Some of the most common symptoms of an ingrown hair include skin inflammation, mild pain, itchiness, and redness. The condition isn’t usually serious, and it will usually go away on its own if the area is kept clean and dry. Problems are more likely if the condition isn’t noticed or if multiple hairs in a single location become ingrown. These situations can lead to infection, which can result in blood and pus near the hair follicle. Most experts recommend that people stay proactive about ingrowths and get help if things seem to be getting worse or spreading. Treatment is usually fairly straightforward and non-invasive, but is usually easier the earlier in the process it’s started.
Basics of the Condition
An ingrown hair happens when hair follicles get disoriented and actually start growing down into the skin rather than up and out of the body. They often look like small red pimples. There are a number of causes for this condition, but shaving is one of the top culprits; razors that are too dull, pressure that is too hard, and lack of lubrication can all be culprits. Skin friction can also be a cause, particularly if hair follicles are pressed beneath dense clothing or shoes for long periods of time. Recognizing the symptoms early on is often really important to getting things cured.
The most common sign of an ingrown hair is a small bump on the skin, and sometimes a hair just under the surface of the skin will be visible, too. In more severe cases, inflammation will also be present. Unlike other conditions, like skin rashes, which often feature a group of small bumps, inflammation associated with an ingrown hair is usually isolated around a single hair follicle. Typically, inflammation associated with an ingrown hair is initially quite minor, but it can increase as the hair itself grows longer.
Mild pain is also very common. This pain is usually quite localized, usually right around the site of the ingrowth. The best treatment is usually to remove the problem hair, but applying ice and taking a mild pain killer can also provide more immediate relief.
Redness and Itchiness
Ingrown hairs might also cause what seems to be a red, itchy rash. In most cases both of these symptoms are related to the pressure the hair is putting on the surface-level skin. It’s usually best to avoid using creams or topical anti-itch remedies since these can block the skin’s pores and further insulate the hair, which can actually make the problem worse. People should usually try to avoid scratching the area, too; this can break the skin and possibly spread infection
Possibility of Infection
In some cases, ingrown hairs do become infected. Common symptoms in these instances include pooling blood, scabbing, and sores over the site that seem to ooze pus. Blood and pus are both signals that the problem has gotten serious, and it’s usually a good idea for people in these situations to get medical help.
Keeping the area clean and dry and free of irritants is usually the best course of action. Within a day or so, the hair should right itself. Rubbing the area with a gentle exfoliant or astringent can help speed the process. If the area is particularly inflamed, a small amount of steroid cream can provide some relief, though most experts recommend washing the area soon after to allow for good air circulation.
In extreme cases the hair can be removed. This can sometimes be done at home, often with a sterile needle or small set of tweezers, but it’s more common to visit a health care expert. Professionals have the tools and expertise to both release the problem hair and recommend a care regimen that will prevent further complications.
A number of precautions may be taken to reduce the chances of getting an ingrown hair. Shaving with a clean razor that is very sharp and avoiding shaving over pimples or other small bumps will generally help. In addition, recognizing the symptoms of an ingrown hair at an early stage and treating it quickly will usually help avoid infection and serious discomfort.