Ingrown Hair – A Common Skin Condition
An ingrown hair happens when the sharp tip of the hair curls back or grows sideways into the skin. It may be seen on any skin area that has been frequently shaved or waxed such as the face, neck, armpits, legs, and pubic region. Ingrown hair is a very common skin condition occurring primarily after puberty. Ingrown hairs tend to be more common in areas with coarse hairs, like the bikini area in women, and beard and neck in men. Rarely, an ingrown hair may also appear in other skin parts, such as the eyelid. Generally, an ingrown hair is medically harmless, yet it may become cosmetically disfiguring and lead to scarring.
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Hair that is cut short and close to the skin creates a sharp tip that can more easily pierce the skin to cause an ingrown hair. Improper shaving techniques, waxing, as well as common friction from tight clothing can all cause ingrown hairs. Although an ingrown hair is primarily caused by improper or aggressive hair removal, it sometimes occurs naturally as too much dead skin debris blocks the hair follicle opening, causing the hair to grow sideways.
Nearly everyone will have an ingrown hair at some time.Men generally have thicker courser hairs especially on the beard area which can cause a condition termed Pseudofolliculitis barbae or on the groin area in a condition known as pilonidal sinus. Women who regularly wax or shave are more prone to the condition.
Symptoms include itch and tenderness at the ingrown hair area. They can appear as pinpoint red or pink bumps on the skin. Sometimes, the curled hair can be barely visible at the center of the bump. Small pus bumps or dry red bumps are often scattered over an area that has been shaved recently. Often the bumps start a few days to weeks after hair removal and get worse as the hairs grow back. Acne whiteheads, called milia, may also be in the same areas as ingrown hairs.
Individuals who have ingrown hairs may experience a painful acne-like eruption after shaving. Pustules and rare abscesses may form on the ingrown hair sites due to the infection with common skin bacteria, such as Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas.
Laser hair removal is an excellent option for treatment and prevention of ingrown hairs. Laser treatment is applied to an area to permanently decrease the number of hair follicles. Laser hair removal is very fast, efficient, and safe. Clinical studies have shown Laser to be one of the preferred treatments for chronic ingrown hairs. Medical removal of the ingrown hair by small incision and pulling out the hair is common for the treatment of ingrown hairs. However, this does not prevent the condition from returning and when repeated there is more risk of scarring as a result.