Hiya Folks! Always happy to see the regs and new faces seeking reprieve in the arms of Mother Nature instead of resorting to the indiscriminate use of drugs, with a little help from moi, your friendly EO lady, Olivia.
Today, we are going to talk about a problem that starts off tiny but can quickly turn into a pain in the … you know what I mean. And NO, I am not just saying this figuratively; I damn well mean it in the literal sense. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to one of life’s many small yet nagging problems that crop up at the most inopportune moments – INGROWN HAIR!
It starts off as a tiny blemish but can quickly get infected and pus-filled. To add to the fun, ingrown hair have a penchant for living out their wayward ways in the most inappropriate areas of your body. Yes, you will see them on your face, chin or neck from time to time where their puss filled, turgid appearance is enough to illicit the “ewwww” reaction from everybody including yourself.
But, their appearance on the face can only be called them playing it decent. The areas of your body that they truly love to grace are your armpits, groin, pubic area and even your backside. Now, imagine spending 8 hours at work while you put your entire body weight on a pus filled boil on your backside.
In the groin, it’s an itch that can’t be scratched in public, so your only hope is to have a restroom or a private place nearby. Then, there are ingrown hair in the pubic area. In fact, this is the part of your body that is most prone to this problem all thanks to the fact that regardless of the texture of the hair on your head, your bush is always thicker and curlier, and you don’t even go bald down there. How bloody unfair can life get?
Back to the story of ingrown hair! The problem is extremely common and neither men nor women are spared the wrath of ingrown hair! And, that my dear friends is the reason why we are all here today. When Mother Nature creates a problem at least she has the decency to offer a solution for it. So, read on to know everything about ingrown hair and how to prevent and treat the problem naturally.
First Up, What Exactly Is An Ingrown Hair?
As the name suggest, this is a hair that grows inwards instead of taking the expected and natural route, which leads it outside the skin and upwards. Now, this can happen in three ways.
- The hair grows out and upwards but then changes its course and turn in on itself, piercing the lower dermal layers and going right back inside.
- The hair meets an obstruction on its way out which blocks its path. It still continues to grow and digs into the follicle, leading to inflammation.
- The hair thinks about exploring the sideway route and instead of growing out, takes a 90 degree turn, piercing the dermal cells and causing inflammation.
As you can see, in all three cases, the hair leads to dermal irritation, which then causes inflammation and that is how the trouble starts. Although ingrown hair have several favorite spots on your body that they simply love to adorn, typically, they can be found on any area that has hair, whether you shave of or not.
Yes, shaving, waxing and any form of epilation does increase the risk of ingrown hair but these are far from being the only reasons for this problem. After all, who shaves off their butt? And yet you can have ingrown hair on your derriere! But usually, you will see these red bumps on the face, neck, arms, armpits, pubic area, legs and buttocks.
Am I Going To Die Of Ingrown Hair?
OK, I admit that is just me being overly sarcastic. Of course, it isn’t that serious a condition. Irritating – YES, unsightly – Hell YES, embarrassing – You Bet, but certainly not dangerous. In fact, even if you leave it alone, it would resolve itself in 1-2 weeks, one way or another.
So, why did I bother to write this article and why are you reading it? Because a lot of water can pass under the bridge, disgusting dirty water if I may add, before the healing begins. Let me elaborate. As long as only the inflammation prevails, you will see a red bump. It can be a solitary rash-like blemish or you will see a bunch of them in a small area. The problem starts when things escalate from this point.
- Infection: This is what comes after the inflammation. The red bumps will fill up with pus and will become bigger and more turgid. When inflamed, ingrown hair are itchy but when infected, the accumulation of pus makes them painful. If you continue to give in to the urge to scratch, the infection may spread in the immediate vicinity, particularly if the scratching leads to wounds.
- Scarring: Depending on how long the infection is allowed to persist, you may end up with acne–like scarring.
- Hyper pigmentation: Because there is inflammation involved, there is bound to be post inflammatory hyper pigmentation.
What Causes Ingrown Hair?
Although epilation in any form is one of the causes of ingrown hair, it is NOT the only reason. Among the many causes of ingrown hair are:
- Waxing, threading, sugaring, tweezing, plucking or epilation in any way that leads to finer hair growth can cause ingrown hair. The finer hair cannot break through the barrier of the epidermis and become trapped inside. The body perceives the growing hair as a foreign matter and triggers an inflammatory response as a defense mechanism.
