By Liz Bekesz
There it is! Barely visible, yet thriving nonetheless while stuck under layers of nearly translucent dermis: a tiny black hair growing horizontally and down, embedding itself into unreachable areas I care not visit. Tiny Evil One (as I unlovingly refer to my ensnared enemy hair) regularly takes residence within an alien mound that grows at the southernmost tip of my face (aka, my chin). Tiny Evil One typically stays a few days, causing as much chaos and destruction as possible, while I endeavor repeated yet futile eviction and extraction attempts.
On my list of Chronic Beauty Grievances, ingrown facial hairs are near the top. Apparently, I’m not alone: Ingrowns and women are unfortunately well acquainted.
“It’s extremely common to see ingrown facial hair, from one squiggly hair to many,” says dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf, MD. “It’s usually no big deal. It’s when ingrowns become chronic – and the hair becomes like a rubber band and causes recoil – that it can be problematic.” When recoil occurs, the hair curls inward and can become blocked by dead skin cells -causing Inflammation or infection. Sometimes, scar tissue can even result. Graf prescribes a topical (or if the case is severe, oral) antibiotic to help clear the aggravated area.
Joanna Vargas, owner of Joanna Vargas Salon Skin Care Sanctuary, also sees a fair amount of women with concerns stemming from ingrown facial hair. “It tends to look like the woman has acne on her chin – some are inflamed and red, some are infected, and usually the woman has also picked some of them so she also has hyperpigmentation, or scars.” To correct the problem, Vargas first tries to calm the inflammation and to remove any infection on the inside by squeezing. She then makes sure any remaining pieces of the ingrown are extracted followed by a calming mask, and then uses LED Light Therapy to soothe the area and help avoid scarring. Vargas goes on to say, “An at home treatment would be oats, yogurt and even some chamomile tea. I would also send the person home with a product that contains tea tree and propolis- they are both anti-inflammatory and both anti-bacterial. What happens with ingrowns is they are a breeding ground for bacteria because they inflame the skin.
(The salon also offers a treatment called Vitalight that incorporates microdermabrasion plus LED Light Therapy and Oxygen; Vargas recommends it as “perfect for ingrowns.”)
Both Graf and Vargas emphasize avoiding tweezers when dealing with unwanted facial hair. “Plucking is actually the cause of a lot of ingrown problems, and I never recommend it,” states Vargas. Graf agrees, recommending instead small scissors – or even a razor – if you notice growth that requires a quick DIY procedure. For prevention of further ingrowns, both professionals embrace acids: Graf recommends daily cleansers containing Glycolic Acid or Salicylic Acid (try Glytone Mild Gel Wash and Glytone Mild Cream Wash). Vargas favors organic fruit acids, like those found in the Eminence Organics brand.
Ultimately, both Graf and Vargas agree that complete hair eradication is the only permanent answer to the ingrown hair conundrum. They recommend electrolysis as a tried-and-true standby that gets to the (forgive me) root of the problem. “The only real downside to electrolysis is the possibility of dormant hair,” admits Graf. That simply means there’s no guarantee that one day a new hair may not sprout somewhere on your body. I can live with that.
Electrolysis sounds good to me – and far more efficient and timesaving than the hours of compulsive plucking I currently endure per month. I’m actually looking forward to making an appointment to sit down and get shocked right in the face, as soon as possible. I welcome that kind of temporary abuse…if it ultimately leads to more beautiful things.
Jeanette Graf, MD
88 Bayview Avenue
Great Neck, NY 11021
Joanna Vargas Salon
Skin Care Sanctuary
501 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10017