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Hey Supersmooth,

Every time I try to excavate an ingrown pubic hair I like to pretend that I’m an archaeologist and my vagina is a tomb full of curses.

It’s driving me nuts.

I’m not ready to try laser hair removal yet so I’m still shaving at home. Have you got any helpful tips?

Yours,

Stay Home Indiana Jones

Dear Stay Home Indiana Jones,

I’m waiting for a modern remake on your movies!

Here’s my take on shaving and how you can get better at this from home.

1. You have to use some sort of lubrication before you shave.

Shaving on dry hair can create kinda sharp edges that are prone to growing back into your skin. I recommend always letting a shaving cream or gel soak into your skin for a few minutes to soften the hair. My personal favorite is an oil cleanser from Innisfree that I use as a shaving oil! I like applications that are 2 in 1 as much as possible and this really hydrates after the shave and it saves time. You can also try using a warm compress before you shave.

2. Use a sharp razor with multiple blades.

With a dull razor or single blade razor, you’ll have to go over the skin multiple times, upping your chance of cutting yourself and getting an infection. Your razor will feel less effective after a few uses, in which case it’s time to toss it or swap out the blades.

3. Shave in the direction that your hair is growing.

Going against your hair’s grain may allow for a closer shave, but the closer the shave, the easier it is for your hair to curl back into your skin.

4. Rinse your blade after every stroke.

This not only adds lubrication, it also gets rid of any shavings clogging the blades that might make it harder to efficiently remove hair with the first pass.

5. Don’t tweeze.

It can be tempting to reach for the tweezers when you spot a stray pubic hair on your bikini line, but don’t! This can leave a fragment of hair under the skin surface and cause inflammation.

6. Don’t stretch your skin for a closer shave.

Stretching your skin tight during shaving can allow the tips of the remaining hair to shrink back into your skin and grow there.

7. Consider using an electric razor or clipper.

Since the entire point of standard manual razors is to get a really close shave, they’re not ideal if you have a history with ingrowns. Instead, it might make more sense to use an electric razor or clipper on a setting that gives you a good shave, but not the absolute closest one possible.

8. Moisturize after you shave.

Moisturizing helps keep your skin less prone to dryness and irritation, and can sometimes aid with exfoliation to prevent a buildup of dead skin on top of a follicle, which increases the odds the hair will get trapped. Moisturizers that contain a chemical exfoliant like lactic, glycolic, or salicylic acid can help dissolve dead skin cells that can more easily trap ingrowns.

Keep in mind that the skin in this area can be delicate and sensitive, so it might make sense to try the gentlest possible moisturizer first before graduating to anything meant to exfoliate.

9. Trim what you can instead of full-on removing the hair.

When you trim, the hair remains long enough that it doesn’t have as much of a chance of growing back into your skin.

10. Try out a serum meant to prevent ingrown hairs.

There are a bunch of serums on the market that promise to help prevent ingrown hairs from forming. Though these products don’t necessarily have Serious Scientific Research to back them up, they may contain certain ingredients that could help. Many ingrown hair serums have chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid to slough off dead skin cells so hair can grow out normally. Some also have soothing ingredients like aloe to help prevent irritation and antibacterial ingredients like tea tree oil to possibly help reduce your risk of infection.

12. Or try removing your hair with a cream, instead.

Like waxing, hair removal creams don’t cut the hair. Instead, they dissolve the hair shaft. Without that structural integrity, the hair doesn’t stay rooted in your skin, so out it comes. These creams can cause irritation or allergic reactions, so patch test any new product on part of your body first before going all in. And make sure to read the packaging—many hair removal creams are only formulated for the bikini line, so if you’re looking to remove most of your pubic hair, you might not be able to go bare with this.

13. Consider laser hair removal if you really struggle with ingrowns.

This procedure removes hair at a deeper level and helps keep it from growing back over time. But it’s a misconception that laser hair removal means you’ll just never grow hair in the treated spots again. The results vary widely but the hair might grow back—it might just be lighter and finer than before

If you do happen to get some painful ingrown hairs around your vulva, take quick action to calm the inflammation and irritation.

First, I recommends that you stop shaving, tweezing, or waxing until things clear up. Any bumps, irritation, pain, and other symptoms should be gone before you carry on with hair removal. In general, this could take anywhere from one to six months. In the meantime, don’t scratch the area—this can lead to more irritation and possibly an infection.

To help things along, you can wash the area around your ingrown hair with a clean washcloth or soft-bristled toothbrush, moving in a circular motion for several minutes. This motion gently exfoliates the area without traumatizing it.

You can also apply an over-the-counter exfoliating lotion or cream with an agent like salicylic acid to try to speed up the healing, since this helps quicken your cell turnover to release the trapped hair. (Or, if you have an ingrown hair serum with a chemical exfoliant, you can try that instead.)

Finally, as tempting as it may be, don’t try to fish the ingrown out on your own. Poking and prodding an ingrown may release some fluid trapped inside of it, but the hair might still be stuck in there, so your symptoms can persist. Plus, opening up your skin in this way can expose you to a potential infection.

Is it possible for you to squeeze out an ingrown hair with no ill effects? Sure. But doing so properly—as in, with the least risk of infection or other complications—would require sterilizing a needle, delicately fitting it underneath the hoop of hair, and lifting out the embedded end. Oh, and you’d have to do it all without piercing yourself or otherwise making the situation worse.

Hope this helps!

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