Doctor's Notes on Ingrown Hair
An ingrown hair is usually a small hair that lies under the skin and does not grow through the skin. It may grow sideways or curl back toward the hair root (follicle). Symptoms and signs of ingrown hair often appear as small reddish, pink or tan bumps on the skin. Occasionally, they look like tiny pimples with a pustular head. Within the pus, you may see a black dot; this is the hair surround by pus. In addition, around the base of the lesion the skin may be inflamed or reddish in color. Ingrown hairs may also be itching and cause pain. In males, ingrown hairs commonly affect the cheeks, chin and neck while in females, they often occur in the armpits, pubic region and on the legs.
The most common causes of ingrown hairs are due to shaving, waxing and hair removal by tweezers that leaves the sharp tip of the hair close to the skin surface but beneath the skin. This causes the hair to grow sideways or to curl back towards the hair root. This results in the hair being trapped underneath skin. Other causes that contribute to the development of ingrown hair are hair follicles blocked with dead skin cells and wearing tight clothing. Individuals with coarse and curly hair are at higher risk to develop ingrown hairs.
Ingrown Hair Symptoms
Ingrown hairs generally develop several days after hair removal as the hair is growing back. In males, ingrown hairs commonly affect the cheeks, chin, and neck after shaving, sometimes leading to "razor bumps" (also termed pseudofolliculitis barbae). Females frequently develop ingrown hairs in the armpits, pubic region/bikini area, and on the legs.
Ingrown hairs typically appear as small, raised red, pink, or tan bumps on the skin, often in clusters. They are usually scattered throughout the area that was recently shaved. They may sometimes appear like tiny pimples with a pustular "head," and you may be able to see a tiny black dot at the center of the bump where the hair is trapped. At times, the base around this localized area of skin inflammation can be red in color. Ingrown hairs are often itchy and they can cause pain and discomfort.
Ingrown Hair Causes
The most common causes of ingrown hairs are shaving, waxing, and tweezing unwanted facial and body hair. By removing hair and leaving the sharp tip of the hair so short and close to the skin surface, it is more prone to grow sideways or curl back into the hair follicle and get stuck under the skin surface, leading to irritation and inflammation of the overlying skin. Using incorrect shaving techniques and failing to take precautionary measures when shaving or removing hair increases your chances of developing ingrown hairs.
Ingrown hairs more commonly occur in individuals who have curly or coarse hair, such as African-Americans and Hispanics, although anyone can develop ingrown hairs. Ingrown hairs can also develop when the hair follicle becomes clogged with dead skin cells and debris, causing the tip of the hair to grow sideways. Tight clothing can also lead to and irritate existing ingrown hairs.
Acne is a common skin condition that affects the face, neck, chest, upper arms, buttocks, and back. These are the areas that have the most oil glands. Teenagers are the group most affected by acne, but it can happen to anyone of any age. Men, women, children, older adults, and even babies can get acne. Blackheads and whiteheads are two types of acne. When inflammation goes deep into the skin, cysts or nodules may develop. Acne is a common beauty concern for women who have fluctuating hormones. Clear skin is possible for everyone if you follow a basic good skincare routine for your unique skin type.
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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.