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Ingrown hair has been my mortal enemy since time immemorial. It’s painful, uncomfortable, and ugly, much so since it used to occur on my armpits. But after a few botched DIY solutions, I’ve finally consulted with a dermatologist for the best solution. If you’re also suffering from this hair problem, I will share here the things I’ve learned on how to treat ingrown hair in armpit area.
NOTE: I can only speak based on my experience. The tips I will discuss here may or may not work for you, depending on your skin type, health, and hair type. The expertise of a dermatologist is still the best resort if your ingrown hairs won’t go away.
What causes ingrown hairs in your armpits?
At some point in your shaving (or epilating) life, you probably experienced having ingrown hairs. These are hairs that curled back to the skin instead of growing straight and out. This is common for people with curly or coarse hair, but those with straight hair can also suffer from the same condition.
But how come ingrown hairs grow on my armpit after shaving? Well, there’s an easy explanation for this. After shaving your armpit hair, the hair tips are blunt and tough. When it grows back and curls into the skin, the tips will pierce the surface and result in irritation.
Some signs of ingrown hairs are red bumps that feel stiff and round. It will also itch, and the surrounding skin will be irritated. Hyperpigmentation will also occur, which is probably the worst part of underarm ingrown hairs.
The face, neck, armpits, chest, legs, and the pubic area are some of the common spots for ingrown hairs. Those with heightened sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) are more likely to experience ingrown hair, too, since they grow longer hair strands.
Anything that breaks the tips of your underarm hair can lead to ingrown hairs. Lack of exfoliation will also cause dead skin cells to accumulate, which will block the new hair from sprouting out of the skin. What happens is it grows inside the hair follicle, which will cause the skin to flare up.
How to treat ingrown hair in armpit
Knowing how to treat ingrown hair in armpit is crucial, so you won’t have to endure the discomfort. Aside from that, ingrown hairs make the underarm look dark, which is a massive confidence buster for a lot of ladies. If you’re looking for ways to remove the pesky hair, here are some that I swear by:
Exfoliation works wonders in preventing and removing ingrown hair. It lifts the bent hair and prevents it from digging into the skin. Also, it removes impurities that could block the hair follicles and worsen the irritation.
When exfoliating your armpits, you can use kosher salt combined with a gentle essential oil. Baking soda also works as an alternative to kosher salt since the former helps reduce inflammation. If you don’t want to make a concoction, you can ask your dermatologist for an exfoliant product that suits your skin.
Remember that exfoliation removes a layer of the skin, so you should only do this no more than two times a week. For those with sensitive skin, once a week should be enough.
💡Use some steroid cream
Steroid creams help a lot in easing the inflammation of the ingrown hair. This provides immediate relief from the discomfort. These products have a steroid that penetrates the blood vessels near the skin’s surface to make it tighter.
Take note that steroid creams are available in different formulations and strengths. If you’re new to this product, I suggest using one with a lower dose to prevent adverse side effects.
Before I move on to the next recommendation, please note that steroid creams should only be used as a temporary solution. Too much of steroid creams may cause skin thinning, easy bruising, and enlarged blood vessels.
💡Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
You can ask every dermatologist in the world, and they will agree that moisturization is good for your skin. The same goes for armpits that are prone to ingrown hair. Skin that’s too dry is more prone to developing ingrown hairs. In contrast, well-moisturized skin won’t flare-up easily when it gets in contact with hair tips.
Right after a bath, you can use a non-comedogenic moisturizer so it won’t block your pores. When shaving, I suggest using a shaving cream that works for your skin type.
💡Consider using topical retinoids
Another option that you have is to use topical retinoids to exfoliate the underarm skin. I personally use salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells and preventing ingrown hairs. It has helped me a lot, aside from the other methods I use.
However, you should avoid overusing salicylic acid because it can dry the skin. It’s still an acid, after all.
As an alternative, you can try adapalene, which comes from Vitamin A and another form of retinoid. It helps a lot in eliminating infections and easing ingrown hairs. Again, your choice of product should be based on what your skin can take. There’s no one-solution-fits-all when it comes to ingrown hairs.
💡Use a warm compress
If you’re yet to get any of the medications I discussed above, one way to relieve the discomfort is to use a warm compress. This will ease the inflammation of the skin and soften the stiff, red bumps. Take note that this is only a temporary solution. You should exfoliate and moisturize to get rid of the hairs permanently.
