. Rub your face in a circular motion to remove dead skin cells.

If you’re waxing facial hair, apply a warm compress to your face a few minutes before applying the wax. This technique opens your pores and prevents ingrown hairs.

Here are a few cleansers that might be helpful:

2. Improve your shaving technique

Poor shaving techniques also add to the risk of ingrown facial hair. Some people pull their skin taut while shaving, but this often results in cutting the hair too short. It’s also important to shave in the direction of your hair to avoid cutting the strands too short. If you notice facial hair growing downward, shave in this direction.

3. Switch your razor blade

The closer you shave, the greater your risk for ingrown facial hairs. For a safer shave, opt for a single-edge razor blade. Because double-edge blades cut the hair at a deeper point, you’re more likely to develop ingrown hairs with these razors. If you’re using an electric razor, don’t set the razor at the closest setting.

Perhaps try one of these:

Razors:

Electric shavers:

4. Clean your razor blade

Using the same razor blade over and over again also increases the risk of ingrown hairs. You should not only frequently change the blade in your razor, but also clean your blade after each stroke. A dirty blade can cause bacteria to get into your pores and cause an infection. Rinse your blade with water after each stroke, and use an alcohol-based cleaner after shaving.

For an electric razor, try a cleaning solution, such as:

5. Use shaving cream

Shaving a dry face is a surefire way to develop ingrown facial hair. As a rule of thumb, keep your facial hair as lubricated and moist as possible. Prior to shaving, apply shaving cream and water to your face. This alleviates dry, brittle hair, thus allowing you to remove hair with a single stroke.

You might try:

6. Apply aftershave moisturizer

In addition to taking care of your face before and during a shave, you should take care of your skin after shaving. Applying moisturizer or creams can keep your skin and facial hair soft between shaves.

Get into the habit of applying cold water or witch hazel to your face immediately after shaving or waxing. Both can reduce irritation, tighten pores, moisturize, and help treat ingrown hairs. Witch hazel also stops bacteria from growing in hair follicles.

You might find these moisturizers and aftershaves soothing:

7. Use chemical hair removers

If you have problems with ingrown facial hair, switching from a razor to a hair removal cream may provide relief. Depilatories are creams and lotions designed specifically to remove unwanted hair, even on sensitive parts of your body like the bikini line and face.

Always do a skin test to check for allergies beforehand.

You might find the following brands helpful with ingrown hairs:

The bottom line

Ingrown facial hair can be annoying and painful, but with the right products and techniques, you can reduce your risk for this problem. Some people are more prone to ingrown hair and don’t respond to home therapy. If you’re unable to self-treat, laser hair removal may offer lasting results and alleviate ingrown hair. Talk to your doctor about this option, as well as other options for managing this condition.

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