Ingrown Hairs Can Appear On Your Scalp - Here's How To Treat Them

Ingrown hairs are not only annoying, but they can be quite uncomfortable. They occur when hair is cut short, and as the hair grows back, instead of spurting straight up and out, it bends and grows into the surrounding skin instead. Ingrown hairs typically appear after tweezing, waxing, or shaving, and shaving in particular is responsible for more ingrown hairs than other types of hair removal. With ingrown hairs, you may notice small red bumps that can also appear purple, red, or brown. 

Though ingrown hairs most commonly appear on legs, armpits, the face, and bikini areas, they can also show up on the chest, back, stomach, nostrils, and eyebrows. Surprisingly, they can even sometimes show up on the scalp.

They are often itchy, but can be painful especially if they become infected and fill up with pus. While they may go unnoticed in the scalp until they cause irritation, there are ways to get rid of them.

How to treat ingrown hairs on the scalp

The first line of attack for an ingrown hair on the scalp is to simply remove it, but only if it can be easily plucked with a sterilized tweezer (per Healthline). If it doesn't come out easily, don't keep tugging, since that can cause an infection. You should also never pick at it with your fingers, because that can make the problem worse by introducing bacteria to the area.

Next, apply hot compresses to the area three times a day. The heat and moisture combo should entice the hair to emerge through the skin as it softens. You can scrub the area with a washcloth after the hot compress is applied, which can also encourage the softened skin to allow the hair to come through.

Finally, use a shampoo that contains salicylic acid, which works as an exfoliator and helps remove dead skin cells (or you can try a scalp scrub if you prefer a physical exfoliant). Exfoliating may actually be the key to stopping ingrown hairs from occurring. Another tip is to use shampoo with antiseptic ingredients like tea tree oil to help keep the area clean and free from infection.

How to prevent ingrown hairs

Once you have gotten ingrown hairs, it's wise to actively try to avoid them further in the future. Preventing ingrown hairs on the scalp is always preferable and the best course of action rather than waiting until they appear and treating them.

One way to prevent them is to try to keep your scalp from becoming very sweaty. Dermatologist Neera Nathan tells Byrdie that avoiding wearing hats, especially tight ones, is one way to keep ingrown hairs at bay. The combination of friction and heat can cause growing hairs to twist and bend and grow improperly.

However, if you do keep getting them and none of the home remedies work despite your attempts to prevent ingrown scalp hairs, see your dermatologist. It may be necessary to apply a topical antibiotic, or you may require a course of oral antibiotics. Sometimes a quick cortisone shot is given to help reduce swelling and alleviate irritation.