- Shaving with double or triple blade razors leads to the hair being cut diagonally, which changes its natural trajectory of growth and leads it to move sideward under the skin.
- Coarse hair are naturally more prone to growing inside the hair follicle. The reason is simple, the thickness of the hair makes it harder for it to penetrate through the dermal layers and move outward.
- Curly hair tend to turn in on themselves and often grow inward into the follicle.
- Dry skin often causes the accumulation of dead cells on the dermal surface, which makes it harder for hair to break through the epidermis and grow out.
- Wearing tight clothes that rub against freshly shaved skin tends to cause irritation and inflammation. This, again, prevents the hair from growing out and upward as it should.
- Shaving against the natural direction of hair growth or a very close shave also causes dermal inflammation and skin stretching, which leads to ingrown hair as explained above.
- Natural inflammation that occurs after shaving (read razor bumps) also causes inflammation that increases the risk of ingrown hair.
Simply put, coarse and thin hair as well as anything that causes dermal inflammation or clogs the surface of the skin can cause ingrown hair. For instance, even if you don’t shave off or wax your hair but if there is hair breakage that causes pain, it will lead to inflammation and increase the risk of ingrown hair.
And there is more! They recently found that some people are genetically predisposed to developing ingrown hair, talk about a gift that just keeps giving!
So, How Do You Know You Have An Ingrown Hair?
Well the little rascals are not hard to spot, pardon my French! They are bumps that can be both seen and felt, usually tan, red or pink in color. When infected, the bump takes on the look of a tiny zit, complete with a pustular head. But, if you look closely, you will see a tiny black speck or a line in the center. This is the wayward hair that could not find its way out. Often the skin at the base of the bump also becomes inflamed and red.
Typically, things start off with itching, followed by redness and distinct raised bumps. If not stopped at this point, at least some of the bumps will become infected and will have a pus-filled head. In the pubic area you may also develop sebaceous cysts which almost feel and look like cystic acne. These can be hard and painless or infected and painful.
How Will Your Physician Deal With That Unyielding Ingrown Hair?
These can take on two forms, a retinol containing formulation that will clean the skin of dead cells or a corticosteroid preparation meant to rein in the inflammation and itching. Both have their side effects. The retinol cream may cause redness and inflammation if used too frequently, particularly on the delicate skin in the pubic area. Corticosteroids have a myriad of side effects, including skin thinning, blood vessel enlargement, stretch marks and of course a thicker crop of hair.
In severe cases of ingrown hair, doctors may prescribe topical as well as oral antibiotics. This is done either to prevent infection or to control an existing infection. Now, don’t even get me started on the side effects of frequent antibiotic use.
If nothing else works to stop in-growing hair, a laser treatment is recommended for permanent hair removal. Electrolysis is painful (mild to moderate depending on your pain threshold) and certainly not cheap. Plus, you will need touch up sessions periodically.
Can Essential Oils Save You All That Trouble?
As you can see, neither of the treatment modalities is bereft of side effects, meaning you are trapped between a rock and hard place unless you are willing to consider alternative therapies. Now, let me tell you how and why essential oils can come to your rescue when all else fails to control the attack of ingrown hair.
When using EOs to prevent and treat ingrown hair, you are essentially following a three pronged approach that nips the problem in the bud. To begin with, EOs can be used to keep the dermal surface clean of oil, grime and dead cells. To add to this effect, most of these aromatic extracts have superlative antibacterial and antiseptic properties, which can prevent dermal infections and tone down an existing infection.
If that is not enough, EOs boast of anti-inflammatory and healing properties, which can stop the hair follicle from turning into a hotbed of trouble. What’s more, these oils can also tackle wound and inflammation linked hyper pigmentation and inhibit scar tissue formation. Let me ask whether you can find one OTC or even prescription topical or oral formulation that can manage all of that and without side effects! The answer is a BIG resounding NO!
What Are The Best 7 Essential Oils For Ingrown Hair?
1. Tea Tree
It would be almost blasphemous to not include this oil legend in our list. Frequently used for its ability to tackle dermal infection and blemishes, including pimples, Tea Tree oil is known to have the antibacterial and antiseptic strength of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid but none of their side effects. Apart from keeping infection causing germs at bay, the terpene in this EO also helps to keep the surface of the skin clean by curbing the secretion of sebum and it keeps pore size in check.
