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All you’ve ever wanted to know about ingrown hairs

Nothing takes the post-shave spring out of your step like an ingrown hair. It’s not until a pesky little strand starts to burrow the wrong way under your skin that you realise just how much pain and irritation something that’s only microscopic in width can cause. 

Ingrown hairs undermine all the effort that you’ve put into shaving. After all, given the choice, you’d probably have picked staying fuzzy over the freshly blotched and irritated skin that you now find yourself sporting on the way to a job interview or a date. However, ingrown hairs are first and foremost a sign that something’s awry with your shaving technique, so just knowing how to avoid them can make all the difference. 

At Wilkinson Sword we’re in the business of freeing your skin, by giving you the tools for the very best shave that leaves you feeling confident, comfortable and ready to face whatever the day brings. That doesn’t just mean designing and building revolutionary razors for men and for women like we’ve been doing for over a century, but offering practical tips and advice that’ll keep you on the right track every time you step in front of the bathroom mirror. 

So, from the shaving experts at Wilkinson Sword, here’s everything you need to know about ingrown hairs – and how to perfect a shave that steers clear of them every single time. 

What are ingrown hairs?

After you’ve finished shaving, stray hairs that you’ve just cut can curl themselves back under your skin and continue growing under the surface. These tiny hairs often create small pimple-like bumps on the skin – which can be colourless or red. They cause itching, redness, swelling and pain and can sometimes contain pus. 

 

Where do ingrown hairs occur?

Ingrown hairs don’t discriminate. Anywhere they can dig themselves back under your skin, they’re liable to – so that means anywhere that you shave. Whether it’s your face, neck, legs, armpits, chest, back or pubic hair, ingrown hairs affect both men and women. In particular, they tend to grow in areas where the hair is more thick and coarse, as dense hair can curl back under the skin more easily.

 

How long do ingrown hairs last for?

This is a more tricky question, as it depends on the individual. The type of skin you’ve got, whether it’s dry, oily or particularly sensitive can all be a factor in how long an ingrown hair sticks around for. Plus, like so many things, the more you itch it, the longer it’ll take to heal. It can be just a couple of days, but equally an ingrown hair might last for a couple of weeks.

How do you get rid of an ingrown hair?

Most ingrown hairs will go away by themselves – they just require a little patience and as little itching as possible. However, there are a few steps that you can take to speed up the process of your skin recovering…

  • Soak the affected area in warm water at least once a day. Alternatively, you could apply a warm, damp towel to the area for a few minutes
  • Exfoliate daily to remove any dead skin which can prevent the ingrown hair from breaking out
  • Use a moisturising cream to help heal the dry skin and remove any dead skin cells, but make sure it’s not a greasy or oily one
  • Try to pull the hair out carefully with tweezers if it appears to be breaking out through the skin
  • Don’t shave the area until it’s completely healed


The worst case scenario is that an ingrown hair gets infected, and this is less likely to happen if you make sure you do all of the above. However, if it does happen, see a dermatologist so that you can get a prescription for antibiotics. 

 

Preventing ingrown hairs when shaving

Ingrown hairs are a total pain in whichever part of your anatomy is in question. However, they’re not an inevitability, and careful shaving with the right technique goes a long way. 

Having said that, it’s not as if there’s a magical anti-ingrown-hair method that works for everyone. Not only is everyone’s skin different, but men’s and women’s body hair respond differently to shaving, and there’s a right and a wrong way to shave most parts of your body. 

In some areas, it’s a good idea to shave against the grain, whereas in others it’s definitely not – but overall it’s often considered an effective way to prevent ingrown hairs.

You can read our in-depth shaving guides below, all of which contain the kinds of skin-protecting techniques that’ll keep you off the road to ingrown hairs…


Of course, whatever your skin is like, whoever you are and whichever part of your body you’re shaving, there are certain universal rules that can help you avoid ingrown hairs too. 

 

1. Hydrate your skin before you start

Dry, irritable skin isn’t going to take kindly to having a razor run across it. Razor burn is commonly caused by shaving without enough moisture, and so are ingrown hairs. Have a warm shower or bath before you start for several minutes. This not only helps to protect the skin against the blades but softens the hair, making it more malleable and helping it to cut much more easily. This reduces drag and discomfort with your razor. 

 

2. Always use shaving gel

You might just be giving a tiny patch the once-over, and you might already be late for work, but shaving gel is a non-negotiable. It forms a protective layer for your skin that’s the first defence against razor burn, rashes and – yes – ingrown hairs. Wilkinson Sword’s Hydro 5 Sense Hydrate shave cream is formulated with vitamin E, which helps provide extra protection for your skin and leaves it feeling soft and smooth. Even a thin layer is effective, so there’s no need to use too much.

 

3. Shave carefully, consistently and with fewer strokes

Most of the time taken up by shaving is spent going over patches of skin that you’ve already shaved. Re-strokes are a result of the kind of last-minute rushed shaves that we’re all used to in this day and age – but simply hacking away at hair until it’s all gone isn’t the way to go. Shaving with multiple strokes is much more likely to inflame the skin, so slow down and take the time to shave with as few strokes as possible. You’ll be so amazed at your own efficiency that you’ll be forced to give yourself a terrible nickname like The One Stroke Wonder.

 

4. Rinse your blades and change them often

That rusting old razor on the edge of the bath is good for nothing. Old, dull blades cause skin irritation, nicks and cuts as well as increasing the likelihood of ingrown hairs, so make sure you dispose of your old razor blades the moment they stop performing at their peak. Keeping a well-stocked supply of high-quality men’s razor blades or women’s razor blades is much easier with a shaving subscription. So if you’re constantly scrabbling around the bathroom for that pack of replacements you’re sure you bought, or dabbing bits of tissue on your freshly nicked skin, maybe it’s time to think about having blades delivered to your door at a better value price. 

It’s just as important to keep rinsing your razor under the tap between strokes, as all the hair, dead skin, oil and dirt that clogs it up will do more harm than good as the blade passes over your skin. Don’t bang it on the side of the sink, as this can damage the blades.

 

5. Take the time for post-shave care

Shaving the hairs off your body and heading straight out of the door is a surefire way to get them digging back under your skin. Take a few minutes to press a cool, wet cloth against the area you’ve just shaved after you’re finished, and invest in a decent post-shave balm to soothe the skin and protect all those pores that you’ve just opened up. An exfoliating scrub can help to release any trapped hairs, too, keeping the area clean and less prone to problems.