Shaving causes many instances of ingrown hairs or pseudo-folliculitis, but shaving isn't the only culprit. Anything which cuts or breaks body hairs slightly below the surface of the skin could trap the hair and trigger the condition. Individuals with curly hair suffer from pseudo-folliculitis more often than those with straight hair, and incorrect shaving habits contribute to the frequency of this problem.
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In addition to shaving, injuries and friction could set the stage for ingrown hairs and infection. Impacts and scrapes might sever hairs below skin level, with the injured tissue healing over the embedded hair. On the buttocks or thighs, the friction of clothing wears away body hair, and any hair breaking off too short could be trapped. Waxing and plucking also increase the risk of ingrown hair. Embedded hairs don't always lead to infections, but do cause bumps and inflammation until treated. Pseudo-folliculitis refers to ingrown hairs caused by shaving injuries. Folliculitis is an inflammation of the oil gland at the base of a normally growing hair.
Anyone suffering from recurring pseudo-folliculitus should consider new shaving methods. Close shaves increase the risk of ingrown hairs, so avoid razors with more than one cutting blade. Shaving against the grain, the direction the hair normally lays, also aggravates this problem. Soaking hair from three to five minutes with a hot wet washcloth softens the hair for shaving. Don't stretch the skin while shaving, and use shaving creams formulated for sensitive skin. The lubricating oil in these shaving creams helps prevent injury. Extremely sensitive individuals could substitute baby oil for shaving cream.
Razor bumps without infection heal quickly if the trapped hair is freed and allowed to grow. Pricking the bump with a sterile needle could lift the hair from below the skin. Postpone shaving until the injury heals and the bump disappears. Numerous recurring razor bumps could require medical treatment. Antibiotic lotions or oral medications treat most infections successfully.
Either pseudo-folliculitis or folliculitis could lead to more serious conditions, such as boils, carbuncles or cysts. Large swellings around ingrown hairs, pockets of pus and tenderness indicate that the problem has gone beyond mild irritation. Bacteria including strep cause these infections. Some boils heal without intervention. Applying warm compresses to the area three to four times a day in 20-minute sessions could help the boil open and drain. Never lance a boil yourself, and keep the area clean by washing with anti-bacterial soap three times a day. Bandage the area after washing. Boils that don't drain, turn red or show red streaks, or accompany a fever require the attention of a physician. Multiple and recurring boils, boils near the anus, on the face or near the spine, or boils complicated by diabetes also require a doctor's care.
Special razors designed to prevent shaving too closely prevent most razor bumps. Some razors place a fine wire wrap between the blade and the skin to ensure that a fine stubble always remains. Electric razors and clippers designed to cut hair to a safe height also help. Laser treatment offers a more permanent solution by destroying unwanted hair, including the root, and preventing regrowth.