💡Give shaving a break
If you notice that the ingrown hairs keep coming back every time you shave, I suggest giving the razor a break. You can try epilating so the hair will take time to grow back. But if you’re already epilating and still has ingrown hairs, give all the tools a break.
Allow your skin to heal before you groom your armpit again. Take note that shaving with a razor will only aggravate ingrown hairs because the blade may get into the bumps, which will lead to wounds.
When to go to the dermatologist
To be clear, consulting a dermatologist is always the best decision when you have ingrown hairs. Still, most cases of ingrown hairs in the armpits can be solved at home. However, there are instances when home remedies are no longer enough or suitable for the situation.
When your ingrown hair starts to form a cyst, it’s best to go to the doctor right away. A cyst due to an ingrown hair will appear as a fluid-filled lump right where the ingrown hair occurs. It will be reddish, painful, and swollen.
Usually, an ingrown hair cyst starts as a pea-sized bump then develops into a full-fledged cyst. It will have a yellowish or whitish head. If infection ensues, the cyst will cause further pain and may have a discharge. This requires immediate medical attention to combat the infection.
I don’t recommend self-medicating an ingrown hair cyst. You should seek the help of a medical professional to prevent any complications. If the cyst is becoming bigger and more tender over the days, you should be appalled.
Also, a cyst that hasn’t been treated right away will leave a scar. It’s something you wouldn’t want to have on your armpits.
Tips to prevent ingrown hairs in your armpit
The good news is that ingrown hairs are very much preventable. If your ingrown hair just healed or you’re worried about having one, these tips will help prevent the dreaded irritation:
✔️Aim for a close shave. Regardless if you have coarse, straight, or curly hair, a close shave will prevent the remaining armpit hair from digging into your skin. A close shave will also last longer, which will save your time from repetitive grooming.
✔️Try switching to an epilator. If your razor is causing ingrown hairs, it might be best to switch to an epilator. Unlike razors, epilators pull the hairs from the roots. It has multiple tweezers that remove the entirety of the hair so that ingrown hairs won’t occur.
✔️Go slow. When shaving, glide the razor slowly so it won’t cause nicks and bumps. Sometimes, these irritations worsen ingrown hair-prone skin. Also, never go against the grain when shaving because this will cut the hair tips rough and cause irritation on your armpits.
✔️Warm it up first. One trick that worked for me is warming up my armpits before shaving. The hair becomes softer by warming it up, and the skin is less likely to get irritated. You can wash your armpits with warm water. Of course, this may not work for everyone.
✔️Use the right razor. When shaving your underarms, you should use sharp and clean blades. This will prevent pulling and irritation that may trigger the development of ingrown hairs.
✔️Wash before and after shaving. To prevent the razor from stirring an irritation, make sure that your armpit is clean before and after shaving. This will reduce the risk of irritation if you have sensitive skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do ingrown hairs have pus?
A: Typical ingrown hairs won’t have pus unless it becomes infected. Cysts due to ingrowth hairs are pus-filled and must be treated immediately. Pus is a sign of infection and will just get worse if not sanitized and removed right away.
Q: Can my deodorant cause lumps on my armpits?
A: Deodorants don’t usually cause lumps, but antiperspirants can. Antiperspirants usually use aluminum chloride to block sweat glands, so your armpits will remain dry. Those with sensitive skin can develop ingrown hairs and bumps on the armpits because of this. If you’re experiencing this, you must switch to a new antiperspirant without aluminum chloride.
Q: What happens when you pop an ingrown hair cyst?
A: Popping an ingrown hair cyst is painful and prone to infections. If you’re not careful, you may introduce bacteria to the opening. This will worsen the condition of your skin. As much as possible, ask the help of a dermatologist in removing ingrown hair cysts to ensure safe and immediate healing.
Q: How do you unblock clogged underarm pores?
A: Blocked hair follicles and pores are prone to ingrown hair. You can exfoliate 1 to 2 times a week to remove any dead skin cells and gunk that block your pores. Make sure that you wash before and after shaving, so your underarms are less likely to develop ingrown hairs.
Are you dealing with ingrown hairs? Don’t fret because there are many ways on how to treat ingrown hair in armpit. You can use some home remedies, but for guaranteed results, nothing compares to the expertise of a dermatologist. Remember that each body and skin are different. My tips here may or may not work, depending on how your skin will react to it.