Diagnosis

Your doctor is likely to diagnose ingrown hairs by looking at your skin and discussing with you your hair removal habits.

Treatment

To treat ingrown hairs, stop shaving, tweezing or waxing until the condition improves. If that's not possible, consider laser treatment, which removes the hair at a deeper level and inhibits regrowth.

Medications

Your doctor may prescribe certain medications to help manage your condition. They include:

  • Drugs that help remove dead skin cells. Retinoids applied to your skin, such as tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A, others), help with clearing dead cells from your skin (exfoliation). This can reduce the thickening and darkening of the skin that often occurs on dark skin prone to ingrown hairs.
  • Creams to reduce inflammation. Your doctor may suggest a steroid cream.
  • Creams or pills to control infection. For mild infections caused by scratching the affected area, your doctor may recommend an antibiotic ointment. For more severe infection, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics.

Lifestyle and home remedies

To release ingrown hairs, you can:

  • Wash the affected area using a washcloth or soft-bristled toothbrush. Use a circular motion for several minutes. Do this before shaving and at bedtime.
  • Use a sterile needle, inserting it under hair loops, to gently lift embedded hair tips.

Preparing for your appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor. He or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in skin conditions (dermatologist).

To get the most from your appointment, it's good to prepare. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

  • List any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • List key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements you're taking.
  • List questions to ask your doctor.

For ingrown hairs, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my condition?
  • What are other possible causes for my condition?
  • Do I need any tests?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • What is the best course of action?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
  • Are there restrictions I need to follow?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • Do you have any relevant brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions, as well.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
  • Does anything make your symptoms worse?
  • What type of razor do you use?
  • How often do you shave?
  • What shaving or other hair removal technique do you use?

What you can do in the meantime

In the days before your appointment with your doctor, if possible, stop shaving or using any form of hair removal. Ingrown hairs may worsen at first as they regrow, but eventually they'll improve.

March 13, 2015
References
  1. Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 32nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: W.B. Saunders; 2011. http://www.dorlands.com/index.jsp. Accessed Jan. 27, 2015.
  2. Pseudofolliculitis barbae. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec10/ch124/ch124d.html. Accessed Dec. 5, 2014.
  3. Goldstein BG, et al. Pseudofolliculitis barbae. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 27, 2015.
  4. Alexis A, et al. Folliculitis keloidalis nuchae and pseudofolliculitis barbae: Are prevention and effective treatment within reach? Dermatologic Clinics. 2014;32:183.