What Causes Ingrown Pimples?

Man applying shaving cream
A thick layer of shaving cream helps ward off ingrown hairs. (Image: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

At first glance, the pimples on your face may look like acne blemishes. Dig a little deeper and you may notice tiny hairs in the center of the bumps. These are ingrown hairs, otherwise known as pseudofolliculitis barbae, and generally pop up after shaving. An ingrown pimple appears when a curved hair grows backward into the skin after it is shaved. The result is a raised pimple-like bump that looks unsightly and can cause itching and skin irritation. For relief, find ways to release the trapped hairs and heal the skin left behind.

Your Hairy Heritage

Your genetic disposition may be determining your propensity to suffer ingrown pimples. The condition is common in as many as 60 percent of African- American men who shave a beard, according to American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Because curly hair bends as it grows, it can more readily curl back into the hair follicles and get trapped. While there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk of ingrown pimples, sometimes the texture of your hair makes this condition tough to avoid completely.

Extracting With Confidence

Gently scrub your face in small circles with an exfoliating cleanser. This helps to remove dead skin cells, and also cleans the area so that dirt and bacteria from your face doesn't seep into the ingrown hair when it's open. Rinse your face with warm water and pat dry with a towel. Sterilize your tweezers by pouring rubbing alcohol over the top, then gently poke the bump with your tweezers. Slip the tweezers under the skin and locate the hair. Grab onto the hair and pluck it in the direction of the hair growth. Follow up with a dab of alcohol on a cotton pad.

Reducing the Risk

There are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting ingrown pimples. Wash daily with a gentle cleanser where ingrown hair proves to be a problem. If the area is clean, the risk of infection is less. Men who are susceptible to ingrown hairs on the beard should shave every other day. Also, take a hot shower before shaving to allow steam to penetrate the skin, which helps loosen pores and soften the hair follicles. In addition, always shave in the direction of hair growth.

Rendering the Remedies

If you do nothing to ease an ingrown pimple, the hair will eventually grow and the ingrown hair will dislodge itself. However, most people want to help this process along because they find pimples of any sort unsightly. Spread a thin layer of hydrocortisone cream onto the area twice a day for a week. Another option is to saturate a cotton pad with rubbing alcohol and applying it to the infected area. The alcohol cools the irritated skin and helps prevent more bacteria from getting inside in case you open the pore from scratching.

Get Help

If your ingrown pimples do not resolve with at-home treatment, visit a board-certified dermatologist who can advise you on your options. Laser hair removal treatments and prescription medications, such as retinoids, antibiotics and steroids, can greatly help treat pseudofolliculitis barbae. In addition, both men and women who suffer greatly from constant ingrown hairs can benefit from electrolysis, a procedure that permanently kills the hair follicles over time.

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