Ingrown hair boils are common in areas where people shave or otherwise remove hair, like the legs and armpits on women and the facial area on men. They are more common in men than in women, particularly in young African-American men, possibly because of the typical texture of their facial hair and the fact that men often shave daily. However, anyone can develop a boil from an ingrown hair.
Ingrown hairs are usually caused by hairs growing back into the skin after they’ve been removed, whether the hair was removed by shaving, tweezing, waxing or some other method. Shaving generally leaves a sharp end on the hair, which makes it easy for the hair to then penetrate the skin and grow into the skin instead of growing out normally. Tweezing hairs can also lead to ingrown hairs because it leaves a tiny fragment of hair under the skin.
When hair grows into the skin, the body generally reacts as it would to a foreign object under the skin. The spot becomes inflamed and a bump, similar to a pimple, forms. Sometimes the hair grows out on its own and the inflammation resolves without any treatment. Other times, an infection develops and a boil forms.
A boil, sometimes referred to as a skin abscess, is a pocket of infection under the skin. A large bump forms, filled with pus. It’s usually painful and can result in scarring if not treated properly. In most cases, the infection is not very serious but in some instances, people develop a fever and chills and get pretty sick. If you have an ingrown hair boil and develop a fever or otherwise feel sick, you should see your doctor.
You can help prevent ingrown hairs by wetting hair thoroughly before shaving, using a sharp razor (which means not reusing disposable razors too many times), using a shaving cream or gel, and shaving in the direction of the hair growth. Using an electric razor can also help prevent ingrown hairs. Of course, if you don’t shave or remove body hair, you are unlikely to have to worry about ingrown hairs at all. If you’re prone to ingrown hairs, you may want to stop shaving altogether or at least shave less often.
Most times boils caused by ingrown hairs will go away without any treatment, but since they can be painful and can take a couple of weeks to go away, people often want to treat them in order to relieve discomfort and speed the healing process. Applying warm compresses to the boil can ease pain and promote draining. Over-the counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also help if your boil is causing pain. Ibuprofen will also help reduce swelling and inflammation. Tempting as it may be, don’t squeeze the boil or try to pop it because that can spread the infection or make it worse.
See your doctor if you have frequent boils, if you have a fever or other symptoms of illness with a boil, if your boil is bigger than two inches in diameter or if a boil doesn’t go away after two weeks. Boils usually cause some discomfort but if you have severe pain with a boil, that’s another reason to visit your doctor. You may need antibiotics or your doctor may want to incise and drain the boil.
Our preferred treatment for boils, whatever their cause, is a natural botanical product called NZ Country Manuka Oil. We like it because it works quickly to relieve pain and other symptoms as well as helping boils to heal quickly. It’s available without a prescription and since it’s all natural, the risk of side effects is minimal (even natural oils can cause side effects in rare cases, though). Follow the link to Amazon learn more and to read user reviews.