One of the biggest downsides of hair removal? Ingrown hair. Ugly, annoying and sometimes painful, they make removing hair an even more unpleasant experience. The point is to get smooth silky skin, not struggling with little red bumps.
Waxing and shaving are two hair removal options that increase the likelihood of ingrown hair outbreaks. Other hair removal methods such as laser hair removal, on the other hand, will help prevent their appearition.
What are ingrowns hairs?
Ingrown hairs are hair that do not rise through the skin. Instead, they grow back into the skin. The hair will either curl under the skin or grow sideway. There may be several reasons why the hair does not go through the dermis.
One, the hair follicle could be clogged with death skin. Body hair that is naturally curly will also have a harder time piercing through the skin. Especially around the bikini area. This is what will cause ingrown hair.
People usually notice ingrown hair. For one, it may be irritating to the skin. Then, it may also take the form of a red bump. Ingrown hair will feel like small pimples. Ingrown hair can be unpleasant to the touch and even cause pain.
Which is why you should not touch it nor fidget with it. Indeed, hands carry bacteria. Those may enter in contact with the ingrown hair and start a skin infection.
Although ingrown hairs are more likely to pop up around the bikini area and between the thighs, they can appear anywhere on the body. Especially if you wax or shave. Such areas include the face and neck, scalp, the armpits and even the legs.
What causes ingrown hair outbreaks?
Ingrown hairs do not discriminate. Everyone can get them. Some individuals may be more prone to ingrown hair than others. For example, people with curly or coarse hair are more likely to suffer from outbreaks.
This is because curly hair is more likely to bend back and re-enter the skin. Hormone level will also have an impact. People with high hormone levels are more likely to experience ingrown hair outbreaks.
Similarly, hormonal areas such as the face or bikini are more prone to outbreaks. Razor bumps, a specific type of ingrown hair, are more likely to appear in the beard area. Especially if you shave, wax or tweeze.
In this particular context, the hair grows back with a sharper edge. Then, it can poke back through the skin and get trapped under the dermis.
If you wax often, you may also experience ingrown hairs. This is because waxing makes the hair thinner. Thus, it may be unable to pierce through the skin. Waxing also removed the hair in the direction opposite to growth. As a consequence, the hair may grow sideways under the skin.
What is laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal relies on selective photothermolysis. It is the principle that allows lasers to be used to target a specific area/problem in the skin with minimal or no disruption to the surrounding normal skin.
In the context of laser hair removal, the target is the hair follicle.
During a laser session, the beam of light targets the pigments in the hair. Once the melanin has absorbed the energy, the latter travels down to the hair follicle. There the light turns into thermal energy. The heat damages the hair follicle which is then unable to produce any new hair.
Patients need several sessions. There are two reasons for that. One, some hair follicles may need several treatments to be permanently damaged. Second, the procedure relies on the hair growth cycle. It only works when the hair is in the anagen phase of growth.
During the phase, the hair and the follicle connect. Thus, the energy can go from the former to the latter. During any other stage, the energy is unable to get to its destination. As only 20% of all body hair is in the anagen phase of growth at any point in time, one session can only treat up to 20% of hair.
This is why people will need to come back for more sessions. So that every single hair on the chosen area is eventually treated. To allow the hair to move into the right stage of growth, sessions are six weeks apart.
How can laser hair removal help?
The principle behind laser hair removal is to damage the hair follicle to prevent future hair growth. The difference with other hair removal methods is that it does not target the hair itself.
For example waxing removes both the hair and the root. It interrupts hair growth for a time. However, the hair follicle stays intact. Shaving cuts the hair at the surface of the skin. Thus, the reason why ingrown hair is a possibility is because hair can still grow with those methods.
On the other hand, laser hair removal destroys the hair shaft. Thus, no hair can grow. If no hair can grow, there is no hair to curl under the skin or grow sideway. As laser treatments reduce hair growth, you will also be less likely to experience ingrown hair outbreaks.
How can I help prevent ingrown hair?
Whether you decide to try laser hair removal or not, there ways to reduce the likelihood of ingrown hair. One is to stop waxing especially if it is the main cause of your outbreaks. Not forever but at least for a time. So that you give time to your hair to completely grow.
You should also exfoliate the areas you wax or shave. As well as the ones more prone to ingrown hair outbreaks. Exfoliating will help remove dead skin cells and unclog hair follicles. It will also help hair pop out. You should do it two to three times a week.
If you decide to keep shaving, make sure you pick a razor blade specifically designed to reduce ingrown hair outbreaks. Single-bladed razors are designed for that purpose. You can also use retinoids to help clear dead skin so that hair can pierce the skin more easily.
Last but not least, you can give a go to laser hair removal. Since it reduces hair growth by damaging the hair follicle, no new hair grows. If there is no hair, it cannot become ingrown.