This Is Exactly What Happens to Your Skin When You Pick an Ingrown Hair

There are a few nasty beauty habits that come with #oddlysatisfying results. Popping your pimples, for one. Digging ingrown toenails, for another. And my personal favorite, picking ingrown hairs. But while doing bathroom surgery on those deep-within-the-skin strands may sound tempting, according to estheticians it can do more harm than good.

Ingrown hairs come as a result of a pesky hair—usually one that’s recently been shaved, tweezed or waxed—getting trapped under your skin by bacteria and dead skin cells. “Ingrown hairs are when a hair gets caught in the skin and doesn’t come all the way through the follicle,” says licensed esthetician and owner of SKIN By Sabrina Sabrina Bradley. Your body perceives the misbehaving hair as a “foreign object” (similar to when you get a splinter or a shard of glass stuck in your foot), and responds with inflammation in the area. The inflammation can cause redness at the area and can also cause the area to become uneven, depending on how much picking happens.

Just like pimples, ingrowns can be wildly tempting to pick at. But according to Bradley that is never a good idea. “It can cause even more inflammation, and in turn, make the follicle bigger than how it started.” When you start prodding the area with your fingers or a set of tweezers, you run the risk of introducing bacteria into the area, which can transform a small, inoffensive bump into a big, red, angry one. Bradley’s commandment? “No picking!”

Instead, Bradley suggests starting with a toner or essence to ensure the area is clean, then following up with a kaolin clay mask on the area to soothe and exfoliate your skin, which will shed away dead skin cells and help unclog the pore that your poor little hair is trapped under. Then, prep the area with a warm compress, which will open your pores and make it easier to access the follicle. Finally, take a sterilized needle (the “sterilized” part is particularly important because you don’t want to introduce any more bacteria into the situation), and use it to extract the hair. “This will help open it up, but don’t apply too much pressure or else this will cause scarring,” says Bradley.

And if you need a little bit of #oddlysatisfying ingrown hair content? It’s readily available on Instagram for you to enjoy without having to harm your skin.

Have more hair removal questions? Check out the video below.

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