Can an Ingrown Hair Get Infected? How to Minimize its Irritation

Aimee Werner

Posted on August 09 2019

woman avoiding ingrown hairs

Most people have had an ingrown hair at least once in their lives, and it’s safe to say no one enjoys them. The lucky few get them occasionally, while some of us struggle with this problem on a regular basis. Ingrown hairs can be oh-so-frustrating, and you probably have a few questions about them.  

We’ve talked about what causes ingrown hairs in previous blogs, and also shared our best tips for preventing ingrowns before shaving and waxing. But what if it’s too late? 

And worst casecan an ingrown hair get infected? What does an infected ingrown hair look like?  

In this post, we’ll break down why those pesky ingrown hairs appear, why they get inflamed and infected, and what to do about itBut first, let’s recap how to avoid ingrown hairs in the first place! 

What is an Ingrown Hair? 

Usually, hair grows straight up from a hair follicle, making its way through your pores and to your skin’s surface. But if the pore is clogged by dead skin cells, the hair won’t be able to make it to the surface of the skin. Instead, your hair might grow sideways or down into the skin. The result isyou guessed itan ingrown hair. 

If the hair stays close to the skin’s surface, it shouldn’t bother you too muchIt might look like a tiny bump on your skin and will likely work its way out naturally in few days as the skin cells around it slough off. 

If the hair grows deeper into your skin, though, it can get embedded and start to cause issues. If you pick or scratch at itwhich can break the skin above the hair, this increases your risk of infection.  

What Does an Infected Ingrown Hair Look Like 

Iyou notice a large, painful bump, chances are your ingrown hair is infected. The bump might be yellow or red; unlike a pimple, your infected ingrown hair won't have a white head, although it may have a dark spot in the middle. This should answer your question of “what does an ingrown hair look like” without having to look at a photo (which, trust us, no one wants to do!) 

In most cases, an infected ingrown hair will go away on its own within a week or so. You can use a handful of home remedies (more on that below) and over-the-counter medications to help speed things along 

If your ingrown hair is infected and doesn’t seem to be getting better, you might want to consider seeing a doctorespecially if the infected ingrown is in your armpit or bikini area. These areas have lymphatic nodes under the skin and are close to large blood vessels, meaning the infection can spread from the infected ingrown hair to any place in the body. Badly infected ingrown hairs may need to be taken care of with the help of a professional. 

How to Remove Infected Ingrown Hair  Fast 

If you have an ingrown, you might freak out and automatically think the worst, especially during bikini season. Sometimes it’s hard to know if an ingrown hair is truly infected. In either case, you’ll need to moisturize, soothe, and gently exfoliate the affected area.  

Here are some tips for dealing with (and removing) an ingrown hair: 

  • Applyawarm damp cloth to the area 3-4 times a day to help with swelling. 
  • Avoid activities that make you sweat, like working out, and wear loose clothing so the bump has space to breathe. T-shirt or sweatpants should do the trick. 
  • Use an antibacterial soap to wash the affected area daily. Make sure you’re gentle and don’t scrub the area! 
  • If the ingrown hair is near your armpit, avoid applying deodorant and antiperspirant on the areaas this can irritate it even more.  
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Using our unique ingrown hair treatment can help heal ingrown hairs faster. 
  • Use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to help relieve itching and irritation. 
  • Examine the ingrown hair area every day to check if you can see the tip of the hairIf you can’t see it, keep repeating the steps above.  
  • When the hair shows through the skin, treat a needle with rubbing alcohol and use it to gently lift the hair from the skin.  

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs in the First Place 

Remember: removing an infected ingrown hair takes time and patience. The best advice, of course, is to try to avoid an infection in the first place. Take care of your skin when you see an ingrown, and don’t dig or scratch at it. Doing that will just make it worse! 

Daily exfoliation and moisturizing will also help prevent ingrown hairsAnd don’t forget to properly treat your skin before and after waxing or shaving! Improper shaving, waxing, or plucking can break the hair under the skin and trigger ingrown hairs to form 

There are lots of details when it comes to preventing ingrown hairs—but the extra effort is totally worth it. Here’s to beautiful skin from head to toe!