How to Prevent and Treat Ingrown Hairs

An inflammation or infection of the hair follicles, known as folliculitis, can occur anywhere on the skin or scalp. Folliculitis, also known as ingrown hairs, resembles pimple-like eruptions or crusty sores.

Folliculitis occurs when the hair follicles are damaged by shaving, waxing or hair plucking, or by friction from clothing, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD).

The inflammation can be either acute or chronic. The acute infection usually is caused by bacteria. Treatment depends on the severity. Sometimes the sores will resolve on their own. Other times, a topical or oral antibiotic will be used. Recurring folliculitis is not as responsive to antibiotics. Instead, dermatologists usually recommend stopping shaving, waxing or plucking for three months, to allow healthy hair to grow in.

To prevent folliculitis, dermatology experts offer these suggestions:

  • When shaving legs, use a moisturizing shave cream or gel for a smoother, less aggressive shave.

  • Exfoliate skin regularly. Dry, dead skin build-up can impede the outward growth of the hair. Glycolic body washes are great for preventing impacted hairs.

  • Change razors frequently. An old razor is a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause folliculitis.

  • If you have an ingrown hair, do not pick at it with a pin, needle or finger. That will make the condition worse and can lead to infection. If it does not go away with simple exfoliation or it seems to get worse, see your health care provider.