Ingrown hairs have a lot in common with pimples. They show up uninvited, seemingly with the sole purpose of annoying the crap out of you. And, since they’re right there, you might be tempted to take matters into your own hands and try to pop them. While you can do that pretty safely with some pimples, what’s the deal with removing an ingrown hair yourself? Here’s how bad it actually is to try to get that sucker out on your own.
In a cruel, ironic twist, ingrown hairs usually happen when you try to remove body hair.
Your hair grows out of little pockets called follicles, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) explains. An ingrown hair starts growing in its follicle normally, but after emerging into the world, it doubles back and re-enters your skin instead of continuing its outward journey. There, it can become embedded. You might be able to see it as a tiny loop with both ends stuck in your skin. Even if you can’t pick up on that visual, the resulting inflammation can cause noticeable symptoms like a solid or pus-filled bump, pain, itching, and hyperpigmentation, according to the Mayo Clinic.
So…is it OK to try to fish out an ingrown hair on your own?
Sorry, but you shouldn’t try tweezing or squeezing your ingrown hair into submission. “[Self-removal] of ingrown hairs can cause several problems, including infection and scarring,” Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, tells SELF. Turns out it takes a lot to do this with minimal risk of skin damage or infection, which is why it’s better left to the derms.
If you can actually see the hair loop above your skin, you could theoretically take a sterile needle, insert it under the loop, and try to gently lift out the embedded tips of hair, the Mayo Clinic explains. But this is one of those ideas that’s better left to theory than practice, because you would need to sterilize a needle on your own, try to find the little hair hoop, then get to work without impaling yourself in the process. That can be pretty challenging, especially if you happen to have an ingrown someplace that might be tricky to access, like around your vulva.
On the bright side, ingrown hairs usually go away by themselves. Sometimes it only takes around a month, according to the Mayo Clinic. (Although it sometimes takes up to six months for hairs that are really stuck in there. Sorry to be a downer.) If an ingrown hair is really giving you grief with symptoms like pain and irritation, see your doctor. They have safe, set procedures for getting stubborn ingrowns out, Cynthia Bailey, M.D., a diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology and president and CEO of Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology Inc., tells.