What is an ingrown hair?: Ingrown hairs occur when a hair grows sideways, staying below the skin surface instead of properly exisitng the skin surface. They are common in areas that are shaven, and tend to affect men in their in their 30s and beyond to a higher degree. Ingrown hairs commonly occur on the chin, jawline, or sideburn area. These ingrown hairs can easily masquerade as zits because they are inflamed mounds that hurt. However, they tend to come out of nowhere, seemingly overnight at times, and tend to be painful as well. If you get a sudden, painful “zit” out of the blue, consider the fact that it may be an ingrown hair.
Proper treatment: For many people, ingrown hairs are a seemingly unsolvable conundrum. However, it turns out they can be successfully treated in much the same way as a severe acne lesion. Ingrown hairs respond to benzoyl peroxide and alpha hydroxy acid extremely well, as long as you catch them early. At the first sign of a reddish or painful lump, gently cleanse the skin, wait for your skin to dry, apply 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, wait for the benzoyl peroxide to dry, and then apply 10% alpha hydroxy acid on top. In other words, apply the Acne.org Regimen with the addition of AHA+.
Generally, when an ingrown hair is medicated during its very early stages, it will subside to nothing in a day or two. Benzoyl peroxide helps kill the bacteria that is growing under the surface, and alpha hydroxy helps turn over the skin more quickly, thus releasing the impaction.
Prevention: Most people find that applying the Regimen on a regular basis to ingrown hair prone areas will prevent ingrown hairs from developing in the first place. Regular adherence to a proper benzoyl peroxide regimen should be enough to prevent ingrown hairs without the addition of alpha hydroxy acid. If you are irregular with your benzoyl peroxide use, alpha hydroxy may be needed when an ingrown hair threatens.
Removing/Popping an ingrown hair: If you catch it too late, an ingrown hair can grow larger and more painful. The lesion can come to a white head, in which case you can carefully pop it and squeeze out the offending hair. Absolutely do not attempt to squeeze out the hair unless the lesion has come to a head.
Dermatologist help: In rare cases, ingrown hairs can get out of control, and the lesion they create can expand to several centimeters or even inches long. In this case, promptly see a dermatologist. He/She can administer a cortisone shot and/or remove the hair entirely, thus preventing too much scarring.
Over-the-counter creams/gels: Ingrown hair creams or gels tend to disappoint. I have personally never come across one that works as advertised. For best results, apply 2.5% benzoyl peroxide and a high quality 10% alpha hydroxy acid instead.