Epilation & ingrown hairs

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Epilation & ingrown hairs
Tweezers get to the root of the problem. (pince à épiler image by jergA from Fotolia.com)

Although epilation may conjure up images of an epilator, that hair-plucking machine is only one kind of epilation. Epilation is removal of hair by the roots. It includes waxing or sugaring, plucking and threading.

Epilation is more painful than shaving but tends to last longer. Many epilation methods claim they keep you hair-free for two to three weeks; however, you may find that your hair starts sparsely sprouting in as early as one to two weeks. Ingrown hair can be a byproduct of epilation.

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Ingrown Hair

An ingrown hair is a hair that, rather than growing out of its hair follicle, decides to dig its way through surrounding tissue. This sideways growth can be caused by improper epilation or by hair follicle openings that have been plugged with dead skin cells. Sometimes the hair is unable to penetrate through the epidermis layer of skin so curves inward and starts growing back into the dermis, which is the skin layer right under the epidermis. This problem is more frequent in areas with coarse hair, such as a woman's bikini area or a man's beard and neck.

Ingrown hair is medically harmless, but it can affect a person's physical appearance through skin discolouration--also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, skin infection, scarring and, in rare instances, keloid scar formation.

Symptoms

Ingrown hairs create pink or red bumps and may be tender, hurt or itch. Sometimes ingrown hair creates a small, foreign-body reaction; pus is visible, and the ingrown hair may look like a pimple. An ingrown hair is sometimes visible underneath the skin. These symptoms often become apparent a few days to weeks after epilation, reported MedicineNet.com. Sometimes acne whiteheads or milia sprout around the ingrown hair.

Prevention

The best way to prevent ingrown hair is to exfoliate regularly. Doing so removes the old layer of skin that could prevent hairs from breaching the surface. Besides store-bought exfoliators, natural exfoliators such as salt and sugar also can be used.

Using heavy creams or lotions immediately after epilation should be avoided because doing so can clog pores, possibly resulting in ingrown hair.

Options

People who are prone to ingrown hair in highly visible areas sometimes opt for electrolysis or laser hair removal. Electrolysis is a permanent but slow procedure; it targets individual hair follicles and requires multiple treatments. Laser hair removal passes a laser beam through the skin to inhibit future hair growth. Several treatments are needed for extended hair-free results, but periodic maintenance treatments may be required.

More consumer-friendly options include creams, spot treatments and toners that are available at stores and online. Acne cream could push ingrown hair to ripen more quickly. Toners with salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic acid aid in the removal of dead skin cells, enabling an ingrown hair to surface.

Epilation Methods

Waxing involves having an adhesive stick to hair that is ideally ¼ inch (6cm) long. The variety of waxes includes pliable wax, which requires strips of cloth or plastic; hard wax, which does not require strips; and pre-made wax strips, which are ready for immediate use. When acne medication, especially medication that includes Tretinoin and Isotretinoin, is used, skin becomes more sensitive, and alternatives to waxing are advised.

Sugaring is much like waxing, but the "wax" is a paste mixture of sugar, lemon juice and water. This alternative is advisable for people with sensitive skin.

Tweezers can be used to pluck renegade hairs or shape eyebrows. When working with a large area, tweezing may be too time-consuming. In such an instance, an epilator is the ideal choice.

Threading has gained popularity in the West. In this method, a cotton thread is twisted. Employing a see-saw motion, the user plucks hair out at its roots. Threading is less painful than waxing and is an alternative for people using acne medication.

Epilation & ingrown hairs
An epilator can be a timesaver. (épilateur image by ninice64 from Fotolia.com)

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