Ingrown Hair on the Head: Causes, Complications, and Treatment Remedies

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Ingrown Hair on the Head
Credit: iStock.com/BrazilPhoto

Examine any small swelling or pimple-like bump on the scalp to determine if it is an ingrown hair. Most times, an ingrown hair on the head will disappear on its own, but the pain and itchiness may cause you to constantly rub or scratch the area. This may create an ideal environment for infection to set in. Knowing the proper treatment to do at home may help prevent further complications of the ingrown hair.

Ingrown hairs on the head are common in areas that are cut or shaved regularly. This can happen to anyone, but is often seen among those with coarse or curly hair.

The hair normally pushes through the skin’s surface as it grows. An ingrown hair on the scalp develops when the short hair curls around and re-enters the skin nearby. This causes the body to believe a foreign entity has entered the skin and may respond with inflammation, itchiness, and pain.

Causes of Ingrown Hair on the Head

1. Shaving

Shortening or removing the surface hair may cause an ingrown hair to develop. The shaving of a hair leaves a sharp edge at the tip, giving it a pointed tip to renter the skin’s surface as it grows. This is commonly seen when shaving dry hair.

By pulling the skin taut when shaving, the hair is directed back to the skin surface to grow.

2. Gender

Both males and females can experience an ingrown hair on the head. It can also form anywhere on the body, especially on areas that are routinely shaved. Having high levels of some sex hormones called androgens (especially testosterone) may increase your chances of getting ingrown hairs, as hair growth is typically excessive.

3. Clogged Follicles

An ingrown hair may develop within hair follicles that are clogged with dirt, debris, or dead skin cells. Not only does a clogged skin pore force the hair to curl within the skin surface, it may also house bacteria, promoting an infection.

4. Genes

Those who inherit curly or coarse hair may frequently develop ingrown hairs. These hair types can appear in any ethnicity, but are more common among men and women of African-American descent.

The naturally tight, curly hairs may renter the skin surface without having an external source force guiding it. This is known as pseudofolliculitis and is also commonly seen in Latinos and anyone will thick, curly hair.

5. Hair Products

The excessive use of hair products can cause the scalp to become susceptible to ingrown hairs. The harsh chemicals and ingredients may clog the pores as well. This could promote bacterial infections.

6. Hair Coverings

Wearing a hat, hairband, or scarf over the hair follicles may encourage clogged pores, sweating, and trap debris within the hair follicles. They may also force short or cut hairs to turn back into the skin surface as opposed to growing outwards.

7. Health Conditions

An ingrown hair may develop as a result of an underlying health disease or disorder. This may include the effects of some conditions, such as infection from an abrasion or  surgical procedure or a weak immune system.

How to Treat an Ingrown Hair on the Head

An ingrown hair on the head may cause discomfort, pain, inflammation, and possible infection. It is important to treat an ingrown hair properly.

In addition to the following steps in caring for an ingrown hair, we have also provided natural home remedies for ingrown hair to treat the accompanying symptoms.

  • With an ingrown hair, allow the hair to grow out instead of shaving the region.
  • Do not wear a hat or hairband on head as the friction of the cloth and sweat can further irritate the ingrown hair.
  • Use a soft toothbrush or cloth to gently bring the ingrown hair out from the scalp.
  • Apply a cloth soaked in hot water or a warm compress on the affected area of the scalp three times a day.
  • Avoid touching or picking at the ingrown hair to prevent infection and scarring.

The following are natural home remedies and treatments for how to get rid of ingrown hair on the head. The discomfort and pain of symptoms may also be alleviated with use of treatments.

1. Warm Compress

The effects of a warm compress may help to improve blood circulation to the ingrown hair, reducing inflammation and possibly forcing it to rise above the surface of the skin. The heat may relieve the tenderness and eliminate any pus within the affected bumps.

  • Soak a cloth in hot water and apply directly to the areas of ingrown hair.
  • Allow the heat to set into the scalp for 10 minutes. Rewet the cloth as needed.
  • Repeat twice a day until the ingrown hair is at the skin’s surface.
  • Sterilize a needle with rubbing alcohol and heat. Place the needle under the curve of the ingrown hair and lift one end out.
  • Use tweezers to fully pull out the hair.
  • Apply aloe vera gel on area to reduce redness and inflammation. 

2. Baking Soda and Coconut Oil

Clinical studies have shown that baking soda works as an antibacterial and coconut oil may offer anti-inflammatory properties. Together, baking soda acts as an exfoliator to remove dead skin cells, and the coconut oil moisturizes the skin while impairing infection growth.

  • Combine 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to form a paste.
  • Massage the paste onto the ingrown hair area and leave for three minutes.
  • Rinse with warm water and pat dry.
  • Repeat up to two times daily until irritation is gone.

3. Olive Oil and Sugar Scrub

Using olive oil may treat the inflamed and swollen bumps of the ingrown hair. The sugar crystals act as a natural exfoliator to remove dead skin cells.

A study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine suggests the active components of olive oil, such as the fatty acid oleic acid, squalene, vitamin E, and oleuropein, work to reduce inflammation and protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. As such, they could potentially treat irritation and itchiness that often accompanies the ailment.

Adding essential oils as an antibacterial source may also enhance the scrub treatment.

