The armpit is sensitive and can become painful when irritated. A rash or cyst, bump or any sort of infection can produce a lot of discomfort.
However, in some people, deep ingrown hairs in armpit can cause bumps or pimples, underarm cysts and even infected boils.
What is ingrown hair on underarms?
Ingrown hair refers to a hair follicle that grows inward into the skin. After shaving or waxing, the hair curls back as it grows and lengthens towards the skin. As a result raised bumps will form, also called armpit razor bumps.
Infected ingrown hair under armpits are likely to be painful or develop into pus-filled sores under your armpits.
These will hurt because the natural friction around them is likely to cause bruising and general irritation.
See a video at the end and also see the various sections we have discussed below, with pictures to help you differentiate underarm cysts, swollen lymph nodes and ingrown hair.
Since ingrown hairs cause skin irritation, they tend to look like raised bumps under arms. Most people would describe them as bumps that look like pimples.
In infected ingrown hair bump will appear as a yellow or white bump in your armpits and may ooze or discharge pus.
So, what does an ingrown armpit hair look like or feel like? The hair follicle’s tip is sharp and curl back into your skin and may brow sideways.
This will cause irritation. If you wonder how they look like, we have included photos of underarm ingrowing hairs below and in the post to help you identify and distinguish them.
Different things can cause armpit hair to grow back into the skin.
Poor shaving techniques, curly hair (type of hair), some cancers and even deodorants are known to cause armpit razor burn and bumps. Below are the main causes.
1. Shaving or waxing underarms
Do you get razor bumps underarms when you shave? Shaving is a delicate issue especially for sensitive skin underarms. If you use old and blunt razors and shave in the wrong direction, you are likely to get razor bumps and ingrown hairs.
Hair removal techniques such a waxing need to be gentle too. According to SkinAcea, when you pull hair completely out of the follicles in your armpits, you are likely to change the direction of hair growth.
Epilation, waxing, tweezing and rough shaving can lead to ingrown underarm hair. To prevent them, you should change your armpit hair removal methods. Here’s how to prevent ingrown under arm hair when shaving or waxing to remove hair.
- Shave in the direction of hair growth.
- Do gentle waxing or epilation. Forceful removal of hair will cause boils and even infections.
- Lather the skin well before shaving to prevent ingrown armpit hair.
2. Curly hair grows back into the skin
Studies have shown that Latinos or Hispanic and African American people have curly hair. This type of hair, especially when thick, is prone to forming ingrown hair, also called pseudofolliculitis.
This explains why razor bumps are prevalent in African American men – on the neck, jaw area, face and underarms. In summary, genetic makeup can determine whether you will be getting armpit hairs more often or not.
3. Clogged hair follicles
If you are not used to exfoliating your skin, you are likely to get ingrown armpit hair. Dead skin cells and dirt, excess sebum and other debris can clog pores and block hair follicles. This forces hair to grow back into the skin or sideways.
To prevent ingrown underarm hair from clogged pores, exfoliate your skin a few days after shaving to help the follicles to grow straight out of your skin. Here’s how to do it.
- Soak in warm water to allow the skin to soften
- Apply antibacterial soap onto a soft piece of cloth
- Scrub the underarm skin gently, especially the areas where you removed hair and where the underarm bumps and ingrown hair are notoriously recurring.
- Rinse the skin with clean lukewarm water.
- Pat the skin dry.
- Apply a good moisturizer on your skin. You can use bikini balm, which works for pubic ingrown hairs and bumps.
While exfoliating, ensure that you do not strain the skin or cause it trauma. It will worsen the bumps rather than getting rid of the ingrown hair.
4. Tight clothing and scratching
Tight clothes can also obstruct the growth of hair in your underarms. The same thing happens when you scratch underarms, especially if you are suffering from itchy armpits from razor burn. Some types of clothing such as synthetic and nylon fabrics are known to cause ingrown hair under armpit.
In order to avoid this, allow your underarms, bikini area, legs, face or any other part of your body that you shave to get free circulation of air. Clothing should not cause any friction on your underarms.
Constant deep ingrown underarm hair
Ingrown armpit hairs that won’t go away can cause discomfort and make you fear shaving. It is expected that your hairs should go away on their own, but when they remain constant, it is important to seek medical attention as the skin can remain with scars in the armpit.
Fox News, in Dec 2014, reported of the longest ingrown hair being shown in a video posted on Reddit. Sometimes, such hairs can be difficult to remove especially if you do not have the right tools such as tweezers.
In some cases, deep ingrown hair in armpit can remain in the skin for years without coming out, and may grow and curl deeper and horizontally.
What are the symptoms of having ingrown armpit follicles? Does ingrown hair hurt? A clearly irritated skin a few days after hair removal is likely to be a sign of a developing ingrown hair. The following are common symptoms of hair that grows back into the skin on your underarms.
Armpit pain and itch
Do your armpits hurt and itch after shaving? While itching may be a result of irritation on the skin from old razors and harrowing on the skin, hair growing sideways in the skin can be a symptom of ingrown follicles in your armpits.
