If hair removal of any kind — shaving, waxing, lasering — is part of your summer skin-care routine, then you've probably also encountered dreaded ingrown hairs: tiny, sometimes painful bumps where hair has essentially gotten stuck underneath the skin's surface. "Ingrown hairs happen when the hair grows out sideways or inwards, rather than straight through the skin," says New York City-based dermatologist Doris Day, MD. "Skin then grows over the hair, making it ingrown."
Now, you might fall into one of two camps when it comes to the frustrating skin issue: Either you get them pretty rarely, or you see one popping up all. the. time. Unfortunately, the beauty myth that some people are more prone to ingrown hairs that others is true: According to Dr. Day, if you have curly or coarse texture, hairs can more easily become ingrown. "This is common in the bikini area where the hair is usually coarser and curlier," she adds.
As with anything, it's easier to prevent ingrowns from happening than to treat them once they've reared their head. Gentle exfoliation can help keep skin smooth and bump-free, and using a medicated cream or lightweight lotion post-hair removal can also keep follicles happy. (And if you were wondering, yes — your hair removal method of choice can affect your chance of getting ingrowns: "If you suffer from ingrown hairs commonly, I recommend sticking to shaving or depilatories rather than waxing or plucking," dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, explains. "When a hair has to grow fresh from beneath the surface of the skin, it is more likely to become trapped compared to a hair that is shaved at the level of the skin’s surface.")
That said, if you're ready to be done with them for good, Dr. Day recommends laser hair removal (if you're a good candidate), which eliminates the follicle altogether. As for what you can shop right now, we've rounded up our top picks for an ingrown-free summer, ahead.
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