Everything you need to know about ingrown hairs, itchy skin and shaving rash.
By Dr Imogen Bexfield
Waging a war against ingrown hairs – and losing? If you struggle with shaving rash, razor bumps or ingrown hairs, it can be painful and frustrating, particularly if it keeps coming back. And if left untreated, it can quickly develop into full-blown folliculitis, an inflammation of the hair follicle that often looks like a nasty rash.
The good news is this itchy skin complaint is harmless and usually goes away by itself, but if you have an important meeting or a hot date to prepare for, it can be extremely frustrating!
Dr Imogen Bexfield, lead skin doctor and founder of White Swan Aesthetics, looks at folliculitis symptoms, causes and prevention tips so you can wave goodbye to ingrown hair and say hello to silky smooth skin:
What is folliculitis?
Folliculitis is an inflammation that affects hair follicles,often caused by ingrown hair. It usually appears as small bumps or clusters on the skin and can sometimes look like a rash. Each hair on your body grows from an opening in your skin called a follicle. Sometimes, bacteria can get into these follicles and cause infection.
Certain things may make you more susceptible to infection such as over exposure to hot water.
You may have heard of folliculitis being described as a ‘shaving rash’, ‘razor bumps’ or ‘ingrown hairs’.
Folliculitis can show up on your skin wherever hair grows, including your scalp. It’s most likely to occur on your thighs, buttocks, neck, and armpits — places where friction is common.
Why does folliculitis happen?
Anyone can get folliculitis, but certain things may make you more susceptible to infection such as overexposure to hot water for long periods of time, trauma from surgery or injury and a weak immune system.
Hair removal, such as shaving, waxing, and plucking can also make you more prone to folliculitis. In general you’re more likely to get the condition if you have damaged follicles already.
Folliculitis prevention tips
While it can happen to anyone at any time, there are several ways in which you can avoid getting folliculitis. These including the following:
- Take extra care when shaving to prevent a rash
Always use warm (not boiling hot) water and make sure the area is fully clean before you begin. Use an antibacterial soap to ensure you are clean and alway shave in the direction of hair growth. It’s also important that you don’t share razors with anyone, use a sharp blade and rinse it under the tap after each stroke.
- Avoid sharing towels or washcloths to avoid infection
Make sure you use a clean once each time you bathe.
- Exfoliate to minimise ingrown hairs
Regular exfoliation sloughs off dead skin cells and can help prevent the build up of bacteria. Use a mild scrub once or twice a week to help keep skin smooth and healthy.
- Wash often to keep hair follicles clean
Regular washing helps keep your hair follicles clean by removing dirt, oil, and sweat. This can help reduce the levels of bacteria on the skin and decrease the risk of developing folliculitis.
What is the best treatment for folliculitis?
Mild folliculitis will usually go away without any treatment. More severe cases will need to be examined by a doctor – they can sometimes be treated with with antibacterial cleansers or antibiotics that are applied directly to the skin.