How to prevent ingrown hairs
Exfoliate before hair removal
The thicker the layer of dead skin, the harder it is for a hair to break through and grow straight. "Exfoliating removes dead skin cells so hairs can grow properly," says esthetician Sonya Dakkar, founder of the Sonya Dakar Skin Clinic in Los Angeles, CA. You can buy a fancy scrub to get the job done, but simply adding a small scoop of kosher salt to some shower gel and washing with the mixture before shaving or waxing also does the trick.
Soften up with oils
Rub on a pre-shave oil, such as King of Shaves Kinexium Pre-Shave Oil ($7), and let it sit for 10 minutes before removing any hairs. This softens the skin, making it more pliable so the hair is less likely to snag on thick, dry patches after it's cut. Dakkar says shaving cream also softens the skin, but not as well as a pre-shave application of oil.
Stop infection before it starts
Ingrown hairs become red and inflamed due to a bacterial infection underneath the skin. Keep things clear by applying a lotion or oil with anti-bacterial ingredients, such as tea tree oil or lavender oil, after hair removal. "Don't use rubbing alcohol or alcohol-based products," warns Dakkar. "They'll dry out, irritate, and inflame the skin, which can make things worse."
The only guaranteed way to prevent ingrowns is laser hair removal. "I've been an aesthetician for years, and I know all the tricks to get a smooth shave or wax, but I can tell you laser hair removal is the best prevention for ingrown hair -- period," says Melissa Cavanaugh, director of Pulse, a laser spa in New York City. Interested? Make sure you get the process done at a dermatologist's office or from a spa where the technician is trained by the same company that makes the laser she plans on using. Complete hair removal in one area -- such as under the arms or along the bikini line -- takes about six sessions, at $150 and up per session.
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