Updated 5/12/20. Many people get their bikini line waxed monthly, and getting ingrown hairs certainly comes with the territory. Ingrown hairs can be very painful (and noticeable). Not only do they have a swollen, blemish-like appearance, but once they heal, they often leave behind red or purple marks similar to post-breakouts scars.
What Exactly is an Ingrown Hair?
An ingrown hair occurs when, as a hair grows back after waxing or shaving, it curls back into the skin or grows sideways. Essentially, it gets stuck without a direct pathway to get out, which can result in a sore, red, inflamed bump (an infection). Once an ingrown hair resolves itself and comes out, you’re left with a dark pigmented mark that can linger for months—no fun!
Who is Most Prone to Ingrown Hairs?
Absolutely anyone can get ingrown hairs, but you’re more likely to get them if you have dark, thick hair (especially curly hair).
My Process for Preventing Ingrown Hairs
Up until nine months ago when I finally decided to pursue laser hair removal, I was a regular, monthly waxer for over twenty-five years. I always had both my bikini area and lower legs done, so I know all too well about ingrown hairs—particularly in the bikini area. Once you get them they can be pretty difficult to get rid of, so prevention is ideal.
Here is the strategy that worked well for me when it came to preventing ingrown hairs. I hope it can help you, too! (P.S. The picture above is of me in Croatia. What a life!)
Day 1 – Day 6 (Post-Wax)
For the first five days after getting waxed, the skin is fairly sensitive. It’s important to not be aggressive with this area while it’s healing. I would always apply a hydrating body lotion to the area to keep the skin cells moist, but I didn’t do anything else.
If you are having trouble with redness and need to calm the skin, you can do two things:
- Ice the affected area
- Apply a cooling, gel-based mask (ideally with antibacterial properties)
Day 7 – Day 14
At this point, the hairs are not yet ready to come to the surface of the skin, but they are getting closer. This is where you need to start exfoliating with an acid serum to ensure the hair can come out cleanly once it’s ready. The idea is that exfoliating removes the surface layer of dead cells from your skin so that nothing is blocking the hair or forcing it to grow back in another direction.
Every other day, right after showering, I would apply a thin layer of my Smoothing Body Serum, which contains a blend of glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acids. You can also use a liquid acid toner and wipe it over the area. Regardless of which exfoliant you use, be sure to follow with a moisturizing lotion.
Day 15 – Day 30
About two weeks out from your bikini wax, you may feel the skin starting to get a bit prickly as some of the hairs are wanting to come out. This is also when the skin tends to start getting itchy. At this point, you really need to start using physical exfoliants to gently scrub at the skin and loosen the hair from its surrounding skin. This will keep it from getting “stuck” and give it a pathway to come out easily through the follicle. I recommend that you use a physical scrub every other day, but go easy and don’t scrub too hard.
You have many options for physical exfoliants:
- A DIY body scrub
- A sugar body scrub
- A baby washcloth
- A loofah or other exfoliating body cloth
- A dry body brush
Once again, it’s important to always follow with a body lotion or skin oil to keep the skin cells moist. This also helps keep the hairs soft, which makes them less likely to poke at the surrounding skin and cause irritation.
Because the skin can be a bit red after you’ve used an exfoliating scrub or loofah, you don’t want to use an acid exfoliator after. Instead, alternate between a physical scrub and an acid exfoliator. This means that, at this point, you’re essentially exfoliating every day, just alternating between two methods. Please monitor your skin carefully and back off if the skin is looking or feeling irritated—that’s the opposite of what we want and will work against you.
At some point during this 15-30 day period is also when most people need to get another bikini wax, at which point you would start this routine all over again.
What To Do if You Develop an Ingrown Hair
No matter how good you are about your routine, chances are a stubborn ingrown hair will find a way to take hold eventually. So, what to do if you do get an ingrown hair?
The first thing to know is that you can’t (and shouldn’t) try to squeeze or “pop” an ingrown hair the way you would a pimple. There’s a lot of hardened skin that forms over an ingrown hair, so you’d have to squeeze really hard to get it out. This could cause damage and a mark that lingers long after the infection has healed.
Here’s how to get rid of an ingrown hair:
- Sanitize the area around the hair and make sure your hands are clean.
- Use a lancet (you can get these at a drugstore or pharmacy, they’re the same kind used by diabetics for finger pricks) to pierce the skin and create an opening. This way, there will be a pathway for the hair to come out.
- In some cases, you may have to gently move the tip of the lancet around to find the hair and physically lift it out. Depending on where the hair is in its life cycle, it could still be “live” (connected to the follicle). This means that, once you get the end of the hair out, you may have to gently tweeze it to fully remove it.
- After removing the hair, apply an antibiotic ointment to the area.
- Wait at least three days before doing any physical or chemical exfoliation to allow the area to heal.
Of course, an ingrown hair will eventually resolve on its own without intervention. That said, the longer an infected or inflamed bump lingers, the worse the mark it leaves behind will be. If you can bypass Mother Nature by (responsibly!) taking matters into your own hands, you can minimize the damage.
Just like with a pimple though, if an ingrown hair isn’t coming out fairly easily, slow your roll and wait until it’s loosened. You don’t want to end up doing more harm than good.
If you follow my prevention plan and modify as needed, you should really be able to get your ingrown hairs to be a thing of the past like I have and hopefully won’t have to worry about extraction. If you find you continue to struggle with a significant amount of ingrown hairs, you might consider laser hair removal. The downside, of course, is that treatments can get pricey and aren’t ideal for all skin types. Those with darker skin tones should be especially careful when it comes to lasers since there is a higher risk of triggering hyperpigmentation. Talk to an experienced technician for a consult to learn if laser hair removal would be a good option for you. I hope you found this post helpful!
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”