When women are concerned about facial hair, it's typically hair that shows up on the chin. But the problem doesn't end there—chin hair tends to be very thick, which, depending on how it's being removed, may mean it's more likely to grow back into the skin. Popular removal methods, like tweezing, waxing, and shaving may all cause damage to the hair follicle and result in ingrown hairs. And ingrown hairs are never fun.
What is an ingrown hair?
An ingrown hair is a common condition that results from hair removal, specifically, when a shaved or tweezed hair grows back into the skin. It can cause inflammation, pain and tiny bumps in the area where the hair was removed.
That being said, there are ways to prevent ingrown hairs from forming in the first place – or to treat them without further irritating the skin.
Meet the Expert
We spoke with two experts to determine the best ways for women to get rid of ingrown hairs on the chin.
Keep Skin Clean
“To prevent ingrown chin hair, make sure to wash your face daily with a cleanser to remove oil, dead skin cells, dirt, makeup, or other impurities from clogging your follicles,” says Dr. Michael Somenek, of Somenek + Pittman, MD Advanced Plastic Surgery. “Clogged follicles can grow sideways or become stuck, causing ingrown hair.”
Reach for a cleanser without fragrance, and one formulated for sensitive skin, to ensure the product you use doesn't cause further irritation.
You should also exfoliate often, as dead skin cells can block the hair follicle too, causing hair to grow in the wrong direction. "Exfoliate the surface of the skin so the hair follicle can come out of its pore without interruption," says Carqueville. Whether you use a tool or a product to exfoliate, make sure to reach the area that you might often miss that gets the bumps.
You can also use a cream or treatment that contains salicylic acid or glycolic acid occasionally on the areas where you most often develop ingrown hairs, because these ingredients fight bacteria and help remove dead skin.
"There's such a wide variety of exfoliating products," Carqueville says. "I tend to just tell people to use witch hazel or a light astringent with a little acid."
Witch hazel is harvested from the witch hazel plant in North America. It has many uses, including cleansing oily skin, treating minor wounds, treating acne, and removing makeup.
Alternately, you can reach for a physical exfoliant. "Exfoliating and using homemade exfoliators such as baking soda, sugar, and salt can reduce dead skin cells when rubbed into the skin," Somenek says. "The reduction of dead skin cells results in the prevention of ingrown hairs."
Ingrown hairs develop more easily on dry, clogged skin than they do when the skin is moisturized. Soft, moisturized skin is pliable. The bottom or underside of the chin is where the hair can be thicker and more prone to hair growing back into the skin, so if you're going to remove any hair there, you need to make sure to moisturize thoroughly.
"We see a lot of ingrown follicles when the epidermis grows over a follicular unit and the hair can't get out," says dermatologist Jordan C. Carqueville. The irritation that forms as a result can lead some to want to pick the ingrown area, in the hope that they can remove the hair themselves. Carqueville says that's a bad idea.
"Don’t pick at it and try and get it out. yourself," she says. "We don't recommend people do that at home because it's breaking in to the skin, which can lead to scarring and infections."
Your first concern should be removing your hair properly, as it's the first step towards preventing ingrowns. If you're using epilating strips and getting ingrown hairs, the first thing you need to do is stop using them and try another method on the chin or other facial areas. Epilating strips tend to break the hair because they manually take the hair out rapidly but somewhat ineffectively.
Try using tweezers with slanted ends; they work best because it's easier for them to adjust to the curves in the skin.
Instead, use a good-quality pair of tweezers that won't slide off or break hair unnecessarily when you remove chin hair. If you break the hair, it sharpens the end (typically at a slant), therefore increasing the chances of it becoming ingrown because it pierces the skin more easily. Luckily, tweezers don't have to be expensive to do their job. Tweezerman Slant Tweezers are almost everyone's top pick, for good reason.
Even though most skin-care specialists recommend that women don't shave their face, some with facial hair still do. If you fall into that group, don't shortcut it: Use a good quality razor, a pre-shave oil, a moisturizing shaving cream or gel, and an aftershave. Combined, it all will help you get a closer shave, which lasts longer. You'll also have less chance of nicks, cuts, and ingrown hair. Stay away from the tiny facial razors that are marketed to women and made to be used dry. They don't provide a close shave, and they're more prone to pull on your skin, which can cause irritation and rashes.
Get Laser-Hair Removal
As Carqueville explains, there are two types of hair that grows on the face: "There's vellus hair (the thin, soft hairs that can be threaded off easily) and there's terminal hair (which is more coarse, with a larger bulb and thicker shaft)."
She continues: "Sometimes, women will shave or wax those terminal hairs, and the hair grows back and it might get clogged. So the goal becomes: How do we prevent that epidermal clogging of the follicular unit? The first way is to reduce the hair."
Laser hair removal, she explains, is the best choice for that. "Laser hair removal will be your best choice, because it reduces the follicles, so therefore they won't get trapped on their way out."
Somenek concurs. "Laser hair removal is the most effective long-term solution for preventing ingrown chin hair on women," says Somenek. "Laser hair removal prevents new hairs from growing by damaging the hair follicle at a deep level. The laser hits the follicle directly, taking away the follicle’s ability to produce hair, which means no ingrown hairs. "
Use a Chemical Hair Removal Product
"Using a chemical depilatory can remove unwanted hair on the face by targeting the hair structure," says Somenek. "The depilatory creams contain active formulas that dissolve the hair shaft. Chemical depilatories should not be used every day to avoid chemical irritation on the skin."
See a Doctor
Most of the time ingrown hairs clear up on their own, but if it becomes red and sore, it could be infected. Try a steroid or antibiotic ointment. If the infection doesn't begin to improve in a few days, you should see your doctor, who can release the ingrown hair with a small cut.
"If you have a stubborn ingrown hair, I would recommend seeing your dermatologist," says Carqueville. "What we do is clean off the area and then use a sharp tool to specifically open or puncture the area and express the follicle with its contents."
The doctor might also prescribe a prescription-strength steroid or antibiotic ointment, retinoids, or an oral antibiotic, depending on the severity of the infection.
What causes ingrown hair on the chin?
Ingrown hairs are caused by hair entering the skin before it leaves the follicle, therefore curling back and causing irritation (redness or sometimes, a small cyst).
Can you exfoliate skin that suffers from ingrown hair?
You can (and should) exfoliate the skin, but be sure not to use a harsh scrub on already-irritated skin, which can feed inflammation.
Can you pop an ingrown hair?
Just as you should never pop a pimple, you should not pop an ingrown hair, which can cause bacteria to be trapped further into the skin and lead to further problems.
Cleveland Clinic. Ingrown hair. Updated February 28, 2018.
Cleveland Clinic. Q&A: expert explains best way to handle your ingrown hair. Updated February 10, 2020.
Cleveland Clinic. Ingrown hair: prevention. Updated February 28, 2018.