First things first: Take comfort in the fact that ingrown hairs are totally normal. Most women will experience ingrown hairs (also known as razor bumps) at some point in their lives, says Nada Elbuluk, M.D., assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. While they're most common in people who have curly or coarse hair, they can happen to pretty much anyone and show up pretty much anywhere (legs, arms, under the belt, and more). Typically, these bumps look a something like acne. In some cases, you may be able to see the hair trapped inside them.
When you shave, wax, or pluck your hairs, you run the risk of irritating the hair follicle or creating an environment for dead skin cells to accumulate. The result? The hair can't grow in its natural upward and outward motion, leading to the inflamed red bump you're now forced to deal with, says Elbuluk. (The best way to avoid this is with laser treatment. More on that: 10 Things to Know About At-Home Laser Hair Removal)
We know it's tempting, but don't pick at the hair, says Elbuluk. This is a big no-no. "The tools you're using at home likely aren't sterile, so you could cause irritation and infection," says Elbuluk. You may worsen what's already an uncomfortable situation, introduce new bacteria that could cause infection, or prolong the ingrown's stay on your skin. Plus, plucking the hair on your own can lead to dark spots or scarring if done incorrectly. Oh, and lay off the shaving while you let the irritated region recover. (Related: 13 Down-There Grooming Questions, Answered)
Good news is, these ingrown hairs will likely go away on their own if you treat the surrounding area properly. "Keeping skin moisturized and exfoliated not only makes it easier to shave, but it can help remove dead skin hairs that may clog the hair follicles, as well as promote hair growth in the right direction," notes Elbuluk. Look for over-the-counter products that contain benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid to really get the job done. Many of these treatments overlap with acne treatments so pick your favorite brand and wash away.