Ingrown hairs can be more common in people with coarse or curly hair. They may also be likelier to occur when the hairs are very short, such as after waxing, shaving, or tweezing. Ingrown hairs occur more frequently in areas that experience a lot of friction.
Most ingrown hairs on the legs do not cause complications, and they usually resolve on their own. A few simple home remedies can help.
In this article, we describe how to safely remove ingrown hair on the legs and prevent the issue from recurring.
Getting rid of an ingrown hair
Ingrown hairs can occur after waxing or shaving.
Many ingrown hairs will resolve over time without treatment. It is often best to let them heal on their own and take preventive steps.
However, if a person can see the tip of the hair outside the skin, it may be easier to pull the hair out and allow the follicle to heal.
To remove an ingrown hair safely:
- Wash the area with mild soap and warm water. If the area is not irritated, gently exfoliate it.
- Apply a warm, wet washcloth over the ingrown hair. This can help open the follicle and allow it to drain.
- Hold the washcloth in place for 1 minute, then remove it.
- Using a sterilized needle or tweezers, gently tease out the rest of the hair.
- When the entire hair is above the surface of the skin, use the tweezers to grab its base. Pull firmly upward to remove the hair.
- Wash the area again with warm, soapy water, and apply a warm washcloth if needed to help soothe any irritation.
Do not try to pick out an ingrown hair that is under the skin. This can lead to infection. It may also push the hair deeper into the skin, increasing the time it takes to heal.
Use the following methods to help prevent ingrown hairs:
Dirt, oils, and dead skin cells can clog the hair follicles. Removing these can treat and help prevent ingrown hairs.
Exfoliation before shaving can help. Scrub the legs with an exfoliating body wash or use a loofah to help remove dirt and unclog pores.
Exfoliation also gently scrapes away the dead skin cells that accumulate on top of the skin. This layer of dead cells can trap new hairs inside the follicles, causing them to grow inward.
Also, gentle exfoliation is sometimes enough to pull ingrown hairs up and outside the skin, where they can grow correctly.
Try a dry brush
Dry brushing is a way to get rid of dead skin cells. Brushing the skin with a firm, long-bristled brush in a circular motion can gently scrape away the outer layer of dead skin cells, revealing softer skin underneath.
Removing this layer can also keep the pores and follicles clear and prevent hairs from growing inward.
Use shaving cream or gel
Using shaving cream or gel can help to prevent ingrown hairs.
Shaving cream adds moisture and reduces friction when the razor glides over the skin.
Too much friction can result in irritation and inflammation. It may also cause razor burn, in which the skin becomes bumpy, red, and sometimes painful. By reducing friction, shaving cream reduces the risk of irritation.
The type of shaving cream can also make a difference. Sensitive skin may react to ingredients in some creams.
Chemicals and fragrances in shaving creams can irritate and inflame the skin, leading to skin issues, such as ingrown hairs.
People with sensitive skin may benefit from using natural or hypoallergenic products on their legs.
Choose the right razor
Ingrown hairs on the legs can signal that a person is using the wrong type of razor.
A good razor should glide gently across the skin, leaving behind no missed or half-shaven hairs. Replace razors regularly to avoid dullness, which can add friction.
Razors that do not glide smoothly can catch and pull hairs, and ingrown hairs can result. A razor that catches can also cause small nicks and cuts, which can become infected.
In the past, some dermatologists believed that single-blade razors reduced risk to the skin. However, a 2013 study showed no difference between single- and multiple-blade varieties.
Shave in the direction of growth
Hairs in an area tend to grow in the same direction. Shaving in the opposite direction can cause the hairs to have very sharp tips. This makes it easier for them to penetrate the skin and grow inward.
Practice good shaving techniques
Some other tips for preventing ingrown hairs due to shaving include:
- Always use a sharp, clean razor, avoiding razors with any signs of rust or wear.
- Rinse the blade after every stroke.
- Shave less often, allowing the hair to grow.
- Clean the blade with rubbing alcohol after each use.
- Do not overuse disposable razors.
Over-the-counter (OTC) products for ingrown hairs
There are some OTC creams and treatments available for people who regularly get ingrown hairs.
These products contain ingredients commonly found in acne medications, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid. When successful, they prevent ingrown hairs by removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores.
Some OTC products may help coax the hair up and out of the skin, which may reduce the risk of infection.
Also, moisturizers can keep the skin from becoming dry, itchy, and inflamed.
Ingrown hairs and waxing
Moisturizing before and after waxing can help to reduce friction.
Some people prefer waxing to shaving. After waxing, the hair may take a longer time to reappear, and it may grow back finer.
Shaving is more likely to cause ingrown hairs, but they can also occur after waxing.
Hydration is key for people who wax their legs. If the skin is dry, waxing can result in brittle hair that breaks at the root, rather than being pulled out entirely.
Ingrown hairs can also result from increased friction that occurs when clothes rub against recently waxed dry skin.
Use a natural moisturizer before and after waxing to reduce friction and keep the skin soft and hydrated. It may also help to wear loose-fitting clothes for 24 hours after waxing.
When to see a doctor
An occasional ingrown hair on the leg is normal. However, if ingrown hairs occur frequently, it may be a good idea to see a doctor.
The doctor may be able to suggest further treatment options. Or, a person may have a skin condition that resembles ingrown hairs.
If a person notices that an ingrown hair is infected, they should see a doctor. The area around the hair may appear to be inflamed or red, or there may be a pus-filled bump. A doctor can treat the infection and keep it from spreading or getting worse.
Many remedies mentioned in this article are available for purchase online.