Anyone who has ever suffered an ingrown hair needs no convincing that they can be nightmares to deal with.

What is an ingrown hair and how does it manage to work its way into our lives? This little rogue’s beginnings feature a classic storyline:  tender young thing comes up against unfriendly forces, and ends up taking a wrong turn.

In the world of hair growth, here is what normally happens:  a  brand-new hair, seeking to make its debut into the world, grows upward through the follicle, and toward the natural opening at the top (pore), at which point it surfaces into the open air.

If, however, there is something at the surface of the skin blocking the pore (e.g., dryness, irritation), then the  hair might not be able to make it to the other side.  A fledgling hair in this predicament shares a  particular kinship with the new baby chick facing the unbroken ceiling of its shell, as well as the frustrated executive facing the proverbial glass one.

The hair does its best to push through (“..must…make it…to the light…”), but sometimes it just can’t; at this point, it sadly gives up and begins to travel in any direction that will allow, which is usually either back the way it came, or sideways, parallel to the surface of the skin.

The bad news is that the wayward hair is now in a previously-restricted area, which usually  causes more irritation.  Which then causes the same problems for newly-emerging hairs in the vicinity – they will turn around and do the same thing, which can then easily turn into a vicious cycle.

Whether or not you choose electrolysis as a way to deal with these hairs, there IS something you can do to improve the situation.  The hairs are blocked by skin, and the only way to get to them is to remove the blockage.  This is usually accomplished either all at once (digging the hair out with a sharp object) or gradually over time, through exfoliation.

Digging a hair out is fine if the hair is right under the surface, but if it lies too deeply under the skin, you can do damage, which can sometimes end up in a permanent little scar.  If you can cultivate some patience, you might consider exfoliation, which can be done either mechanically (loofahs, scrubs) or chemically (various products.)  Exfoliation helps to speed up the process of surface skin cell turnover (shedding the old and replacing with new) and gradually brings the hair closer to the surface.

One of the best products for dealing with ingrowns is called “TendSkin”.  It works by tossing off surface skin cells to allow for new ones to come up, which bring with them smoother, calmer skin, as well as the elusive hair tips, which can then be grabbed and dealt with.  It will dry out the skin, so be prepared, but it is well worth the effort in the long run.