Who has not heard about the skin soothing and healing properties of this EO? In fact, many naturopaths even recommend using this oil neat although I suggest you don’t do that. But, it does go to show the level of trust that this EO has earned and just how gentle it is. Well known for its ability to control inflammation and speed up healing, lavender essential oil will bring down the redness and protect the inflamed area from an infection.
3. German Chamomile
Another EO that is considered vital in any formulation meant to prevent or treat infections, German Chamomile EO offers multiple benefits when used against ingrown hair. First, it helps to prevent dermal dryness, which means no more dead cells that cause an obstruction to normal hair growth. But that’s not all; this oil also helps to keep a check on the inflammatory response of the body. So, if you use it preemptively, you can be sure that you won’t be dealing with redness, itching or the eventual infection.
At first glance, this one may seem like an unlikely inclusion, but look closer at the healing properties of this EO and you will know how it makes for a perfect fit. In India, to where the origins of this oil can be traced, the sharp grass blades that are used to derive the extract are prized not just for their healing properties but for a host of health benefits. Lemongrass EO brings with it the ability to fight off most dermal infections, be they fungal or bacterial. Moreover, you also get skin rejuvenating properties, which spells faster healing and reduced risk of scars and hyper pigmentation.
Another starlet from the aromatic world of EO’s, Frankincense is often in the list of must- have oils and with good reason. Distilled from a resin, the antiseptic properties of this oil are strong enough to prevent any type of infection. So, if the ingrown hair has already caused inflammation, using this oil will ensure that things don’t escalate to an infection and pus formation.
The yellow flowers are shunned for their less than pleasing odor but the essential oil derived from them has the most noteworthy ability to heal wounds. This EO works on multiple levels by interrupting the inflammatory reaction of the body as well as calming the irritation that leads up to it. Furthermore, the extract offers relief from both pain and infection. In fact, it would not be farfetched to call this extract a true miracle worker when it comes to skin wounds and infections.
If you are only going to own and use 3 essential oils, this should definitely be one of them, working alongside Lavender and Frankincense. There sure is no skin ailment that this trifecta of extracts can’t heal. With extraordinary astringent properties to its credit, Geranium EO helps to contain excess sebum secretion while the geraniol and citronellol in it bring antiseptic properties to boot.
Top 5 Essential Oil Recipes To Prevent And Treat Ingrown Hair!
1. Anti-inflammatory soak
If you have ingrown hair on the body and in hard to reach spots, this soak will not only help to clean the infection and the inflammation but will also take away the pain and itching. Plus, it smells amazing and is fantastic for your skin. You will need:
- A cup of Epsom salt
- 20 drops of tea tree oil
- 30 drops of lavender oil
- 2 tablespoons of milk
Run a bath of warm water and add a cup of Epsom salt to it. Mix the oils with the milk and pour the mixture into the bath water. Soak yourself in the fragrant water for about 15-20 minutes. The combined antiseptic and antibacterial effects of the oils and the Epsom salt will clear the pubic area, buttocks and groin of ingrown hair and prevent/treat itchiness and infection. The bath tub is bound to get slippery after this treatment, so be careful when getting out and don’t forget to give the tub a quick cleaning afterwards.
2. Ingrown hair “be gone” tea
This tea is for your skin and it will refresh those dermal layers and get rid of inflamed ingrown hair in a matter of hours. Use it as a spot treatment when you are battling a particularly nasty, persistent and stubborn bout of ingrown hair that is infected. You will need:
- 1 heaped tablespoon of black tea
- 8 drops lavender EO
- 5 drops lemongrass EO
Brew a particularly strong cup of black tea, while it is hot to the point where you can bear it against your skin but not hot enough to burn, add the EOs to the brew and then soak some cotton wool in the hot liquid. Place the soaked cotton wool directly on the inflamed or infected ingrown hair. Keep it on the skin till it cools and repeat the process for a good five to ten minutes.
Dab the skin dry and you will take care of the itching, the pain, the inflammation and infection. Plus, the tea does a fantastic job of dislodging the hair from the skin by closing the pores in the surrounding area, thus stretching the skin and opening the pathway for the hair to grow out.
