How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs on the Face From Waxing or Plucking

Clever tricks keep ingrown hairs at bay.
... Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Unwanted facial hair is a real nuisance, so there's no shame in whipping out the wax or tweezers to get rid of it. Waxing and plucking gives you a smooth look, but these methods are not without downsides; both can cause ingrown hairs, which happens when an unruly hair becomes trapped beneath your skin. An ingrown hair looks and feels a bit like a pimple -- red, bumpy and sore to the touch. Of course you'd rather avoid this, so treat your skin in the right way before and after you take out hairs.

Allow each hair to grow at least 1/4- to 1/2-inch long before waxing or plucking. If your hair is too short, it will be difficult to remove.

Rub an alpha-hydroxy body lotion on the area two days before waxing or plucking. Apply the lotion again three days after removing hair. This lotion loosens dead skin, so hairs are less likely to get trapped.

Dampen skin with warm water, then smooth an exfoliating product over your face, using your clean fingers. Massage the product in with a cloth or loofah. Exfoliating opens up pores, so you're less likely to get ingrown hairs. Exfoliate daily and just before plucking or waxing.

Shower or bathe in warm water just before removing hair. The warm water softens hair and makes it easier to wax or pluck.

Pluck hairs in the direction of their growth to minimize irritation. You're more likely to get ingrown hairs from plucking the wrong way. If you're waxing, wax against the grain of your hair's growth.

Wax an area no more than three times in one waxing session. If you do wax more than that, you have a higher chance of ingrown hairs.

Blot the skin -- after removing the hair -- with a cotton ball that has been dipped in lavender oil or tea-tree oil. These oils are antibacterial and antimicrobial, so they reduce the chance of irritation, infection and ingrown hairs.

Moisten a cotton ball with a lotion containing salicylic acid, then dab the skin with it after waxing or plucking. The salicylic acid opens pores and helps prevent the hairs from getting trapped beneath your skin. Reapply daily between hair-removal sessions.

  • Do not attempt to remove ingrown hairs. Doing so can cause pain, scarring or infection.
  • Certain cortisone treatments and oral acne medications can make skin sensitive to waxing. Ask your doctor if it's safe to wax if you're taking any medications.
  • If you get an ingrown hair, exfoliate as normal, then treat the area with salicylic-acid acne medication.
  • If plucking or waxing irritates your skin, try removing hair during the week after your menstrual period; your body is less sensitive to hair removal at that time.
  • To soothe irritated skin after removing hair, rub some aloe-vera gel into the area.

Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.