There are two basic strategies for treating existing ingrown hairs: You can free them or remove them. Either route should be coupled with the prevention techniques discussed in the next section. The swelling and redness can be lessened by using astringents containing witch hazel, allontoin or azulene.
Free the ingrown hair from the skin
Depending on the location of the hair, you have two options for freeing it:
1. Allow it to continue growing and eventually free itself. This method works best when combined with daily moisturizing and gentile exfoliation to remove any dead skin that could be blocking the hair's escape. If a pustule forms, gently squeezing it can cause the hair to pop up to the surface.
2. Using a freshly sterilized pair of tweezers or a needle, you can fish the tip out from underneath this surface of the skin.
Freeing the hair holds the advantage of allowing the skin to heal before another hair removal attempt, when coupled with the prevention techniques in the next section it will offer you the best chance of eliminating ingrown hair completely.
Removing the ingrown hair
Another option is to completely remove the hair. This will work as a temporary fix, but there is nothing guaranteeing that it will not grow back exactly the same way as it did previously. This can be done by fishing the hair out from under the skin's surface with a sterile needle and then plucking it with tweezers. If a pustule has formed, the hair can often be made to pop up to the surface by gently squeezing.
If you're interested in a permanent hair removal process such as laser treatment or electrolysis, see your dermatologist for advice on what will work the best for you.
3. How to prevent ingrown hairs
The best way to fight a pattern on ingrown hairs is to adopt a preventative strategy that minimizes the causal factors. Begin building your strategy by adopting the following routine, then after two weeks you'll be able to see what is working and what isn't, and you can begin adapting it to better fit you individually. There are very few one-size-fits-all health remedies.
1. Keep your skin moist and soft
If you suffer from dry skin, start using a moisturizer every day after bathing. This will not only keep your skin soft but will soften up the growing hair, which can keep it from boring into the skin.
Use a gentile exfoliant every day to remove built up dead skin cells that can clog the surface of your skin and trap hair, causing it to become ingrown. Exfoliating pads, loofahs, and mild scrubs work well. Look for cleansers that contain Salicylic acid.
3. Hair removal
Consider changing your method of hair removal. Each person can tolerate certain approaches better than others. If you shave, try waxing, plucking, or using a cream or powder that will dissolve exposed hair. Electric shavers give mixed results - you either love them or hate them. See which works best for you.
Hair removal prep
Regardless of your chosen methods of removal, always prepare your skin well. Take a towel and soak it with the hottest tap-water you can get, then apply the wet towel to your skin for a few minutes before the shave begins. This will soften your skin, open your pores, soften your hair and cause it to stand straighter and higher. Hair removal after a long hot bath or shower also works.
You've no doubt read or been told to shave with the grain, not stretch the skin, and use single blade razors. The purpose of such advice it to keep the tip of the hair at or above skin level. That's fine for preventing ingrown hairs, but it may defeat the purpose of shaving if you desire a close shave. If after many attempts you're still unable to stop ingrown hairs then consider it a possible trade off - either have ingrown hairs, or a not-so-close shave.
After the shave, splash cold water on your face to close your pores and use a moisturizing aftershave balm to keep the skin and hair soft. You can also try using a cream that contains salicylic acid - a chemical exfoliant that many people have reported success with. Stay away from products containing alcohol - it can dry out the skin and worsen any irritation.