An ingrown hair is a situation where a hair on the human body grows or curls completely under the skin. It is often caused by different shaving practices and sometimes accompanies razor bumps. Ingrown hairs can vary in size and can appear anywhere on the body, causing scarring, redness, or swelling. With this situation, both ends of the hair follicle get trapped under the skin, either growing sideways or bending and curling. The medical term for the condition is Pseudofolliculitis barbae or PFB.
When a hair is broken off short or pushed under the skin but not removed during shaving, an ingrown hair is the result. Often a hair may be passed over and not removed, or cut properly but pushed sideways under the surrounding skin, causing the hair to remain ingrown and not emerge through the outer layer of skin. When shaving, pressing too tightly on the skin for a closer or cleaner shave can result in an ingrown hair. When the skin is pulled, sometimes the hairs are pulled sideways into the face instead of trimmed. This often causes a pimple-like bump, and may redden or swell if not treated. The spot may develop a rash or itch, and sometimes becomes infected or collects pus if the hair is not removed.
The ingrown hair can be removed with sharp cosmetic tools such as a pin or tweezers. The hair can be removed from its ingrown position by puncturing the swelling skin with a sterilized pin and pulling the ingrown end out through a small abrasion of the skin. The hair is then exposed as normal, and can be shaved or plucked with tweezers. An ingrown hair can also be prevented by shaving in a different direction, keeping the skin exfoliated or moisturized, maintaining clean pores, or something as simple as leaving a hot washcloth over the face.
Though the problem may take up to a couple weeks to alleviate, ingrown hairs can be treated with many different products or methods. Salicylic acid, a dermatological chemical, can help to remove ingrown hair follicles by exfoliating and moisturizing the skin. The acid clears out the pores where the skin grows and helps to prevent infection. Salicylic acid appears in many different aftershaves, moisturizers, and shaving creams, and can be used independently as a lotion to help remove the hair. The user must beware of foam-based creams and ones with alcohol, however, as they may dry the skin or cause further irritation.