Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Using a sharp razor can help to prevent ingrown hairs.

Using a sharp razor can help to prevent ingrown hairs.
beginning of content

Ingrown hair

3-minute read

What is an ingrown hair?

An ingrown hair occurs when you cut a hair and it grows back into the skin, causing inflammation. It can happen anywhere on the body that hair is removed from, such as through shaving, tweezing, waxing or using hair removal cream.

Sometimes an ingrown hair can cause an infection around the hair follicle, known as folliculitis.

Common places for ingrown hairs are:

  • men’s chins, cheeks and necks
  • women’s legs, pubic areas and armpits
  • buttocks
Illustration an ingrown hair vs normal hair.
An ingrown hair occurs when the hair grows back into your skin, causing the area to become red, swollen and itchy.

What are the symptoms of an ingrown hair?

The area around the ingrown hair can become swollen, red and itchy. It can become inflamed so that it is painful and looks like a pimple with pus. Ingrown hairs can form cysts (sacs of fluid beneath the skin) which can range from a small painless lump to a large, infected swelling.

What causes an ingrown hair?

There are 2 causes of ingrown hair.

  1. Cutting a hair can force it back into its follicle.
  2. Dead skin can clog the follicle, causing the hair to grow under the skin or re-enter its follicle or one nearby. The hair then grows inward instead of pushing through the surface of the skin.

You are more likely to get ingrown hairs if you have very curly or coarse hair. Cutting curly or coarse hair can lead to a type of ingrown hair called pseudofolliculitis or ‘razor bumps’ after shaving, tweezing or waxing hair in the area.

How is an ingrown hair treated?

Ingrown hairs often improve without treatment. It may help to stop shaving, tweezing, waxing or using hair removal cream until the condition improves.

Washing the area with a washcloth or soft toothbrush using a circular motion for several minutes can help release the hairs. You can also try inserting a sterile needle under the hair loop and pulling the ingrown end to the surface.

If the ingrown hair becomes infected, you may need an antibiotic cream from the doctor. In severe cases, oral antibiotics may be needed.

Talk to your doctor if you have a lot of ingrown hairs. There are medicines that can remove dead skin cells, reduce inflammation and treat infection.

Can ingrown hair be prevented?

You might be able to prevent ingrown hairs by:

  • washing your skin with warm water and a mild facial cleanser
  • exfoliating before you shave
  • using a single blade or electric razor
  • shaving in the direction of the hairs
  • using shaving creams to cleanse the area

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2021

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

ACD A-Z of Skin - Folliculitis

A-Z OF SKIN Folliculitis BACK TO A-Z SEARCH What is it? Folliculitis means inflammation of the hair follicle

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Pseudofolliculitis Barbae

A-Z OF SKIN Pseudofolliculitis Barbae BACK TO A-Z SEARCH What is it? Also known as…Razor Bumps, Shave Bumps, Barber’s Itch, Folliculitis Barbae Traumatica What is Pseudofolliculitis Barbae? Pseudofolliculitis Barbae is a chronic inflammation of hair-bearing areas of the skin caused by ingrown hairs that develop after shaving or plucking

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Acne Keloidalis Nuchae (AKN)

Acne Keloidalis Nuchae (AKN) is a chronic, inflammatory condition that most commonly affects hair follicles on the back of the neck in patients with skin of colour (coloured skin).

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.