Okay, so it might not be legs-out season just yet, and the thought of peeling off a layer while we're still defrosting from Storm Emma isn't all that attractive, but if you're keeping your legs and bikini line smooth as good practice, you do not want to be lumbered with ingrown hairs. Your skin is sore, bumpy, lumpy and red, so even just your clothes rubbing on top can cause eye-wincing reactions.
So just what causes ingrown hairs?
Ingrown hairs happen when the hair regrows into the side of the skin rather than straight up. It's because after you've whipped off the excess length, the hair shaft shortens and retracts, so there's a less-obvious pathway for your hair to follow when it grows back. Bad news if you have curly or coarse hair, too, as the hairs will naturally be more unruly and so more likely to double back on themselves.
But that's not all. Ingrown hairs can also happen when follicles become clogged with dead skin and the hair can't push through (apologies if you're reading this on your lunch break). Whatever's caused them, you'll know you've got one because you'll see a raised red bump or a cluster of bumps that can even look a touch acneic. Legs, armpits, bikini line—wherever you've decided to go hair-free will mean you're in the danger zone.
How can I get rid of ingrown hairs?
Once you've spotted one, the temptation is to pick and pluck. But before you get overzealous with the tweezers, you might want to try one of the below tricks. Fresh from the pros, this is how they'd play out Project Ingrown Hair, because we all want a happy, pain-free ending…
1. Treat them like nappy rash.
Sudocrem (£6) is every new mum's go-to for sore bottoms, but get this: It stops ingrown hairs too. "Apply some to the area immediately after shaving or waxing, and again the following morning—it's a game changer when it comes to preventing ingrown hairs and irritation," says Leah Totton, MD. "By dabbing on a thin layer, it helps to keep the area antiseptic, speed up the healing process and prevent ingrown hairs from developing." Not got Sudocrem to hand? Totton says magnesium sulphate works a treat too, as it helps draw out the ingrown hair.
2. Turn up the heat.
Just like steaming your face will relax pores to help them open, stepping into a hot shower or bath will allow the hair follicles to do the same and dilate. From here, apply a scrub to get rid of dead skin cells that could be obstructing new hairs.
3. Don't be a lazy shaver.
You know what's really annoying? When you remember you need to change your razor blade mid shower. But who can be bothered to get out when you’re naked, dripping wet and cold? The thing is that a blunt blade is escalating your chances of ingrowns. "It's important to use a new blade after every couple of shaves for a neat trim, and try to use as few strokes as possible," says Briar Keen, co-founder of Friction Free Shaving, a genius razor blade subscription service. And always use a shave cream to help the blade glide better.
4. Invest in active ingredients.
"Salicylic acid washes, toners and topical retinoids will all reduce inflammation and encourage skin cell turnover, which will help manage ingrown hairs and the problems they cause," recommends Justine Jextall, consultant dermatologist for The Harley Medical Group. Try Votary's Body Treatment Oil (£55), which contains salicylic acid to break down blocked pores whilst it hydrates and nourishes. "The acne treatment benzyl peroxide also breaks down keratin, which can block pores."
5. Take your coffee to the shower.
Coffee scrubs aren't just a way to use up excess beans and provide a more natural eco-friendly exfoliator—they can help combat ingrown hairs. Because coffee is acidic, it exposes the trapped hair and loosens it so it can grow back in the proper direction. Try Frank Body Coconut Coffee Scrub (£14).
6. Love your leisurewear.
Sounds absurd, but body-con skinny jeans and wearing anything too tight can breed infection, which is never good when you've got sensitive skin and ingrown hairs. Keep your threads breathable and not only will you be more comfortable, you'll also be less prone to those ugly red bumps. Try something like Nike Essential Running Trousers (£43).
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