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Phuong Nguyen

Shaving + swimsuits + summer = ingrown hairs. Right? Feels like every time I shave (or wax) any part of my body, a little red bump shows up. And while it’s totally natural, and happens to everyone (they can occur even from just wearing too tight of clothes), and literally no one can see it but you, it’s still a major source of annoyance.

What can be done? Nothing, right? Well, not exactly. There are a few vital things you can do—pre- and post-shaving—to make those red bumps much less pesky.

First off, why do they even appear? “The cause of ingrown hair is that the hair curls back into skin instead of growing upward,” says Gunna Covert, master esthetician at Daphne and Penelope & The Beauty Bar. “If you have coarse or curly hair, you are more prone to getting them.”

Oh, great, but what can be done about it at home? Gently exfoliate before and after shaving and waxing with exfoliating pads or a good scrub. Use a fresh razor head if shaving, and a good quality shaving cream is a game changer, too.

“Best way to prevent them after hair removal is by exfoliating skin regularly, starting 48 hours after your hair removal treatment,” says Covert. More specifically, exfoliate with a product containing salicylic acid, because it both exfoliates dead skin cells, and has antibacterial properties. This ‘48-hour after’ rule is critical for preventing clogged pores and ingrown hairs, as well as helping the hair grow out properly instead of curling underneath the skin surface.

Products like Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads ($45) and Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel ($88) work wonders to majorly exfoliate dead skin cells and prevent blocked hair follicles.

But what if you have an ingrown hair that’s really, really bad? Carefully place a hot (not too hot though!) compress on the affected area and help the hair come to the top on its own after a few days. Or—very carefully—after compressing, take clean tweezers—very clean, like freshly antibacterial clean—and try to grab the single hair causing the major irritation. Be careful with this though!

Want to take it to the pros? Professional spa and hair removal places, like Daphne and Penelope & The Beauty Bar, have treatments that help. They both offer The Lotus bikini facial (yep, facial!), which targets ingrown hairs and the skin in your bikini area. The treatment includes cleansing, exfoliation, extractions, and brightening, and is best two weeks after sugaring or waxing.

Do you also leave your hair removal up to the pros? If so, there are a few things to consider post-professional wax as well. “After waxing or sugaring, make sure you wear loose clothing so your skin can breathe, and try not to touch your skin so germs won’t cause breakouts,” says Covert. You should also avoid soaking in your tub (excessively, but showering is totally fine) for 24 hours or longer, because soaking can get bacteria into the empty follicles more easily.

Also avoid direct sun exposure and apply sunscreen after hair removal for 48 hours to reduce any hyperpigmentation troubles. And, of course, go for fragrance-free creams or lotions around those hair removal areas to reduce any irritation.

Got more questions (shaving, ingrown hairs, or otherwise)? Send ‘em on over, we’ll investigate.

Get more summertime beauty tips:

Everything You Need for Summer, All for $29
The Summer Sephora Items Employees Want for Themselves
Get Sandal-Ready Feet In 30 Minutes (Or Less)