Feeling a little lumpy down there after shaving? Perhaps you’ve had a bikini wax that has left you more than a little bumpy? You may be experiencing ingrown public hairs – but don’t worry, it’s a very common problem and there are some simple steps to help you tackle them.
What are ingrown pubic hairs?
Ingrown pubic hairs are what happens when a hair grows back into the skin – instead of growing outwards as usual.
You will usually be able to spot them by the red and often itchy bumps they create.1
They can occur all over the body but tend to be common in the pubic area and other ‘hairier regions’ like beards, armpits, legs as the hairs here tend to be more coarse or curly.
These areas also tend to be places we ‘groom’ by shaving, waxing, plucking, etc. all of which can contribute to those annoying ingrown public hair bumps.
What do in growing hairs look like?
Most of the time they will appear as red, raised spots on the skin’s surface – sometimes you will be able to see the hair trapped under the skin. They are usually itchy and sometimes painful.2
Ingrown hair bikini line
Ingrown hair on groin
Although similar, ingrown hairs are not to be confused with shaving rash.
What causes ingrown hairs?
Most of the time, ingrown hairs are caused by hair removal techniques and lifestyle factors surrounding this personal grooming.3
Here are 6 of the most common causes of ingrowing pubic hair:
Shaving coarse hairs means that sometimes, instead of hair shafts growing up through the skin problem free, they may grow the other way – back into your skin. E.g. when you shave your pubic area, some of the shortened hairs may curl back on themselves and cause genital ingrown hair.
This is due in part to the new shaved hair being both blunt and sharp – not having the naturally ‘bevelled’ edge a new hair forming and growing would usually have. The sharpness helps the hair pierce the skin and continue to grow inwards.
As waxing pulls the hair out at the root, this can lead to the hair growing in on itself before it’s even broken through the skin’s surface.
When a waxing technician doesn’t ‘pull’ the wax in the right direction or the hairs are too long/ too short to be waxed, the hair follicle can sometimes break either below or above the skin’s surface.
Similar to shaving, when the hair breaks off it can become sharp and blunt, making it perfect for re-piercing the skin and growing inwards instead of outwards.
Plucking is pretty much the same as waxing, except you painstakingly do it one hair at a time – ouch!
Although it is less likely to cause ingrown hair than waxing, as you’re being more careful and precise, plucking can still lead to those pesky ingrown hairs. This is because hairs can still ‘break off’ inside or just outside of the skin and start growing back inside.
Threading is the process of using cotton string to pluck individual hairs out, and its precise nature makes it ideal for shaping eyebrows and removing other facial hair.
Just like all of the above hair removal methods, threading can also cause the hair to break off and lead to ingrowing hairs.
5. Dead skin cell build up
Another main player in the ingrown hair game is a build-up of dead skin cells, especially if you remove your hair.
One hair follicle may really want to emerge normally – outside the body – but can be trapped inside by a build-up of dead cells on the skin’s surface.
So, if you’re removing your hair, you better make sure you’re also removing any blockages to it growing back next time.
6. Being naturally hairy
Even if you don’t remove your hair, having coarse and curly hairs as standard on your body can lead to ingrown pubes and other blocked hairs.
Men can struggle with this especially as their hair tends to be naturally thicker, which may result in ingrown penis hairs or ingrown ball hair.
Getting into a good exfoliating routine can really help to lessen ingrown hair in pubic areas though, read more about this below.
How do you get rid of ingrown hairs?
Generally, prevention is better than the cure for ingrowing hair, but if you want yours gone pronto, there are a few things you can do to help:
- Stop shaving that area until the ingrown hair goes away– you don’t want to aggravate the area further
- Don’t pop, pull or pick the ingrown hair
- Apply a warm compress to the area to help soothe away irritation and open up the pores
- Try rubbing a warm, wet cloth over the affected area in a gentle, circular motion to remove any dead skin cells
- Wait for the hair to emerge through the skin by itself, then use sterilised tweezers or a needle to gently pull on it so it is less likely to re-embed
- Don’t pluck the hair out completely until the area is healed as the skin could simply heal over the hair and start the process all over again
Can you pop an ingrown hair?