Yellow, red and white razor bumps in armpit
A red bump or also described as “small, raised red, pink, or tan bumps on the skin, often in clusters” are a clear symptom of ingrown hairs underarms. An area that was shaved a day or two before should not have pimple like papules growing. If there are, you could be developing the problem.
While it may not be deep or long ingrown arm pit hair, you should watch out for a black dot at the center of the razor bump because that is where the hair will be trapped and start to bend and grow downwards.
Rash in armpits
Razor rash and burn is definitely one of the first signs of ingrown hairs. Heat rash under your arms can be mistaken for razor rash, but in most cases, women and men with sensitive skins can start showing signs of clusters of small rash-like bumps underarms.
Pus and blisters (can smell)
If you have embedded hairs in your underarms, you might have developed a pus cyst or a blister in your armpits. According to WiseGeek Health, when there is yellow pus in your underarms, it is an indication of a bacterial infection on your follicles.
Bacteria enters your hair follicles and the skin when the skin gets broken during the shaving process. Folliculitis is usually identified as one of the causes of pus discharge from an embedded hairs in your armpits.
Swollen lymph node under skin
There are lymph nodes in your underarms. When lymph nodes swell in your armpits, they are likely to be caused by the irritation that comes after shaving. Bacterial infections from poorly shaved hairs and embedded hair in the underarms can cause swollen lymph nodes in the armpits.
Pimple-like bumps and abscess or boils
Have you ever noticed a bump in your armpits with a dark spot in the center of it? That is one of the symptoms of embedded armpit hair trying to grow out of the skin. These bumps look like pimples and may end up forming an abscess that is fluid-filled. If left untreated, these abscesses can form boils.
Scars form after recurrent bumps and ingrown follicles
Huge bumps from ingrown armpit hair may form armpit scars. A scar is likely to form if there are recurrent bumps and embedded hairs every time you shave your underarms.
Armpit lump or cyst
A lump in your underarm feels like a swelling inside the skin. It can be caused by swollen lymph nodes, underarm cysts and infections.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine warns that some recurrent cysts should not be ignored because they could be a sign of cancer. However, if the hair follicle dies before being removed from the armpit, it could easily form an armpit lump from embedded hair.
How to get rid of ingrown armpit hair
With a needle, tweezers and a mirror, you can easily get rid of ingrown armpit hair at home. However, if you have an infected embedded hair in your armpit, you could be having symptoms that may need treatment before trying to extract ingrown hair.
How to remove and pluck it
Before removing ingrown hair in your underarms, you should first treat the inflammation until it is safe to extract the embedded follicle without causing an infection. Here’s how to remove ingrown hair in the armpits.
- Cleanse your skin using a mild cleanser in order to remove any bacteria and debris that can cause an infection.
- Steam the underarms gently. You can do this by taking a warm bath, otherwise jut dampen a washcloth with warm water and apply over your armpits for a few minutes. This helps make the skin tender and making the ingrown hair follicle to come closer to the surface.
- If the arm pit is not infected, exfoliate first.
- Using a clean pin, pop the ingrown hair bump or open it up with the embedded hair.
- Use sterilized tweezers to grab the hair and remove the part that is growing into the skin. Do not remove the whole hair follicle because you will irritate your skin further and encourage a boil to develop.
- Disinfect the follicle using a small amount of dilute hydrogen peroxide.
- Apply Neosporin or an antibacterial home remedy such as tea tree oil to stop infection of the area.
Remedies include Doterra oil (commercial), tea tree oil, coconut oil and lavender oil. These essential oils are known to get rid of the ingrown hair scars in your armpits and also reduce infection.
Treatment when infected
Apart from ingrown hair removal in the armpit, treatments can also help stop embedded hair follicles from forming.
Below are home remedies that you can use to get rid of ingrown armpit hair naturally and soothe the irritation that comes with them.
Tea tree oil remedy
Tea tree oil is potent with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. This will help heal underarm ingrown hairs and reduce infections.
Dilute a few drops of tea tree oil with water. Apply on the affected area on your skin. Allow about 10 minutes and then rinse off with warm water. Do this twice to get rid of ingrown underarm hair fast.
Aspirin for relief
If you are looking for something to help reduce inflammation after shaving to prevent ingrown armpit hair, crush some aspirins and make a paste out of them. Apply on the skin and then rinse it off after a few minutes.
Aspirin has anti-inflammatory properties and will reduce swelling and can also help treat slight infections to avoid deep and infected follicles.
Black tea bags to soothe it
What is it in black tea bags that helps armpit inflammation from razor burn and bumps? It contains a substance called tannic acid. This is a natural anti-inflammatory that will soothe your skin fast if you have an irritated ingrown hair. Use this to treat the inflammation fast.
Salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide
These two are acne treatments but can also be used as effective treatments for reducing ingrown hairs. Salicylic acid helps exfoliate the skin easily, allowing the trapped hair to force itself through the skin easily. Other than benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, you can also try glycolic acid.
Use dilute hydrocortisone cream, usually 1 percent. This is a topical steroid and will help reduce the inflammation in your armpits after shaving or due to ingrowing hairs. This cream will also reduce scarring on your underarms.