8 Derm-Approved Tips for Soothing and Preventing Ingrown Hairs

DIY solutions that work.

bottle with dropper

Cait Knoll

Ingrown hairs—these two little words conjure up so much dread. In our quest for smooth, stubble-free skin, ingrown hairs are an annoyance at best and a cause for concern at worst (trust us—you don't want to see what they look like when they get infected).

Whether they're springing up as bumps on your legs or wreaking havoc on your bikini line, ingrown hairs are an unwelcome guest that can lead to serious discomfort, inflammation, and even scarring.

What Is an Ingrown Hair?

An ingrown hair is a common condition that occurs when hair grows back into the skin and becomes trapped.

The cause of ingrown hairs isn't complicated. Simply put, when your hair starts to grow, sometimes it curls inward and gets trapped back under the surface of your skin. This can happen because dead skin cells clog up your hair follicle (so always, always exfoliate), but ingrowns also exist just because of your hair's natural growth pattern—so, unfortunately, those with curly hair may suffer the most.

Note: While anti-inflammatory treatments like soaks, scrubs, and serums can help to reduce inflammation after ingrown hairs occur, don't forget the importance of treating their root cause. The best method is gentle daily exfoliation and moisturizing. With tips from our experts, use these DIY mixes to exfoliate, prevent, and soothe any irritation.

Meet the Expert

Keep reading to learn how a few simple steps, DIY remedies, and easy fixes can banish bumps and keep ingrown hairs at bay.

how to treat ingrown hair
Sunny Eckerle/Byrdie 
01 of 08

Aspirin-Honey Treatment

honey

I Like That One / Getty Images

This recipe is a double whammy. Not only does aspirin naturally contain salicylic acid, but honey also has antibacterial properties, which can help reduce the possibility of inflammation and infection, says Shaurya. So the two of them will help ward off infection and reduce swelling when applied to your skin. Here's how to make the treatment.

Ingredients:

  • 3 uncoated aspirin tablets
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. water or oil

Directions:

  1. Add warm water or oil to a bowl.
  2. Add honey.
  3. Crush aspirin tablets.
  4. Mix together.
  5. Leave mask on for 10 minutes.
  6. Wipe off entirely with warm water.
02 of 08

Coconut Oil-Sugar Scrub

woman scrubbing her legs

Steve Mason / Getty Images

You can use an exfoliant or another mild granular ingredient (like sea salt or granulated sugar), mix it with a carrier (like avocado or coconut oil—something that won’t immediately dissolve the granules), and make any DIY scrub. Tobia says this combination of ingredients keeps follicles clear of any blockages and gently massages ingrown hairs out before they become inflamed or infected.

Coconut oil, for example, is hydrating, keeps skin moisturized, and reduces inflammation. It's our winter skin savior. Mix it with raw sugar, and you've got a winner. You can use this scrub daily until you see an improvement, and then you can switch to two or three times a week. Just be careful that the scrub isn't too abrasive.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil
  • 10 drops of tea tree oil or your preferred essential oil

Directions:

  1. Combine sugar and coconut oil in a bowl.
  2. Add in essential oil.
  3. Mix together.
  4. Apply, and then rinse using warm water.
  5. Dry with a clean towel.
03 of 08

Baking Soda-Oatmeal Treatment

oatmeal

Viktoryia Vinnikava / EyeEm / Getty Images

Here's a great combo: Baking soda, which is an amazing exfoliator, helps reduce and prevent ingrown hairs. Oatmeal has a soothing effect, reducing redness and irritation caused by exfoliation. Murphy-Rose mentions DIY ingredients like oatmeal is a great way to reduce inflammation after ingrown hairs occur.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tbsp. ground oatmeal

Directions:

  1. Mix baking soda and oatmeal together.
  2. Add water to the bowl.
  3. Stir until it has a paste-like texture.
  4. Using a cotton pad, scoop up the mixture.
  5. Apply to the affected area, and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  6. Rinse with warm water.
04 of 08

Tea Tree Oil Soak

tea tree oil

AWEvans / Getty Images

Tea tree oil is anti-inflammatory, and it has antibacterial and antiseptic properties, which is why it's found in so many acne products. It also helps to keep your skin's naturally occurring oils in check.

Ingredients:

  • Warm water
  • Tea tree oil

Directions:

  1. Warm 8 ounces of water in a bowl.
  2. Add about 20 drops of tea tree oil.
  3. Use a clean washcloth to apply the mixture to the affected area.

Use a warm washcloth to gently exfoliate and loosen dead skin. Murphy-Rose recommends doing this toward the end of your shower or bath when the skin is saturated with water. Make sure the temperature isn't too hot, and let the warm water do its thing.

