If you've ever waxed, chances are you've had to deal with ingrown hair. They're not only unattractive, but they can also be painful. An ingrown hair after waxing happens when the hair never breaks the skin's surface as it grows or does come out of skin first and then grows back into the skin. Most commonly it occurs in areas where the hair is thicker like men's facial hair or the underarms, or especially where it's both thick and curly, like on the bikini line. Really, though, it can happen anywhere the hair is waxed.
The goal in waxing is to remove the entire hair from the follicle, but it tends to break either above or below the skin's surface when being waxed. This happens when a technician doesn't have the correct "pull" (in the wrong direction) or when too much wax is applied to an area (in trying to remove a large area all at once). The trick in getting a hair out so that you can see the bulb at the base is smaller, more deliberate pulls.
Instead of a new hair forming and growing back having its natural beveled edge, it's now blunt and sharp. This sharpness makes it easier for hair to pierce skin and grow back into it. A good example to turn to is shaving, as it often creates ingrown hairs because it leaves hair blunt from cutting it off.
Ahead, tips on how to prevent ingrown hairs from forming.
Wax at Home Like a Pro
Be sure to follow directions very carefully prepping skin, applying product and removing it. You'll have better chances of getting the entire hair out versus breaking it.
Find a Great Seasoned Tech
If you do choose to pay for your service, don't go to just anybody that's licensed. We know that the bumps can happen despite the greatest intentions. However, those who are crafty have the best chance of not breaking the hair and avoiding other side effects.
For example, some techs prefer hard wax for at least part of the bikini area which is wonderful for coarse hair which 'shrink wraps' it so that it can be easily lifted.
Lightly exfoliating before waxing with an ayate cloth or another mild exfoliator like Herbivore's Coco Rose Body Polish ($36) helps remove dead skin cells allowing for a better and easier service. Also, gently exfoliate a day after the wax if the area isn't red, inflamed or irritated.
Exfoliate your skin a couple of times a week after waxing to help keep dead skin cells away from the hair follicles.
When the hair does start coming back, the exfoliating helps it point up and grow in the right direction—opposite of skin.
Steer Clear of Tight Fitting Clothes After a Service
If you have gotten any type of body waxing then you want the skin to be able to "breathe," rather than be constricted. Not only can tight clothes irritate freshly waxed areas, weeks later it can encourage the hair to grow back into the skin.
Stop Ingrown Hairs Before They Start
Many products are created to help fight and prevent ingrown hairs before they appear, containing exfoliating and moisturizing properties. Preventing them before they appear is much easier than tackling the redness and bumps later on. Try products like Bliss Bump Attendant Pads ($22) and Tend Skin Ingrown Hair Solution ($23). Apply the product for ingrown hair 48 hours after removing hair once per day, or according to the product's directions.
An alternative to waxing is sugaring paste, which also lifts the entire hair. Unlike waxing, which removes hair in the opposite direction of hair growth, the paste removes it in the way that it grows. This puts less strain on the hair so it's less likely to break either above or below the skin.
Cleveland Clinic. Q&A: Expert Explains Best Way to Handle Your Ingrown Hair. Published February 10, 2020.