Alongside our expert advisor Dr. Anthony Rossi, dermatologist, assistant professor at Cornell’s Weill Medical College and source of all our ingrown hair knowledge, we’re here to help you figure out why that unsightly bump is there (and more importantly, how to make it disappear).
What is this weird, hair-waggling bulge on my face?
That would appear to be a case of pseudofolliculitis barbae, or in layman’s terms, an ingrown hair.
Well, yeah, I can see that. But what is it?
If you were to take a microscopic look at your hair growing, you’d see a hair shaft (that’s what it’s called when the hair has exited the skin) protruding from the hair follicle (the sac from which the hair grows). If that hair shaft makes its way out of the skin, curls back onto itself and re-enters the skin, you’ll get an ingrown hair. The reason this happens, for the most part, is because certain hairs—like beard hairs or mustache hairs—have a curl to them. If that curl is particularly tight, or the hair follicle is angled in a certain way, the hair will have a tendency to grow back into the skin instead of growing up and outward.
Is my face going to be okay? I like my face. I want to keep my face.
Your face will be just fine. Ingrown hair bumps are more an unsightly nuisance than anything and will usually resolve themselves in just a few days. That said, if you notice a particularly persistent ingrown, you’re going to want to take care of it before it becomes infected (or becomes the longest, most disgusting ingrown hair known to man—watch at your own risk).
Please tell me how to stop ingrown hair forever.
The best cure, as ever, is prevention, which starts by recognizing if you’re particularly prone to ingrown hairs in the first place. People of African descent, for instance, are more susceptible to ingrowns because they tend to have curlier hair. If you’ve been getting a lot of ingrowns, make sure that you’re shaving in the direction of the hair growth—especially around the neck and chin, which are the spots you’re most likely to get the pesky buggers. Shaving with the hair growth slices the hair flush against the skin, rather than leaving a pointed tip that’s likely to coil back into the follicle.
Another trick is to exfoliate before shaving to prevent dead skin from clogging the hair follicle and trapping the hair.
This is all very useful but what do I do about the unsightly beast that’s on my face right now?
Right. You can use a sterilized tweezer (immerse them in boiling water for 15 minutes to be certain) to help guide the hair out of the skin, but make sure not to pluck the hair completely out of the follicle—that will cause it to have to grow out from underneath the skin, and will likely cause the ingrown hair cycle to begin all over again.
Ingrown hair is stupid and I hate it and it’s stupid.
There, there. It’s all going to be okay.