05 of 08

Black Tea Bag Treatment

tea bag

Emma Todd / Getty Images

Tea is known to have many natural healing properties, and black tea, in particular, contains anti-inflammatory properties to soothe skin and reduce redness. It also contains antioxidants like caffeine, which, aside from being part of our morning routine, also has great preventative acne and anti-aging benefits. Caffeine is also an anti-inflammatory and, therefore, a key benefit for ingrown hairs.

Ingredients:

  • 1 black tea bag
  • Warm water

Directions:

  1. Heat water.
  2. Dip tea bag to moisten.
  3. Apply tea bag to the affected area.
  4. Let sit for two to three minutes.
06 of 08

Oil-Based Serum

serum

Iryna Veklich / Getty Images

If you're particularly sensitive, it's best to avoid overly harsh scrubs. Abrasive scrubs like sugar and salt scrubs do exfoliate the skin but often at the expense of causing excess skin irritation, Murphy-Rose says. She generally prefers the use of gentle chemical (acid) exfoliation, but if you're not into chemical exfoliants and want something to soothe skin post-shave, your best DIY option might be an oil-based recipe like this one.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. castor oil
  • 1 tbsp. hemp oil (optional)
  • 10 drops tea tree oil

Directions:

  1. Find a reusable glass bottle.
  2. Combine castor oil and hemp oil.
  3. Add tea tree oil to mix.
  4. Apply combination after shaving to prevent irritation.
07 of 08

Tea Tree Oil and Witch Hazel Serum

tea tree oil

TanyaRow / Getty Images

Tobia tells us tea tree oil combined with warm water is a great antiseptic to use on the affected area. It helps loosen hair and clears out the follicles, she says. Witch hazel—a natural plant that has antibacterial and antiseptic benefits that help prevent inflammation—can be applied as a toner immediately following hair removal/shaving.

Ingredients:

  • 10 drops of tea tree oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Tea tree oil

Directions:

  1. Warm 1 cup of water in a bowl.
  2. Add tea tree oil to warm water.
  3. Apply to skin.
  4. Dab with witch hazel as a toner afterward.
08 of 08

Aloe Vera-Baking Soda Treatment

aloe vera

Iryna Veklich / Getty Images

Look for products or natural ingredients (like aloe vera) that contain salicylic acid. It's known to help prevent infection, reduce bacteria, aid proper skin cell turnover, and prevent blockage of hair follicles.

"Salicylic acid is one of my favorite ingredients for at-home ingrown hair prevention because it is one of the few acids that can travel into the pore, working deep within the epidermis to keep your pores clear," says Shaurya. It also possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which are two key components in combating ingrown hairs.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. aloe vera
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda

Directions:

  1. Combine aloe vera and baking soda.
  2. Let sit for two to three minutes.
  3. Store the rest in a jar to use for later.
  4. Keep in the fridge.

Other at-home options range widely and include cleansers like CeraVe's SA Body Wash ($14), saturated peel pads like Cane + Austin's Miracle Peel Pads ($78), a range of different exfoliants, and chemical peels.

"I recommend the use of alpha and beta hydroxy acids to exfoliate your skin, followed by a light non-comedogenic oil-free moisturizer," Murphy-Rose adds.

FAQ
  • Where are ingrown hairs most common?

    Ingrown hairs are caused by hair that is trapped beneath the surface of the skin as it grows—so anywhere hair can grow (arms, chin, back, etc.), ingrown hair can be.

  • Are there side effects of ingrown hairs?

    Ingrown hairs can cause irritation or pimple-like lesions on the skin.

  • What if the ingrown hair continues to cause a problem?

    If you're noticing an accumulation of ingrown hairs (so much so that they're causing you discomfort or leading to infections), you should see a dermatologist.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Canadian Dermatology Association. Ingrown hair.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Ingrown hair. Updated February 28, 2018.

  3. NHS. Ingrown hairs. Updated August 7, 2019.

  4. Mandal MD, Mandal S. Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activityAsian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2011;1(2):154-160. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(11)60016-6

  5. Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oilsInt J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070

  6. Reynertson KA, Garay M, Nebus J, et al. Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skinJ Drugs Dermatol. 2015;14(1):43-48.

  7. Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Bagherani N, Kazerouni A. A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatologyInt J Dermatol. 2013;52(7):784-790. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2012.05654.x

  8. Herman A, Herman AP. Caffeine's mechanisms of action and its cosmetic useSkin Pharmacol Physiol. 2013;26(1):8-14. doi:10.1159/000343174

  9. Thring TS, Hili P, Naughton DP. Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cellsJ Inflamm (Lond). 2011;8(1):27. doi:10.1186/1476-9255-8-27

  10. Decker A, Graber EM. Over-the-counter acne treatments: a reviewJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012;5(5):32-40.

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