A man causes ingrown hairs

Ingrown Hair Causes

Ingrown hairs are hairs that have been shaved, tweezed, or waxed and grow back into the skin rather than up and away from it. Your skin reacts to ingrown hairs the same way it would react to any foreign object in your body: it becomes red and inflamed.

In order for an ingrown hair to develop, one of two things has to happen. Either a hair curls around and grows back into the skin rather than out, or dead skin cells block the pores, causing a hair to grow sideways into the skin. While ingrown hairs may seem inevitable at times, in reality there might be things you are doing that are causing the ingrown hairs to develop. Here are some of the most common causes. 

Naturally Course or Curly Hair

Certain hair types are naturally more prone to developing ingrown hairs simply because of the shape of the hair follicles and the direction your hair grows in. Since curly hair doesn’t come in straight, this makes it easier to grow back into the skin. This is especially true if you shave while your skin is dry, since this creates sharp edges, making it easier for the hairs to re-enter your skin. While there is little you can do to change your hair type, there are steps you can take to prevent ingrown hairs from occurring if you have curly hair. Rather than picking at ingrown hairs to try to remove them, use an alcohol swab and sterilized tweezers to remove hairs that are above the surface and not visibly infected.

Wearing Clothes That Are Too Tight

Wearing tight clothing can exacerbate ingrown hairs, especially if they are made of synthetic fabrics. To avoid this, try to stick to cotton clothing that is able to breathe and won’t rub against your skin and cause irritation.

Tugging at Your Skin While Shaving

If you are using a dull razor or shaving without using shaving cream, you might be holding the razor too close to your skin, which causes scraping as you shave. When you shave sensitive areas, always be sure to use good, thick shave gel and a sharp razor to prevent bumps and ingrown hairs. If possible, waxing is a better option, since it doesn’t break the hair.

Shaving or Waxing in the Wrong Direction

Always shave in the direction of the hair growth to avoid cutting the hair too short. This can especially be a problem if you pull your skin taut while shaving, since this can pull the hair back into your skin after you are done shaving.

Not Exfoliating After Hair Removal

To effectively prevent ingrown hairs, it is important to always exfoliate 48 hours after hair removal. This helps to let your skin soften, and applying a bikini balm to your bikini area after shaving can help to relax and close the pores to prevent ingrown hairs from developing.


Tweezing hairs to remove them can result in hair fragments being left under the skin surface, which will increase your risk for developing ingrown hairs. 

Last Updated: December 12, 2016