If you regularly remove hair from your body, then you’ve likely come across ingrown hairs from time to time. These bumps develop when hair becomes trapped within the follicle, loops around, and starts growing back into the skin.

Ingrown hairs can be red, painful, and filled with pus. They most often occur on the face, neck, pubic area, and anywhere else you might remove hair. Unlike a pimple, you can actually see the trapped hair inside of an ingrown hair.

While it’s tempting to pick at an ingrown hair, it’s best to resist. Squeezing or picking at an ingrown hair can make the bump worse and possibly lead to an infection.

Your best bet is to encourage the hair to naturally come out. This can be done by using creams designed for ingrown hair treatment.

Read on to learn about the different types of creams you can use to prevent and heal ingrown hairs.

Exfoliants can be an effective tool in an overall skin care regimen for some people. They may reduce the likelihood of developing ingrown hairs, too.

Exfoliating creams may help treat and prevent ingrown hairs by shedding the upper layer of skin so the trapped hairs can break through.

Look for creams containing ingredients that are known to help exfoliate the skin, such as salicylic acid (a type of beta hydroxy acid) or alpha hydroxy acid, such as glycolic or lactic acid.

If you have an ingrown hair that’s red and filled with pus, these could be early signs of an infection of the hair follicle, called folliculitis.

Even if your ingrown hair isn’t infected, it’s important to take action now to soothe irritated skin so you may prevent infection from occurring.

Certain body creams can potentially reduce irritation and inflammation. This may possibly reduce the risk of an infection.

Consider products with one or more of the following ingredients:

When you’re dealing with irritated, inflamed skin that’s characteristic of ingrown hairs, you’ll also want to avoid creams with alcohol, dyes, and fragrances. These can make your symptoms worse, potentially leading to even more ingrown hairs.

Often used in hair removal, depilatory creams contain chemicals that help dissolve hair from their follicles. In theory, it might make sense to try depilatories to remove ingrown hairs, too.

However, depilatory creams just don’t work in this way. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration advises against using depilatories on irritated or inflamed skin.

Additionally, depilatory creams are known for side effects like burning and blisters. So, if you have ingrown hairs, you could cause further irritation to your skin by using depilatories.

Due to the delicate nature of ingrown hairs, it’s helpful to adopt hair removal strategies to try and prevent them.

While it may be impossible to prevent them completely, the following tips can help reduce their number and severity:

  • Properly prep your skin before shaving by applying shaving cream on damp skin.
  • Use warm water when shaving.
  • Replace your razor every few sessions.
  • Avoid razors that have “conditioning strips.” They can cause irritation.
  • Use an electric shaver, if possible.
  • If you wax, be sure to wait at least a few weeks between sessions so your hair is long enough for removal. Overdoing it can lead to irritated hair follicles.
  • When tweezing, make sure you remove your hair in the direction that it grows to prevent irritation.
  • Follow all instructions when using depilatories. Be sure not to overuse these chemicals.
  • No matter which hair removal method you use, always follow up with a soothing lotion or ointment to prevent inflammation. For those with acne-prone skin, look for noncomedogenic and oil-free products.
  • Consider using Differin on your face and neck. It’s a type of over-the-counter retinoid that can help keep skin clear.

Ingrown hairs don’t require medical treatment unless they become infected. Signs of an infected ingrown hair include:

  • a large amount of pus
  • oozing from the bump
  • enlargement of the bump, or increased swelling and redness
  • pain and discomfort
  • if the ingrown hairs result in scarring

Treatments for ingrown hairs may include oral or topical antibiotics. Steroid creams can also help reduce pain and swelling.

You might also consider seeing a doctor for ingrown hair treatment if the bump isn’t infected, but is otherwise extremely bothersome and hasn’t gone down with home treatments. In such cases, a doctor may be able to remove the trapped hairs to give you some relief.

If you get frequent infections from ingrown hairs, your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist for help with hair removal. Some more long-term hair removal solutions include laser hair removal or electrolysis.

Ingrown hairs are common, especially if you remove your hair on a regular basis. Most cases clear up without treatment within several days.

However, if you’re looking to get rid of an ingrown hair a bit quicker, then you can try exfoliating creams and soothing creams to gently encourage the ingrown hair to break through.

Never try to pop an ingrown cyst. This will only cause further irritation and may lead to possible infections and scarring.

See a dermatologist if you need help treating ingrown hairs or if you have recurring cases that you want to help prevent.