Your health care provider is likely to diagnose ingrown hair by looking at your skin and asking about your hair removal habits.


To treat ingrown hair, stop shaving, tweezing or waxing until the condition improves — usually 1 to 6 months. If you wish, trim a beard with scissors or electric clippers. Don't start shaving again until all the skin has cleared and ingrown hairs have gone. These steps help control the condition. They won't make it go away permanently.

If you can't go that long without removing your hair and other self-care techniques aren't helping, your health care provider might recommend medications, laser-assisted hair removal or both.


Your health care provider may prescribe certain medications to help manage your condition. They include:

  • Drugs that help remove dead skin cells. A nightly application of a retinoid cream such as tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A, others) helps to clear dead skin cells (exfoliate). You may start seeing results within two months. A retinoid may also help repair any discoloration (postinflammatory hyperpigmentation). A lotion with glycolic acid helps reduce the curvature of the hair, which lessens the chance of a hair growing into the skin.
  • Creams to calm your skin. Steroid creams help reduce irritation and itching.
  • Creams or pills to control infection. Antibiotic creams treat mild infections caused by scratching. Antibiotic pills might be needed for a more serious infection.
  • Creams to decrease hair growth. A product called eflornithine (Vaniqa) is a prescription cream that decreases hair regrowth when combined with another hair removal method, such as laser therapy.

Laser hair removal and electrolysis

Your health care provider might recommend laser-assisted hair removal, which removes hair at a deeper level than does shaving, waxing, tweezing or electrolysis. Laser treatment slows regrowth and is a longer term solution. Possible side effects of this method are blistering, scarring and loss of skin color (dyspigmentation).

Lifestyle and home remedies

Shaving too close can cause skin problems

Jason Howland: Sometimes you can get too close of a shave.

Dawn Davis, M.D.: If you go to trim or shave your hair, particularly if you're a man or particularly if you are skin of color and a male, it's very easy for those hairs if they are trimmed closely to turn in on themselves and then pierce the skin.

Mr. Howland: Dr. Dawn Davis, a Mayo Clinic dermatologist, says those ingrown hairs can become inflamed and infected.

Dr. Davis: That can cause little bumps that erupt like razor burn, but more extensive along the beard area and the neck. And that we call acne keloidalis or acne barbae, or other conditions that then cause lumps of retained hair along the beard area, mustache area or back of the neck.

Mr. Howland: It's common in men who have tight, curled hair. The bumps start small, but eventually can enlarge and create scars on the face and neck.

Dr. Davis: If they start to see these acnelike bumps or little scar tissue like bumps, they should make sure that they're washing appropriately. They should be careful with their trimming practices to not shave as close to the skin. And they should investigate whether they could have an infection, and if so, seek treatment.

Mr. Howland: For the Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Jason Howland.

If you have razor bumps but can't stop shaving, develop a consistent skin care routine such as the following to help control this condition:

  • Shave at least twice a week.
  • Don't tweeze ingrown hairs.
  • Before shaving wash the affected area using a warm washcloth or soft-bristled toothbrush. Use a circular motion for a few minutes.
  • Apply a warm, damp cloth for a few more minutes.
  • Apply shaving cream — don't let it dry out — and use a sharp, single-blade razor.
  • Don't pull your skin while shaving.
  • Shave in the direction of hair growth.
  • Rinse the blade after each stroke.
  • Release visible ingrown hairs by inserting a sterile needle under each hair loop and gently lifting the tip that has grown back into the skin.
  • Rinse your skin and apply a cool, wet cloth for a few minutes. Then use a soothing after-shave product. If needed, try using a 1% hydrocortisone cream for no more than four weeks.

If you're able, avoid close shaves. Try using an electric clippers. Set it to leave stubble. If shaving worsens your condition, you might want to try a chemical hair removal product (depilatory), such as Nair, Magic, others. Test it on a small patch of hair first.

Preparing for your appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your primary care provider, who 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 health care provider.

For ingrown hair, some basic questions to ask your health care provider 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 health care provider 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 medical appointment, if possible, stop shaving or using any form of hair removal. Ingrown hair may worsen at first as the hair grows back. But eventually it improves.

Jan. 19, 2024
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  2. Dinulos JGH. Bacterial infections. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 26, 2022.
  3. Pseudofolliculitis barbae. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/hair-disorders/pseudofolliculitis-barbae. Accessed Jan. 26, 2022.
  4. Alexis A, et al. Folliculitis keloidalis nuchae and pseudofolliculitis barbae: Are prevention and effective treatment within reach? Dermatologic Clinics. 2014; doi:10.1016/j.det.2013.12.001.
  5. High WA, et al., eds. Special considerations in skin of color. In: Dermatologic Secrets. 6th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed May 5, 2021.
  6. Sokumbi O (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Feb. 21, 2022.
  7. Newman CC, et al. Disease-a-month. In: Clinical Pearls in Dermatology 2017. 2017; doi:10.1016/j.disamonth.2017.03.003.