How to Defeat Ingrown Hairs for Good

More than cellulite, more than pale legs, it’s ingrown hairs that can seriously cramp our style during the warmer months. Those ugly red bumps are our biggest obstacle to baring it all in a teeny bikini—never mind the fact that they hurt something awful. The scourge of the sunny season, ingrown hairs occur when a strand of hair curls back or grows sideways into the skin, resulting in an inflamed, red bump. And when we’re waxing and shaving a lot, they’re more likely to rear their ugly head. Follow this simple timeline to make your bikini line maintenance a whole lot less bumpy.

While Removing Hair with Wax

As with most annoying skin issues, ingrown hairs are easier to prevent than treat. If you’re waxing, wait until your hair is at least 1/4 inch long. Anything shorter and you risk not giving the wax enough to grip onto, leading hairs to break in half instead of being pulled out by the roots—a recipe for ingrowns. For sensitive areas like the bikini line, we recommend a non-irritating elastic wax like this one, which won’t stick to skin as much as harder formulas can.

While Shaving Hair

Start by dampening skin with warm water and smoothing an even layer of shaving cream over the area you’re shaving. Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream is full of moisturizing botanicals, which lubricate skin for a smooth, nick-free shave. Move your razor in the direction of your hair’s natural growth—part of what causes ingrown is shaving too close to the skin, which makes it easier for the super-short strands to get trapped underneath as they grow back. If you still feel stubbly after shaving this way, shave in the other direction on your second go-around, but only in the areas that remain prickly.

Right After Hair Removal

For the 24 hours following your wax or shave, your skin will be extra-sensitive to heat and friction, and your pores will be open, making them more vulnerable to infection, according to Natalia Romanenko, the senior wax expert at Strip Ministry of Waxing in New York City. On her lists of don’ts during that period: working out, swimming in an ocean or pool, or taking a hot shower. We’ll add one more: don’t sunbathe, which will further inflame skin. Apply an ingrown hair treatment immediately after, like Whish Flawless Ingrown Hair Serum, which uses willow bark, a natural form of salicylic acid, to prevent and heal bumps. Apply the serum once a day for seven days, ideally post-shower while skin is still warm so the ingredients can penetrate more deeply, says Romanenko. After a week, applying every two to three days will effectively prevent new ingrown hairs from forming.

Three Days Later

By now, your skin won’t be as tender or sensitive, so it’s safe to exfoliate—a must for stopping ingrown hairs in their tracks. In the shower, massage skin with a scrub to clear away pore-clogging dead skin cells and prevent hairs from becoming trapped. Romanenko recommends (MALIN+GOETZ) peppermint body scrub, which buffs away rough skin with bamboo and pumice and soothes with vitamin E. Exfoliate every four to seven days to keep hairs growing in the right direction.

One Week Later

Congratulations! You’re out of the woods as far as the first wave of ingrown hairs is concerned. But maintaining your routine is essential to keeping your skin bump-free. Continue to apply the ingrown hair serum every two to three days, and exfoliate once a week. Now go ahead and confidently bare your bikini line.

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