If a hair curls inward and starts growing in rather than out of the skin, it’s referred to as an ingrown hair.

An ingrown hair can look like a small bump or dot on your skin. Sometimes they’re painful or itchy. Sometimes they become inflamed or infected and may contain pus.

Ingrown hairs are commonly found in areas of the body that are shaved or waxes, including:

What is tea tree oil?

Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil is a steam distillation of tea tree leaves. The plant is native to Australia and has been used by aboriginal Australians for centuries for coughs, colds, and healing.

A 2006 study showed that tea tree oil has antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It may also reduce wound healing time.

Tea tree oil can address ingrown hairs in three primary ways. It can help:

  1. prevent ingrown hairs
  2. heal ingrown hairs
  3. prevent infection of ingrown hairs

Prevention

Keeping your skin moisturized and germ free are important steps to take to prevent ingrown hairs. Practitioners of natural healing suggest treating areas prone to ingrown hairs with a mixture of 8 drops of tea tree oil and 1 ounce of shea butter.

Healing

Natural healers suggest using a combination of 20 drops of tea tree oil in 8 ounces of warm distilled water. This mixture may reduce inflammation and should also open pores, which can then loosen ingrown hairs.

Dip a clean washcloth into the water–tea tree oil mixture, wring out the cloth, and then apply it to the affected area, allowing the mixture to soak in. Repeat this process two times each day — in the morning and before bed.

Protection

The antibacterial properties of tea tree oil may be used to deal with infection associated with ingrown hairs.

Advocates of natural healing suggest adding 10 drops or so of tea tree oil to 1/4 cup of your regular body moisturizer to make it the moisturizer more effective and to reduce bacteria in areas likely to develop ingrown hairs.

Although tea tree oil is popular and widely used, there are some precautions you should know about:

  • Tea tree oil is toxic when ingested orally.
  • Tea tree oil can overdry the skin if used in excess.

In addition to tea tree oil, there are other oils that might be useful for dealing with ingrown hairs:

  • German chamomile essential oil. Natural healers consider German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) to be an effective skin moisturizer that can lubricate the skin to help prevent ingrown hairs. Advocates of natural healing suggest making a massage oil to use on areas of your body that are susceptible to ingrown hairs. Blend 10 drops of German chamomile essential oil with 1/2 cup of sweet almond oil and then massage the mixture into your skin just prior to soaking in a warm bath.
  • Lemongrass essential oil. Practitioners of natural healing feel that lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus, stapf) essential oil can be used for its antibacterial, astringent, and skin rejuvenating properties for dealing with ingrown hair. Blend 9 drops of lemongrass essential oil with 1/4 cup of jojoba oil, and then put one drop of the mixture directly on each ingrown hair.
  • Lavender essential oil. Lavender (Lavandula latifolia) essential oil is considered by natural healing practitioners to have skin-soothing properties. Natural healers suggest that this shaving cream might discourage ingrown hair. Using an electric mixer, combine 10 drops of lavender essential oil with 1/2 cup of coconut oil. In about 5 minutes, you’ll have a creamy white mixture to use as shaving cream.

Ingrown hairs can be unsightly and uncomfortable. Essential oils — like tea tree oil — can be useful in preventing and treating ingrown hair.

Discuss the use of essential oils for any condition with your doctor.

If your ingrown hairs persist, talk to your doctor about different treatment options.