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Family Health

Ingrown Hair - Part 2

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
  • What type of razor do you use?
  • How often do you shave?
  • What shaving or other hair removal technique do you use?

What you can do in the meantime

In the days before your appointment with your doctor, if possible, stop shaving or using any form of hair removal. Ingrown hairs may worsen at first as they regrow, but eventually they'll improve.

Tests and diagnosis

Your doctor can usually diagnose ingrown hairs with a physical exam and a discussion of your hair removal habits.

Treatments and drugs

To inhibit ingrown hairs, stop shaving, tweezing or waxing. If you must remove hairs, consider laser hair removal, which removes the hair deeper in the follicle and inhibits regrowth better. It may take several treatments to prevent regrowth.

Medications

Your doctor may prescribe certain medications to help manage your condition. They include:

  • Retinoids. Your doctor may prescribe creams that help remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin (exfoliation), such as tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A, others). Retinoids can help alleviate the thickening (hyperkeratosis) and darkening (hyperpigmentation) of the skin that often occurs on dark skin prone to ingrown hairs.
  • Corticosteroids. A topical steroid ointment can help control inflammation.
  • Antibiotics. A topical antibiotic ointment can prevent infection caused by scratching the affected area. For more severe infection, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics.

Lifestyle and home remedies

To release ingrown hairs, you can:

  • Wash the affected area using a washcloth or soft-bristled toothbrush, using a circular motion, for several minutes before shaving and at bedtime
  • Use a sterile needle, inserting it under hair loops, to gently lift hair tips that are embedded in your skin

Prevention

To help prevent ingrown hairs, use hair removal methods that make ingrown hairs less likely.

If you shave:

  • Wet the hair to be removed with warm water
  • Avoid close shaves and consider using an electric razor
  • Use a lubricating shave gel
  • Use a single-blade razor
  • Use a sharp blade
  • Don't pull your skin taut while shaving
  • Shave in the direction of hair growth
  • Rinse the blade after each stroke
  • Apply cool compresses to the shaved area when you're finished

Other methods of hair removal include:

  • Electric razor. Avoid the closest shave setting.
  • Chemical hair remover. The chemicals may irritate your skin, so test on a small area first.
  • Eflornithine hydrochloride cream (Vaniqa). Not actually a hair remover, this prescription cream decreases hair regrowth in women when combined with another hair removal method.