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.
Your first concern should be removing your hair properly, as it's the first step towards preventing ingrowns. 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 (compare prices on Amazon) are almost everyone's top pick, for good reason.
Try using tweezers with slanted ends; they work best because it's easier for them to adjust to the curves in the skin.
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.
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.
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 shave there you need to make sure to moisturize thoroughly. You should also exfoliate often, as dead skin cells can block the hair follicle too, causing hair to grow in the wrong direction. 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. 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.
Most of the time ingrown hairs clear up on their own, but if it becomes red and sore, it could be infected. In that case, apply 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. The doctor might also prescribe a prescription-strength steroid or antibiotic ointment, retinoids, or an oral antibiotic, depending on the severity of the infection.
Cleveland Clinic. Ingrown hair. Updated February 28, 2018.
Cleveland Clinic. Ingrown hair: prevention. Updated February 28, 2018.
Cleveland Clinic. Q&A: expert explains best way to handle your ingrown hair. Updated February 10, 2020.