The condition in which hair growth does not penetrate the skin, but rather grows under the skin is known as an ingrown hair. It can also be a case where a hair protrudes the skin, and then the tip curls back into the skin making a small loop. Ingrown hairs tend to cause small bumps on the skin which can become itchy and inflamed, and even painful in some cases. The hair itself may or may not be visible under the bumps. While it can be an irritating and visually unattractive condition, it is not considered medically harmful.
Shaving can be the most common cause of the ingrown hair. When the hair is shaved, the tip is often left at a sharp angle, causing the hair to grow sideways rather than straight from the follicle. Because of this, ingrown hairs are most commonly found in areas of the face, neck, and legs which are frequently shaved. The more thick and coarse the hair, the more likely to become ingrown.
The occurrence of ingrown hairs can be limited or prevented in several ways. One is by not shaving too closely. When the hair is cut too closely to the surface of the skin, the sharp point of the newly cut hair is more likely to grow in an unwanted direction. If longer hairs are left, they already will be coming out of the follicle in the proper direction, reducing the likelihood of ingrowth. Cleaning the area immediately after shaving will also help to prevent ingrown hairs. Cleaning the follicles will allow natural growth and will also limit bacteria that can form when the skin is broken from shaving too closely. Shaving in the direction of hair growth is another method. It prevents getting the tip of the hair too close to the skin and promotes it’s natural growth direction.