Ingrown hair – symptoms, causes and associated risk factors

Ingrown hair

Many people have strange bumps which have sprung on their faces. They might think that they are pimples but they are not. Also they are not hives. They are ingrown hairs. When a shaved or tweezed hair grows back into the skin, then an ingrown hair happens. It can cause pain, inflammation and tiny bumps in the areas where the hair was removed. Ingrown hair is a very common condition which is result from hair removal. This condition is most prevalent in black men who shave their facial hair. The ingrown hair can affect every single person with tightly curled hair who waxes, tweezes or shaves to remove the hair. In the most cases the ingrown hair improves without treatment. People can avoid ingrown hair by not removing the hair. But if this is not an option, then you can use hair removal methods which can lessen your risk of developing ingrown hairs. There are some cases when the dead skin can clog up the hair follicle. This is forcing the hair to grow sideways under the skin, rather than outward and upward. Also there are some cases when someone is cutting naturally curly hair too closely and this is resulting in sharpened end of the hair piercing their skin which is causing an ingrown hair. You should know that the ingrown hairs are not a serious condition. But ingrown hairs can be embarrassing and irritating. There are many Latinos, African – Americans and people with curly or thick hair who develop a type of ingrown hair which is known as pseudofolliculitis. This condition is most commonly known as razor bumps and it is a collection of little bumps which are very common on the beard area after you have tweezed, waxed or shaved to remove your unwanted hair. You should wash your skin using warm water and a mild facial cleanser before the shaving. You should always close shaves. [1]

Ingrown hair symptoms

In the most cases ingrown hairs appear in males in the beard area, including the cheeks and chin, and especially the neck. Also males who shave their scamp can have ingrown hair. In females, the most common areas for ingrown hairs are the legs, pubic area and armpits. Here are some signs and symptoms of ingrown hair:

  • Embedded hair
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Skin darkening (hyperpigmentation)
  • Small, pus – filled, blister – like lesions (pustules)
  • Small, solid, rounded bumps (papules)

If you have an occasional ingrown hair, then you do not have a cause to be concerned about. If your ingrown hairs are a chronic condition, then you should talk with your doctor. Your doctor can help you to manage this condition. If you are woman who have ingrown hairs as a result of excessive unwanted hair growth (hirsutism), then you should talk with your doctor. Your doctor will discover if your condition is a result of treatable such as polycystic ovary syndrome. After you have shaved, you should rinse your skin and apply lotion. You should use a sharp razor every time that you shave.

Ingrown hair

Ingrown hair causes

The hair direction and structure play an important role in the ingrown hair. It is believed that a curved hair follicle which is producing tightly curled hair is encouraging the hair to re – enter the skin once the hair is cut and it will start to grow back. You should know that the shaving is creating sharp edges in this type of hair, especially if your hair is dry when you are shaving it. [1] Also you can get ingrown hair if you:

  • Tweeze – which also can leave a hair fragment under the skin surface
  • When you are pulling your skin taut during shaving – which allows the cut hair to draw back into the skin and re – enter the skin without first growing out

When the hair penetrates your skin, then your skin reacts as it would to a foreign body which means that your skin becomes inflamed.

Risk factors: When you are having tightly curled hair, then you have the main risk factor for ingrown hairs.

Complications: If you have chronic ingrown hairs, then this can lead to

  • Pseudofolliculitis barbae which is also known as razor bumps [2]
  • Permanent scarring (keloids) [3,4]
  • Skin darkening (hyperpigmentation) [4]
  • Bacterial infection (from scratching) [5]


[1] Luo DQ, Liang YH, Li XQ, et al. Ingrowing hair: A case report. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016;95(19):e3660.

[2] NYU Langone Medical Center. Best practices for ingrown hair or ‘razor bumps’. Science Daily. 2015. Retrieved from

[3] Tirgan MJH. Neck keloids: evaluation of risk factors and recommendation for keloid staging system. F1000Res. 2016;5:1528.

[4] Glaser DA, Layman J. Chapter 26 – Psychosocial issues and the cosmetic surgery patient. Surgery of the Skin. 2005;413-23.

[5] Lin HS, Lin PT, Tsai YS, et al. Interventions for bacterial folliculitis and boils (furuncles and carbuncles). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2018;2018(8):CD013099.


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