Avoid those annoying ingrown hairs

Dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camp's tips for avoiding ingrown hairs.

Years ago when I first moved to New York to start my dermatology residency my skin did not cooperate. During my first few weeks of training I developed pink stubborn bumps on my neck and beard area. It made me anxious because I didn’t think patients would take me seriously if my skin wasn’t clear.

It turns out I was developing ingrown hairs after I started using a new razor. I was trying to get a very close shave by using a razor with multiple blades, but when the hairs grew back they were getting trapped under my skin and creating areas of inflammation that showed up as pimple-like blemishes.

What I learned was that to avoid ingrown hairs I had to give up the dream of having a perfectly close shave. By changing to a razor that didn’t shave too close, my beard hair stuck out just enough to continue to grow above the skin instead of underneath it.

Ingrown hairs occur when your hair is unable to breach the surface of your skin or it grows back down into the skin. This may happen as a result of trying to get a tight shave, having naturally curly hair that may kink as it grows, or if your skin does not exfoliate enough and traps hairs in place.

To address ingrown bumps choose a razor with a single blade, shave in the direction of hair growth (not against the grain), and use a facial cleanser with an active ingredient that can help exfoliate skin, like salicylic acid.

If the ingrown hairs are not responding to the above treatments then it is a good time to see a dermatologist to discuss what prescription medication and procedures are available to “clip” your growing problem.

Brendan Camp, MD FAAD Board certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology

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