Just like the urge to pop juicy pimples emerge from our skin – your ingrown hair is probably going to look pretty tempting… Don’t do it!
Do ingrown hair bumps go away on their own?
Yes, eventually most ingrown hairs will ‘sort themselves out’, but if they don’t get checked out by your GP.
When to contact your GP
If you experience the following, contact your GP:4
- If your ingrown hair or the area surrounding it is hot, red, swollen or very painful
- Your temperature is very high, or you feel shivery, hot or very unwell
- Your ingrown hair doesn’t go away naturally and is causing you distress
How to prevent future ingrown hairs
Want them gone for good? We don’t blame you! Although you can’t completely eradicate the chances of getting another ingrowing hair, there are certain lifestyle changes you can make to decrease your risk.
Here are 9 Ingrown pubic hair treatment tips:
1. Stop shaving, plucking, waxing or threading
The BEST thing you can do to say goodbye to ingrown hair is to stop removing your hair.
If you don’t get rid of them, they’re much less likely to suddenly start trying to burrow back into your skin.
Consider trimming or lightening hair to avoid ingrowing hair on bikini lines and other areas. Or, just try and embrace your body as it naturally is. You don’t owe shaving or hair removal to anyone.
But if you do still want to remove your body hair…
Removing dead skin cells is a biggie if you want to banish ingrowing hair groin problems for good! This is because a build-up of dead skin cells could trap hairs from emerging from the skin and cause them to go inward.
Here’s how to exfoliate
- Invest in a good pair of exfoliating gloves, a cloth, sponge or any other gentle-yet-textured skin care aid
- Consider a natural skin exfoliant product, with ingredients like sea salt, sugar or ground oats to use in tandem. Be careful not to use products like this on ingrown hair on vaginas or other sensitive ‘internal’ skin, as it can upset PH levels and cause other problems
- Turn up the temperature to make sure you are nice and warm and so your pores can open up
- Use a gentle circular motion to ‘buff’ the skin and remove dead skin cell build up
- Consider using a cool, wet cloth afterwards to close the skin pores again
3. Always shave with warm, wet skin
We know frantically shaving your legs cold and dry on the edge of the bath before you go out can’t always be avoided! But when you can, do try and make sure that you get your skin warm and wet before you shave to get best results.
4. Consider a shaving foam or cream
Shaving creams and foams can make shaving a whole lot smoother, creating less potential friction and irritation.
5. Use your razor effectively
The way you are shaving may be why you are getting so many ingrown hairs. The next time you shave, make sure to:
- Shave in the direction that your hairs are growing
- Use as few razor strokes as possible
- Rinse the razor after every stroke to get rid of dead skin cells and hair
6. Get a cool, wet cloth at the ready
Once you’re out of the shower or bath and feeling super smooth, try using a cool wet cloth on the shaved area to soothe the skin and close up those pores.
7. Shower before your wax
Showering or bathing just before your wax appointment and making sure to exfoliate can make the whole process go a lot smoother and leave the hair less likely to break off and become ingrown.
8. Try hair removal cream
Hair removal creams dissolve the hair away, rather than rip it from the root or cut it short by shaving.
Ingrown hairs tend to be less common with this hair removal treatment than with shaving, waxing, etc.5
9. Consider laser hair removal
Another way to remove your hair that’s less likely to cause ingrowing pubic hairs is laser hair removal.
Although it is a long-term and often quite costly process, it could be worth it if you don’t want to worry about removing unwanted hair, as well as those pesky ingrown hairs too!
Last updated: 15 January 2021
Expertly reviewed by:
Doaa Al Mosawi, Regulatory Affairs
After completing her BSc in Biomedical Science, Doaa worked in Research and laboratory for 3 years. Doaa was also a member of a product development team in a manufacturing company specialising in sun care and personal care products, researching and providing regulatory advice regarding international regulations.
Doaa is now an International Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate at Holland & Barrett.