  • Combine olive oil and sugar of equal amounts in a medium-sized bowl. Sea salt can also be substituted for the sugar due to its texture.
  • Add 3 drops of both lavender and tea tree essential oils into the mixture and mix well.
  • Massage the scrub onto the affected scalp area to eliminate dead skin cells and stimulate the ingrown hair to push from the skin surface.
  • Rinse with warm water and pat dry.
  • Repeat the process twice each week.

4. Tea Tree Oil

The antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial components of tea tree oil have been the focus of healing various conditions over the years. It may also alleviate the ingrown hair symptoms.

  • Soak a cotton swab or cotton ball in 3 drops of tea tree oil.
  • Apply to the ingrown hair and surrounding area.
  • Alternatively, combine 3 drops of tea tree oil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Mix well and apply to the affected area with a cotton swab.
  • Allow to set for 10 minutes before rinsing. Pat dry.
  • Repeat this process twice daily.

5. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has natural anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties that may help combat the redness, itchiness, pain, and possible infection of an ingrown hair.

  • Squeeze the gel of a fresh aloe vera plant onto a cotton swab.
  • Massage the gel onto the ingrown hair and nearby areas.
  • Allow to dry.
  • Repeat process two to three times daily.

6. Tea

The use of black, green, and herbal teas to speed up the healing process and offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties has long been part of treatment for many ailments. Using a tea bag may help to draw out the ingrown hair from the scalp while treating symptoms.

The tannin ingredient in black tea has been shown in clinical studies to work as an astringent with antiseptic powers. Pharmacognosy Research published a study in 2011, which showed that bacterial strains were destroyed with the use of green, black, and herbal teas of Camellia sinensis.

  • Soak 1 tea bag in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Remove tea bag and squeeze out excess water.
  • Apply the tea bag directly on the ingrown hair on the scalp.
  • Leave on the area for three minutes.
  • Repeat process two to three times daily.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that could help treat damaging skin conditions. The acetic acid of apple cider vinegar, in particular, may combat the itchiness, irritation, inflammation, and discomfort of an ingrown hair.

A study released by the Burns journal focused on the use of this acetic acid within apple cider vinegar to fight bacterial infection and speed up the healing process. The report found it can be used as a local antiseptic.

Combining apple cider vinegar with witch hazel may give a double dose of healing power to this remedy. Witch hazel is used for its antibacterial, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties.

  • Use equal parts of apple cider vinegar and witch hazel and mix together.
  • Dip a cotton ball or cotton swab into the solution.
  • Apply directly onto the area of the ingrown hair, as well as the follicle itself.
  • Leave the cotton ball on the area for 10 minutes before rinsing with warm water.
  • Repeat this process two to three times daily.

An ingrown hair that does not heal or vanish on its own should be checked by a qualified dermatologist or physician. Medical intervention in the form of corticosteroids or antibiotics may be necessary for ingrown hair removal.

Ingrown Hair on the Head: Prevention Tips

Ingrown hairs on the head may be prevented by not shaving the hair follicles. If this is not an option, and a small or large area of the head needs to be shaved, take the following precautions:

  • Gently rub your head in a circular motion with a warm wet cloth before shaving hairs.
  • Use a sharpened, single-bladed razor.
  • Shave in the direction of hair growth.
  • Shave using only a few strokes of the blade in one spot.
  • Rinse the razor with warm water after each shave stroke.
  • Try to leave a bit of stubble one to two millimeters in height.
  • Place an electric razor close to the scalp when shaving.
  • Shave in a circular motion with an electric razor.
  • Reduce irritation by placing a wet cloth soaked in cool water on shaved areas.
  • Regularly exfoliate the scalp.

Ingrown hair on the head may appear as a pimple with a dark center, surrounded by a red rash. It can cause pain, discomfort, tenderness to the touch, and severe itchiness.

Most cases result from improper shaving techniques. Your genes, health condition, and personal care of the hair and scalp play a role in whether an ingrown hair develops.

Using natural products as home remedies may address the ingrown hair itself as well as the accompanying symptoms. These treatments may also stimulate the hair to grow in the correct direction.

The ingrown hair may heal on its own, if not compromised by touch or scratching. This may then lead to infections and further complications. Severe cases may require medical attention.


Related Articles:

Ingrown Hair Cyst: Common Causes and Home Treatment

Ingrown Hair: Symptoms and Prevention Methods


Sources:
Cui, Z., et al., “Topical use of olive oil preparation to prevent radiodermatitis: results of a prospective study in nasopharyngeal carcinoma patients,” International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, July 2015, 8(7): 11000-11006; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4565279/, last accessed September 27, 2017.
Ryssel, H., et al., “The antimicrobial effect of acetic acid—an alternative to common local antiseptics?” Burns: journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries, Aug. 2009, 35(5): 695-700; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19286325, (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.burns.2008.11.009), last accessed September 27, 2017.
Surjushe, Amar, et al., “Aloe Vera: A Short Review,” Indian Journal of Dermatology, 2008, 53(4): 163-166; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763764/, (https://dx.doi.org/10.4103%2F0019-5154.44785), last accessed September 27, 2017.
Intahphuak, S., et al., “Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil,” Pharmaceutical Biology, Feb. 2010, 48(2): 151-7; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20645831, (https://doi.org/10.3109/13880200903062614), last accessed September 27, 2017.
Chan, E., et al., “Antioxidant and antibacterial properties of green, black, and herbal teas of Camellia sinensis,Pharmacognosy Research, October-December 2011, 3(4): 266-272; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249787/, (https://dx.doi.org/10.4103%2F0974-8490.89748), last accessed September 28, 2017.

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