There are a couple of different ways to treat an infected ingrown hair, including covering the area with a warm compress, creating a skin “mask” of extracts like eucalyptus and natural clay powder, and exfoliating the area with a gentle scrub. All of these methods work to combat inflammation and keep the site free of debris and oil, which can cause the infection to spread. Using a commercial astringent or healing cream might also help. Whatever method you choose, it’s important to try to keep the site clean and dry. Thick moisturizing lotions aren’t usually the best choice, since these can actually promote bacterial growth, and can clog the skin’s pores even more. Infections that are oozing pus are a particular concern here, since keeping the conditions dry is one of the best ways to help keep outside debris from entering at the site where the pus is exiting.
Pressing a warm, wet compress onto the infected area several times a day can help open pores, allowing pus to drain from the infected area. The skin should also be cleansed twice daily — once in the morning, and again before bed — with warm water and an over-the-counter antibacterial bar soap or cleanser to help remove dirt and kill bacteria. An application of antibacterial or hydrocortisone cream after cleansing can help kill existing bacteria, reduce swelling, and prevent further infection as well.
Many people also use a cosmetic “mask” to cover the site and draw out moisture and, ideally, harmful bacteria. Masks can sometimes be purchased from health and beauty suppliers, but they’re usually also pretty easy to make at home. Eucalyptus oil is a popular home remedy because of its disinfectant properties. The oil can be blended with a natural cosmetic clay powder, which can be purchased in health food stores, and applied to the ingrown hair, then covered with a light bandage. Clay can help draw out the pus and fluid, and eucalyptus oil can help disinfect the hair follicle. This sort of mask is most commonly used at night; the skin should be thoroughly cleansed and allowed to air dry the next morning.
Gently exfoliating an infected ingrown hair every two days during the healing period can be helpful as well. Exfoliation can help remove dirt and excess oil from skin, and choosing an exfoliating cleanser that contains salicylic acid can help clear clogged pores even faster. In general you should be careful not to break the pus-filled area of the ingrown hair, though, as doing so may result in spreading the infection to other areas of the skin. As tempting as it might be to really scrub at the area, a gentle touch is usually best.
Topical Remedies and Pain Relief
Other store-bought items can help alleviate the discomfort of an infected ingrown hair and help speed up the healing process. For example, applying witch hazel, a gentle astringent found in most grocery and drug stores, can help disinfect and dry out the infected hair follicle. Applying a light oatmeal lotion may help with the itchiness that often accompanies an infected ingrown hair, and any swelling or pain can often be treated with an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen.
Once you’ve treated the infection, it’s important to think about ways to prevent the same thing from happening again. Ingrown hairs most often happen as a result of shaving, when stubble grows back down on itself rather than coming back up in a normal fashion. Using plenty of shaving cream and making sure that the site is moist and clean before shaving is one way to reduce the risk of ingrowth; reducing friction and irritation to the site once you’re done with your razor is another. Keeping the area clean and dry throughout the day is a good idea, too. Not all ingrown hairs can be prevented, but caring for them once they happen can prevent infection and discomfort later on.