Ingrown Hairs: The Cause and The Cure

I get ingrown hairs when I shave; they are very annoying and painful. These areas also cause dark spots and scarring on my skin will laser help this? (Lisa, ingrown hair sufferer)

Yes, laser hair removal will alleviate this problem. Ingrown hair occurs when a shaved or tweezed hair grows back into the skin, causing inflammation and irritation. Ingrown hairs are most common among black males, ages 14 through 25, or Hispanics. But an ingrown hair can affect anyone with tightly coiled hair who shaves, tweezes, waxes or uses electrolysis for hair removal.


Ingrown hairs cause localized pain and appear as bumps in the area where hair was removed. The bumps can be embarrassing. Not removing hair is one way to avoid an ingrown hair. When that isn't an option, you can use hair removal methods that lessen the risk of developing ingrown hairs.

Ingrown hairs most commonly appear in males in the beard area, including the chin, cheeks and, especially, the neck. They can appear on the scalp in males who shave their heads.

In females, the most common areas for ingrown hairs are the armpits, pubic area and legs.Signs and symptoms include:

  • Small, solid, rounded bumps (papules)
  • Small, pus-filled, blister-like lesions (pustules)
  • Skin darkening (hyperpigmentation)
  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Embedded hairs

When to see a medical practitioner

An occasional ingrown hair isn't cause for alarm. See your practitioner if:

Ingrown hairs are a chronic condition. Your practitioner can help you manage the condition.

You're a woman with ingrown hairs as a result of excessive unwanted hair growth (hirsutism). Your practitioner can determine whether your excess hair is a result of treatable hormonal abnormalities, such as polycystic ovary syndrome.

  • Use of a cold wash cloth along with the laser- have the laser professional rub the area lightly after 3-4 pulses
  • Use aloe gel with lidocaine (a mild numbing agent) after the treatment
  • Make sure the laser being used has either cold air blowing during the treatment or uses a cooling agent like Cryogen. (personally I prefer the cold air due to less exposure to unnecessary chemicals)
  • Choose a Alexandrite or Nd:yag laser as opposed to an IPL or diode treatment- more effective and less painful.

Of course everyone experiences pain or discomfort differently. How much discomfort you'll feel will depend not only on such factors as your skin type, the thickness and density of your hair, and the area of your body being treated, but also on your ability to tolerate pain.

Some individuals will need to take medication every time while others will not feel the need. Rarely do I find that someone can not tolerate the treatments, usually it is because something else is causing them pain or discomfort and the combination is not tolerable. Most women will want to avoid hair removal treatments for several days before and during their monthly menstrual cycles.

The amount of inflammation already occurring during that time causes the laser treatment to be more uncomfortable.Numbing agents, although widely used, are not very effective. They do no penetrate deep enough in the skin to cause numbing at the follicular site. These agents can also be dangerous if used on too large of an area.

In my experience the benefits far out weight the discomfort involved. After just one treatment the effects of hair removal is apparent. Issues like razor burn, bumps and ingrown hair are lessened so that the pain is worth the gain!