Ingrown hairs are hairs that have grown back into the skin. They can cause small round, and often itchy or painful, bumps. Ingrown hair bumps can happen anywhere hair grows, including your scalp and the back of your neck.
Hair removal, such as shaving, increases the risk of getting ingrown hairs. Ingrown hairs are also more common for people who have coarse or curly hair.
We’ll explore all the things you can do to remedy and avoid ingrown hair.
If an ingrown hair does not go away without treatment within a few days, here are several things you can do to help speed up the process:
- Apply hot compresses to the area at least three times a day. This will help soften the skin allowing the hairs to more readily break free.
- Follow up the hot compresses with gentle scrubbing, using a moist washcloth.
- You can also use a facial scrub or an at-home scrub made from sugar or salt and oil.
- Apply salicylic acid to the area to remove dead skin cells. You can also use a shampoo formulated with salicylic acid.
- Do not continue to shave the area as this will further aggravate the skin, potentially leading to infection.
- Shampoo your head daily with a soothing, antiseptic shampoo, such as one containing tea tree oil.
- Moisturize your scalp each time you shampoo.
- Refrain from covering your head with a hat or bandana. Anything that causes friction against the skin may irritate it, prolonging the appearance of ingrown hairs.
Do’s and don’ts to prevent ingrown hairs from getting infected:
- Don’t scratch. Your fingertips and nails can introduce bacteria into the hair follicle, and may also break the skin, allowing infection to occur.
- Don’t shave. Shaving may cut the skin, and cause additional irritation.
- Don’t pick. Don’t pick at the ingrown hair or “pop” it to try to coax it out from under the skin.
- Shampoo daily. Keep your scalp clean with daily shampooing.
- Use antiseptic. Proactively use a topical antiseptic cream or wash. You can apply these with clean fingers or with cotton balls.
If the ingrown hair becomes infected despite your best efforts, treat it with topical antibiotics. Keep the area clean and try to coax out the hair with gentle scrubbing. If the infection persists, your doctor will be able to prescribe medications which can help.
Those tiny bumps may be hard to resist picking at, especially if you can see the hair underneath.
You know you should resist, but if you can’t stop yourself from picking, make sure never to touch the surface of your scalp with hands that have not been freshly washed.
Here are other things you can do to prevent worsening your ingrown hair and avoiding infection:
- Avoid letting your scalp become sweaty. Try to keep the area dry, as well as clean.
- Keep antiseptic, or antibacterial lotion with you at all times, and use liberally on the area after you touch it.
- If the ingrown hair is poking out of the skin, and you can grab it with a tweezer, do so. Make sure to sterilize the tweezer first, and don’t dig at the hair if it resists coming out.
It may be hard to completely prevent ingrown hairs on your head from happening, especially if you have curly, coarse hair. Strategies to try include:
- Never shave your scalp when it’s dry. Let the pores open up first by using warm water or shampooing the area.
- Always use shaving cream or another lubricating substance.
- Never use a dull razor.
- Shave with, instead of against, the grain.
- A slightly-stubbly scalp is better than one covered with ingrown hair bumps and infections. Surrender your desire for the closest possible shave and use a single-edge razor or electric shaver instead of a multi-blade razor.
- Moisturize your scalp after shaving, ideally with an after-shave lotion or other type of moisturizer.
- Wash and rinse your scalp daily to eliminate dead skin cells from accumulating.
- Towel-dry your scalp after shampooing. This can help to coax unseen ingrown hairs out before they turn into bumps.
Ingrown hairs often go away on their own, requiring no treatment. Those which do not resolve easily can irritate the scalp causing red bumps to occur alone or in clusters (razor burn). These bumps may itch or hurt.
Resist touching your scalp and try washing your hands more often so you don’t introduce irritants or an infection to that part of your scalp.