According to the NHS, ingrown hairs happen when "hairs have curled around and grown back into the skin." This can lead to red, itchy spots and whiteheads. Niiice.
So how do we prevent them? Here's everything you need to know:
1. Exfoliate often
According to the National Health Service, "an ingrown hair can occur when the hair follicle becomes clogged with dead skin cells." This clogging can force a hair to grow sideways, but regular exfoliation (once a week) will help prevent that build up of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. Opt for for a scrub with lactic acid and physical micro-dermabrasion granules to make it seriously effective at dissolving those "dead, follicle-clogging cells."
2. Consider hair removal creams
Shaving is the biggest culprit for triggering ingrown hairs, this is because "when the hair grows back, it has a sharper edge and can easily poke back into the skin." The NHS recommends the simplest way to prevent them "is to let your hair grow freely without shaving it." But if that's not an option, it's worth trying a sensitive hair removal cream instead.
3. If you are going to shave, use the best blade
Remember peeps, disposable razors are just that–disposable. We've all been there, that yellow Bic razor has been lurking in the corner of your shower for wayyy to long, and yet you reach for it anyway. The next day, your bod is shaving rash central!
That's because disposable razors aren't designed for long-term use, the blades can dull quickly and leave you with an uneven, bumpy shave—which will only exasperate the ingrown hair sitch. Invest in a high quality razor, but just remember to buy a couple of extra razor heads so you aren't tempted to reuse the same one over and over.
Another option is to invest in an electrical shaver. It won't give you as close of a shave as a manual wet razor, but it's almost as good (take it from someone who knows). And, because it doesn't cut the hair quite as close to the skin it pretty much guarantees you won't get any ingrowns or itchy regrowth.
So if you aren't fussy about feeling 110% smooth, it might be worth trading off to an electrical option for day-to-day, and keeping your wet razor for special occasions only.
4. Remember shaving cream
If you're using a manual razor it's oh-so important to find a good shaving cream. It will give an extra slip to the skin ensuring blades don't drag, and meaning you can avoid irritating any sensitive spots. Opt for an alcohol-free, sensitive formula, to prevent drying out your skin.
5. Go in the right direction
Shaving in the opposite direction to the hair growth means each hair will be cut at a sharper angle, and is therefore more likely to grow back under the skin. Remember to shave in the same direction as hair growth to prevent this from happening.
6. Post-shave treatment
There are a whole host of "post-shave'" products out there, some good, some not-so good. We recommend using exfoliating pads soaked in salicylic or glycolic acid—both of which are known for their ability to dissolve any build up of dead skin cells from the surface of the dermis and prevent pores clogging and ingrown hairs.
7. Aaaand if you do find yourself with an ingrown hair...
You did everything right, but there it is, an angry red spot staring up at you. Firstly, avoid the temptation to squeeze it as you could end up pushing the hair deeper into the skin, or you could spread bacteria into the pores triggering an infection.
Often minor ingrown hairs can be left alone and they'll usually go away without you having to do anything. However, if the hair is close to the skin and you can see it, the NHS recommends "using a sterile needle or tweezers to gently tease it out. However, don't dig for the hair if it lies deep below the skin's surface." If in doubt though, leave it alone and contact your derma. After all, it's better to be safe than sorry.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.