Ingrown Armpit Hair: What to Do

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If you’ve had one, you know how painful they can really be. Ingrown armpit hairs can be a painful, unsightly condition that affects anyone who shaves or waxes.

It occurs when a hair that has been shaved, waxed, or plucked grows back into the skin, causing redness, swelling, and discomfort. This can be a recurrent problem for those with curly or thick hair. 

So let’s explore the causes of ingrown armpit hair and offer practical advice on what to do to prevent and treat it. Whether you're experiencing this issue for the first time or struggling with it on a regular basis, you'll find helpful tips and suggestions to keep your armpits smooth and irritation-free.

What is an Ingrown Armpit Hair?

An ingrown armpit hair is a condition where a hair that has been removed from the skin's surface grows back into the skin instead of out of it. This can result in inflammation, redness, and discomfort in the affected area. It can even cause infection if the hair is not removed properly, as bacteria can get trapped beneath the skin.

Your armpit is a microenvironment with its own unique characteristics that can make it more likely for hair to become ingrown. Factors such as sweat, friction, and tight clothing can all contribute to ingrown hair. It is important to practice proper hygiene, use gentle exfoliation methods, and wear loose-fitting clothing to help prevent the condition if you are prone to ingrown armpit hairs.

What Causes an Ingrown Armpit Hair?

Ingrown armpit hair is caused by the hair follicle becoming clogged with dead skin cells, oils, and bacteria. This can cause the hair to grow at an angle and become trapped under the skin's surface, leading to inflammation and infection. 

Other factors that can contribute to the development of ingrown armpit hairs include shaving, waxing, or plucking hair in the wrong direction, using improper techniques, or having curly or thick hair. Hormonal changes, genetics, and certain skin conditions can also increase the likelihood of ingrown armpit hair.

Symptoms of an Ingrown Armpit Hair

If you think you may have an ingrown armpit hair, check out the list of symptoms below. But be advised that your best course of action is to seek care from your regular general practitioner.

  • Redness and swelling in the area
  • Pain or tenderness in the area
  • A pimple-like bump or skin infection
  • Itching or burning sensation in the area
  • Darkening of the skin in the area
  • Discharge of pus or blood from the area

In more serious cases, an ingrown armpit hair may lead to an abscess, where the area around the hair becomes red, swollen, and filled with pus. This may require medical attention. Do not attempt to remove the hair yourself, as this can worsen the infection, and you may cause further damage.

At Home Remedies for an Ingrown Armpit Hair

There are several at-home remedies that can help alleviate the discomfort and inflammation associated with ingrown armpit hair:

Exfoliate regularly: Gently exfoliating the skin can help remove dead skin cells and prevent hair follicles from becoming clogged.

Soak in warm water: Soaking in warm water can help soften the skin and reduce swelling.

Apply a warm compress: Placing a warm, damp cloth on the affected area can help open up the hair follicle and release the trapped hair.

Use tea tree oil: Tea tree oil has antibacterial properties that can help prevent infection and promote healing.

Avoid hair removal methods that can irritate the skin: Shaving, waxing, or plucking hair can all contribute to the development of ingrown hairs. Consider switching to a different hair removal method or using a less aggressive technique.

Wear loose-fitting clothing: Wearing tight clothing can irritate the skin and make ingrown hairs worse.

Remember, if an ingrown armpit hair becomes infected or painful, it's best to seek medical attention.

What Not To Do When Attempting To Remove An Ingrown Hair

When attempting to remove an ingrown armpit hair, it's important to avoid the following:

  • Popping or squeezing: Picking at or squeezing the ingrown hair can increase the risk of infection and scarring.
  • Shaving in the wrong direction: Shaving against the grain or in the wrong direction can increase the likelihood of ingrown hairs.
  • Using sharp or dirty instruments: Attempting to remove an ingrown hair with a dirty or unsanitary instrument can increase the risk of infection.
  • Scratching or rubbing the area: Scratching or rubbing the affected area can irritate the skin and make the problem worse.
  • Applying harsh chemicals: Using harsh chemicals, such as hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, on the affected area can irritate the skin and increase the risk of infection.
  • Ignoring symptoms: Ignoring symptoms of pain, redness, or swelling can lead to a more serious infection.

How a Doctor Removes an Ingrown Armpit Hair

A doctor may remove an ingrown armpit hair in several ways, depending on the severity of the condition:

Manual extraction: If the hair is visible, a doctor may be able to gently extract it using sterile tweezers.

Sterilized needle: If the hair is not visible, a doctor may use a sterilized needle to gently lift the skin and remove the hair.

Topical or oral antibiotics: If the ingrown hair has become infected, a doctor may prescribe topical or oral antibiotics to clear up the infection.

Corticosteroid injections: In some cases, a doctor may inject a corticosteroid into the affected area to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Surgical excision: In severe cases, a doctor may need to perform a surgical excision to remove the ingrown hair and surrounding tissue.

It's important to see a doctor if you're experiencing pain, redness, or swelling in the armpit, as these may be signs of an infection. A doctor can help determine the best course of treatment for your specific situation.

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This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.

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