How do You Prevent Ingrown Hairs?

Amanda R. Bell

Ingrown hairs occur when the hair, typically on a man’s face or a woman's leg following shaving, grows into the skin rather than through the hair follicle. It can be an irritating and unattractive problem that, left untreated, can lead to a more serious infection. To prevent ingrown hairs, it is important to first take good care of the skin, making sure that hair follicles are clear and dead skin cells are removed. It is also important to use the proper razor and shave correctly to prevent ingrown hairs.

An ingrown hair.
An ingrown hair.

Exfoliating regularly is one of the best ways to prevent ingrown hairs. This removes the outer layer of dead skin and clears the hair follicles, allowing hair to grow straight out rather than into the skin. It also keeps the skin smooth, reducing the chances of a razor pushing dead skin into the hair follicles and causing them to become clogged. While all-natural products are popular, some experts say synthetic exfoliators are actually the best for use on the face, because the particles in all-natural products are typically jagged and not uniform, causing microscopic tears in the skin.

Shave in the direction of hair growth to avoid getting ingrown hairs.
Shave in the direction of hair growth to avoid getting ingrown hairs.

Using the correct razor is another important step in trying to prevent ingrown hairs. While many prefer the closer shave of five-blade razors, experts suggest that a single-blade razor is best. This kind of razor allows more of the hair to stick out, which makes it less likely that it will grow into the skin. Despite this, many men have a difficult time maintaining the clean-shaven look while using a single-blade razor.

Dead skin cells in a hair follicle can lead to ingrown hairs.
Dead skin cells in a hair follicle can lead to ingrown hairs.

Outside of good skincare and using the right equipment, shaving properly is the most effective way to prevent ingrown hairs. It is important to shave in the direction that the hair grows rather than against it. Shaving against the grain can cause irritation and actually push the hair back into the skin. Pulling the skin taut when shaving also is not a good idea. Doing so can cause small stubble to be cut and then pushed into the skin, causing an ingrown hair.

To prevent ingrown hairs, it is also necessary to give the skin a break from shaving and to allow the hair to grow. Shaving very short stubble is one of the leading causes of ingrown hairs, which is why men report a much smoother shave after waiting a few days. Doing this is not always possible, especially in a professional environment. Despite this, even forgoing shaving during the course of a weekend can be an effective way to prevent ingrown hairs.

Ingrown hairs are considered the bane of many men’s existence. While there are some ways to treat ingrown hairs, including pulling the hair through the skin and applying special astringents and lotions, the best treatment is prevention. Taking care of one’s skin, using the proper razor and shaving correctly are the best ways to prevent ingrown hairs.

Exfoliating with a wet sponge may help prevent ingrown hairs.
Exfoliating with a wet sponge may help prevent ingrown hairs.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - Honestly, if you have very curly hair I don't think you can ever get rid of ingrown hairs completely. Curly hair tends to be very fine and it just doesn't have the power to break the skin properly. Since it also has a tendency to curl, it's inevitable that you will end up with things going wrong.

My solution has always been to just not worry about body hair all that much. I won't shave it anywhere that I get ingrown hairs because I just don't think it's worth the itchiness and pain.


@Fa5t3r - That's not a bad thing to do but it wouldn't be enough for me. I have to pull out every trick in the book to reduce ingrown hairs and in some places I still can't get rid of them. I have found that using a really strong ingrown hair treatment gel can help a lot though. To be honest, the main reason I don't like using them is because they hurt to apply, since they are usually alcohol-based and being put on rather raw skin.

I'm told that eventually you start getting fewer ingrown hairs if you wax because the hairs get finer, but I've yet to see that happen.


For me, the easiest thing to remember is to exfoliate my skin with my towel after showering. It has to be a clean towel and you have to really rasp at the skin (without hurting it of course) but I find it makes a big difference. It doesn't really help once you've got ingrown hairs already present, but it seems to help prevent them, I guess by either loosening the top layer of skin, or just helping the hair to burst through it in a way that doesn't trap them.

If I try to remember to put on a cream or a gel I always forget and end up regretting it afterwards, but it's not hard to remember to dry yourself a bit more thoroughly than usual.

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