3. Ingrown hair clean scrub
Use this scrub to exfoliate the skin and keep it free of dead cellular matter, which blocks the natural growth of the hair and causes ingrown hair. You can use it a few hours before or after you shave, (say the night before or the evening after) to deal with the problem of ingrown hair even before it occurs. You will need:
- ½ cup virgin olive oil
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 10 drops geranium EO
- 10 drops frankincense EO
Mix the oil and the sugar in a bowl and add the EOs to this granular preparation. Apply the mixture in circular motion on all areas of the body that have hair on them or at least on those that you shave off (use any form of hair removal). Work your skin over with the mixture but don’t scrub it raw. Wash the scrub off with warm water and pat your skin dry.
4. Goodbye ingrown hair massage oil
Use this blend as you would any body lotion or facial oil to prevent and treat ingrown hair. You can use it all over your body or only on areas that are prone to ingrown hair.
To make this blend, you will need:
- 1 ounce of carrier oil (sweet almond/virgin coconut or olive oil)
- 10 drops german chamomile
- 5 drops each of tea tree and lavender
Blend the oils together and store in a dark colored glass jar or bottle. For best effect, massage your skin with the oil about 30-45 minutes before soaking in a bath or showering.
5. Hydrating shaving cream that keeps ingrown hair away
This blend can be used right before or after you shave to tackle the problem of ingrown hair even before it starts. The best part is that along with prevention, you are also giving your skin some TLC with this mixture. You will need:
- 30 ml shea butter (melted)
- 30 ml hempseed oil
- 8 drops each of lavender, calendula and german chamomile
Place the oils in a stand mixer and whisk or use a hand held blender to whip them together till the butter and the oils mix to form a creamy mixture. Apply before shaving or after epilation.
If you experience an immediate reaction to the epilation method used, meaning you see rash, redness and hives, add 5-7 drops of peppermint EO to this blend to quickly and effectively deal with the redness and the inflammation.
9 Home Remedies To Deal With Those Wayward Hair!
1. Shave the right way
The best time to shave is after a warm shower because that is when your skin is soft and the hair get removed from the follicles. To avoid razor bumps use an electric razor. If you can’t, at least make sure that you apply a lubricating shaving gel before taking the blade to your skin.
2. The right clothes
Avoid clothes that are too tight or made of synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. The problem with tight clothing is that they press against the skin and consequently the hair follicles, thus influencing the natural direction of hair growth. In fact, it is best to not wear underwear for 24 hours after a bikini wax and stick to cotton underwear after shaving the pubic area.
3. Do not tug at your skin
A lot of people are used to tugging the skin tight before they move the razor over the area to get the closest shave possible. Well, the closer the shave, the greater will be the inflammation and hence the risk of ingrown hair.
4. Don’t hold on to those razor blades
They are disposable for a reason because these blades can only be used 6-8 times before they lose their sharpness and dull blades or worn out pads are a surefire way to give yourself razor bumps and ingrown hair.
5. Shave in the right direction
I know that going against the direction of hair growth gives you a smoother feel and a closer shave but it also inevitably causes skin scraping and thus irritation and inflammation. So, use a sharp blade and move in the direction of hair growth
6. Exfoliate regularly
Exfoliate about 10-12 hours before epilation or shaving and get back to the routine of exfoliation about 48 hours after it. A moisturizing scrub like the one I have listed above or even a loofah with a gentle body wash will do.
7. Keep it sharp and single
Dull blades tend to tug on the hair and pull them out instead of cutting them. So, keep the blades sharp and as far as possible use single blade razors.
8. Show your skin some love
Always moisturize your skin after epilation or shaving. Softer skin has lower chances of blocking the hair. Also, smooth skin is easier to glide over if you are shaving, which equates to lesser inflammation and a lower risk of ingrown hair and razor bumps.
9. Don’t get aggressive with those ingrown hair pustules
Do not and I mean do not under any circumstances pick at the pustular head of the ingrown hair or dig into it with a needle. That would, without a doubt be a recipe for trouble, which will lead to infection and scarring.
Final Word On The Matter
Before I sign off for the day, one last bit of information. Ingrown hair can happen to anybody, whether you shave off or not. In fact, this is a problem that does not play by the rules. Prevention is of course the best way to keep this issue out of your life. But, if you do end up with a few red bumps, deal with them proactively because you DO NOT want them to get infected and pus-filled.
Since the boils they cause are so tiny, there is no real health risk involved but I am sure you don’t want to add one more scar to your collection. Hence, a preemptive approach is certainly warranted. That said, here is wishing you all a life free of ingrown hair!