Expert advice

Dr Caroline West: GP

Dr Caroline West combines her role in a busy inner-city general medical practice with presenting, producing and writing for a number of Australian television shows and magazines. ASK ME A QUESTION

Ingrown hairs

Monday, August 4, 2008
There are definite benefits to consider with this type of hair reduction, fewer ingrown hairs being one.

I'd like to know a little more about the treatment and prevention of ingrown hairs, other than exfoliating and moisturising, as this method isn't working for me. They're mostly in my bikini area but also underarms. It's extremely embarrassing and painful as they become infected quickly.


I used to see women with ingrown bikini line hairs on a weekly basis. The reason for the problem was often pretty straightforward. Hair would be waxed or shaved and as it grew back it would get trapped under the skin and tiny infections would form. Even with regular exfoliation, it was a vicious cycle that would often only stop when hair was no longer waxed or shaved — which is not always desirable!

Acute spreading infections occasionally even needed antibiotics to clear. Yet lately I have been seen less and less of these ingrown hair problems and it's largely due to the popularity of permanent hair reduction with technologies like pulsed light. Basically, light travels down the hair shaft, destroying the root.

The pulsed light method of hair reduction can be used on underarms, bikini lines and anywhere else unwanted hair is a problem. It targets hair that is currently growing and as some hair will be in a resting phase, multiple treatments are needed to dramatically reduce hair growth.

There are definite benefits to consider with this type of hair reduction, fewer ingrown hairs being one. Keep in mind though, that while it can be a great way for many to reduce hair, there can be downsides. Although cost is plummeting, it's still quite expensive, as multiple visits are needed. Those with light coloured hair or darker skin may also get less optimal results. Other side effects like skin redness also need to be discussed.

Many of my patients have been very happy with their pulsed light hair reduction results, but like all procedures you need to be aware of possible costs/ drawbacks and you need to check the experience and qualifications of the provider. Have a chat with your GP about solutions for your ingrown hairs and for further information on your options.

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