What Causes Ingrown Hair

questionIt can sometimes be hard to properly understand how ingrown hair actually occurs. But if you’ve got a better understanding of how they form and their causes, then hopefully you can take further steps to avoid getting them again in the future.

How Do People Usually Get Them?

There are essentially three main ways people can get ingrown hair. Through hair removal, damaging hair follicles, and through natural growth. So unfortunately if you’re prone to ingrown hairs there isn’t always a lot you can do.

Read ways you can try and prevent getting them here.

Hair Removal

This is the most common way people can get ingrown hair. It can be through shaving, waxing, epilation or plucking. Before the hair is removed, it’s growing naturally outside the skin which is completely fine. But when it’s either plucked or shaved this can potentially interfere with the way the hair grows. It may cause the hair to grow into the skin. If the hair has been shaved it may be more likely to grow into the skin because of its increased sharpness.

With waxing more ingrown hairs tend to occur than any other method. This is because the hair is removed aggressively. This can disrupt the route the hair the naturally takes out of the skin. Once this protective route is disrupted it makes it more likely the hair will grow into the skin.

Damage of Hair Follicles

An attempt to destroy hair follicles isn’t always successful during electrolysis or laser hair removal. This may cause a hair follicle which previously was healthy to become ingrown. This is because it’s possible if the follicle is only partially damaged, it could cause the hair to grow in an irregular way. It can also not actually destroy the follicle but cause the hair to break under the skin. Again this can contribute to the risk of ingrown hairs.

Normal Growth

As our hairs go through the stages of growth they naturally fall out. There are 3 stages:

  • Anagen – The hair growth phase.
  • Catagen – The hair detaches from the follicle blood supply.
  • Telogen – The stage the hair falls out.

So when the hair falls out during the telogen phase and enters the anagen phase again, it’s possible that ingrown hair could form. Just through the natural growth. This unfortunately means that if you’re prone to ingrown hairs you may keep getting them until the follicle is destroyed, or the hair is relieved.

How Do They Occur?

Whether you get an ingrown hair or not  can depend on a number of things. Most of the time hair will grow normally. But you have so many follicles, over 5 million! So eventually something could go wrong. The hair could grow as a slightly different angle for example – oil, dead skin cells, or dirt could be blocking the proper growth path. Tight fitting clothing can also contribute towards ingrown hair. Certain parts of the body are more susceptible to ingrown hair than others, for example where the hair is especially thick, coarse, or curly.

Under The Skin

When the hair begins to curl over and grow into the skin, because of one of the reasons discussed above, an ingrown hair forms. As it grows into the wall of the follicle the skin surrounding it becomes very tender, and sometimes gets infected. This results in a red bump on the surface on the skin. Have a look at this video for a visual demonstration of ingrown hair.