Ingrown hairs

Ingrown hairs cause bumps, which are often itchy, where a hair has grown back into the skin. There are things you can do to treat and prevent them and in most cases you will not need to a see a GP for treatment.

Check if you have ingrown hair

Ingrown hairs can look like raised, itchy bumps on the skin.

On white skin the bumps may look red. Redness may be harder to see on black or brown skin, but they may look a different colour to the surrounding skin.

Sometimes you can see a hair trapped under the skin.

You may be more likely to get ingrown hairs if you have coarse or curly hair.

Infected ingrown hairs can be painful. You may see pus in the bumps.

You are more likely to get ingrown hairs in areas you shave, such as:

  • face and neck
  • legs
  • armpits
  • chest
  • back
  • your pubic area

Waxing, plucking and threading hair can also lead to ingrown hairs.

Things you can do to treat and prevent ingrown hairs

The best way to prevent ingrown hairs is by not shaving.

If you want to shave, or remove hair in another way, there are things you can do to prevent ingrown hairs and help them get better quicker.

Do

  • wet your skin with warm water and use shaving gel

  • shave in the direction the hairs are growing

  • use as few strokes of the razor as possible

  • rinse the razor after every stroke

  • hold a cool, wet cloth to your skin after shaving to reduce irritation

  • use an exfoliating scrub to help release any trapped hairs

  • try a different hair removal method, such as hair removal cream

  • try a long-term way of removing hair, such as laser treatment

Don't

  • do not shave too close – leaving some stubble can stop bacteria getting in

  • do not use a blunt razor

  • shave every other day if possible

  • do not scratch, pick or squeeze ingrown hairs as this can damage your skin and lead to infection

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • creams and lotions to help itching
  • shaving and hair removal products to help prevent irritation
  • exfoliating products to help prevent ingrown hairs
  • a mild antiseptic to help prevent infection

Find a pharmacy

See a GP if:

  • an ingrown hair or area around it is very painful, hot or swollen
  • you have an ingrown hair and have a high temperature, or you feel hot, shivery or very unwell

Treatment for ingrown hair from a GP

A GP may be able to treat ingrown hairs by:

  • removing the hair using a sterile needle or blade (scalpel)
  • giving you a steroid cream to help swelling and irritation
  • giving you antibiotic cream or tablets to treat an infection
[Last reviewed 2023-01-18]
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