hairs that grow under the surface of the skin—but not ingrowns.
July 15, 2018 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I get... well, not exactly ingrown hairs on my legs, but hairs that don't break through the top layer of skin. It's been a (minor) annoyance my whole adult life.

Image here of my calf—those hairs have grown in under the very top (translucent) layer of skin. I have a super hard time not picking them out, and I can't shave them off. They'll just keep growing there, under that top layer of skin, indefinitely. I don't get irritated bumps and so on that I usually associate with ingrown hairs. They're just... there.

I've tried new razors, old razors, different shaving creams, electric razors, I've tried exfoliating and moisturizing—the only thing that consistently worked was applying TendSkin daily, but it's annoyingly expensive and it ends up staining my clothes or my sheets.

I know I'm a good candidate for laser hair removal, and believe me, I'll be getting that the minute I can afford to. But have any of you found other solutions that might help in the meantime?
posted by alycoop to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I just use a pin to gently flick the hair free. Probably not very hygienic but I have been doing this for years and not once had an issue. If thats too much for you then you could try a mild (10%) glycolic acid peel solution. Some perfectly good ones on ebay but patch test first and do it in between shaves.
The other solution is a very firm scrub with an exfoliating glove each time you shower, then plently of moisturiser. Palmers exfoliating moisturiser or something similar will keep them at bay once you have got on top of it.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 1:45 PM on July 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

I get the same. And sometimes I flick/pick them out. In general, glycolic acid and a scrub in the shower works well for me.
posted by troytroy at 1:56 PM on July 15, 2018

Stripper here! I have Thoughts About This.

This minor annoyance is super common, especially on the calves. It suuucks. I put work into this because silky-smooth legs are an asset for my job. My solution is:

- Make sure your razors are sharp by replacing the blade each week. This is prohibitively expensive with pharmacy-bought razors but it okay with subscription-based plans. I like Dollar Shave Club.

- Use anti-bacterial bar soap rather than shaving cream. I like Dial. I work it into a lather and then shave. I don't know why people spend money on shaving cream.

- ***Exfoliate with shower gloves throughout the shaving process.*** This made the biggest difference for me. Washcloths, loofahs, and exfoliating scrubs weren't enough on their own to get hairs out from under that top layer of skin. For some reason, shower gloves allowed me to get a much better scrub. Scrub your legs into a lather with the bar soap, shave, scrub them again with the bar soap, shave once more.

- Pay attention to the directions in which you drag the razor. For the calf area, I always shave first in a straight line from ankle to knee. Then along the outside half of my calves, starting along my shinbone, I drag the razor at an 45-degree angle, again and again, working my way up the calf. The angle is right in between vertical-from-ankle-to-knee and horizontal-from-inner-calf-to-outer-calf. (This is hard to describe. I need to make a diagram or something to explain the directions you should be shaving each part of your leg to get maximum silky smoothness.)

- For any remaining and particularly stubborn instances of what you describe, carefully picking them out with an alcohol-sanitized pin doesn't seem to cause any issues for me. But generally I don't have to do this because the above process takes care of the hairs.

- I never put on moisturizer in the immediate aftermath of showering—only hours later, after work, usually before bed. But this is because moisturizer/lotion isn't safe on the pole and stage, so maybe it would be fine for you to put it on directly after the shower? I don't know.

I hope this is helpful. Because customers are frequently touching my legs, I think a lot about shaving and discuss it with my coworkers as well. Of course, people are different, but this method works for me. My customers and coworkers frequently compliment how smooth my legs are—and more importantly, I like how they feel, too!
posted by Peppermint Snowflake at 2:32 PM on July 15, 2018 [49 favorites]

This is me too!
I’ve come to the conclusion that laser hair removal will be the best option in the future, but I’ve come up with these solutions which work well in the meantime.
1. Salux cloths are your new best friend. They’re just Japanese nylon scrubby cloths, I have no idea what makes them so effective, but they work! I’ve tried shower gloves, loofahs, shower puffs, and daily dry brushing but nothing compared to the Salux. Lather with the soap or body wash of your choosing a couple minutes into a shower to get the best effect. Oh, and use light circular repetition motions over the skin, paying more attention to the areas you know are more prone to ingrowns.
2. Tend skin. It’s basically salicylic acid and applied nightly with a cotton ball like a toner it gets the remaining hairs to the surface and stops some of the
from growing under the surface of the skin to begin with. I actually make my own, the recipe is here under the ingredients link. It’s essentially just 70% isopropyl alcohol, witch hazel, and crushed aspirin. I add glycerin and essential oils to mine, but it’s not necessary. Let it dry for a couple of minutes and then use a body oil, or something moisturizing. Between daily use of the salux and tend skin, those under the surface hairs are non-existent.
Optional but helpful- I use a chemical body peel every once in a while. I only do this in winter, when I know my skin won’t be exposed to the sun (gotta be careful with acid peels). I use this one from MUA. You can order a sample first to try it out.
If you haven’t tried it, use a men’s razor. I like the Gillette razors, I think the men’s line is way more effective for whatever reason.
One last thing- if you must pick the hairs out, only do it with wet post-shower skin. Otherwise it’ll leave tiny scabs and that’s not fun for anyone (ask me how I know).
That’s it- enjoy your future smooth skin!
posted by Champagne Supernova at 2:59 PM on July 15, 2018 [10 favorites]

I always had this problem until I started using a salux cloth in the shower.
Now my skin can see into the future.
posted by phunniemee at 4:10 PM on July 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

2nding Champagne Supernova. That's my routine as well now, and I haven't gotten those weird non-ingrowns since.
posted by ananci at 6:05 PM on July 15, 2018

There is lots of good advice in this thread. Strangely, Tend Skin does exactly zero for me so I use Amlactin moisturizer, which is 12% alpha hydroxy acid. It’s on the expensive side and smells strange but it does help exfoliate, especially when combined with scrubby cloths/gloves. Plus, a bottle can last you a long time.
posted by corey flood at 10:28 PM on July 15, 2018

I'm here from your future to tell you that laser hair removal will do exactly what you're hoping, so keep working on that. I had six sessions a year ago and have gone from skin which looked like yours on a good day, to having had exactly one ingrown hair in the last 12 months.

While I'm saving to get the whole rest of my body done, I bought one of these which is probably similar to the Salux and has given me the most luxuriantly smooth skin of my life, including improving the keratosis pilaris on my arms.
posted by citands at 10:22 AM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had a lot of luck with the salux cloths too. The thing that made the biggest difference for this issue and keratosis pilaris was to switch to using coconut oil instead of lotion post shower. I usually do this in the evening so I can put on some old pjs. If I have to shower and apply coconut oil in the morning, I let it soak in for 10-15 min, the wipe the excess away with a washcloth.

Not a perfect fix - I still have some trouble is the backs of my thighs.
posted by Orrorin at 2:20 PM on July 16, 2018

Now my skin can see into the future.

I don't know if it's going to give me less of an ingrown problem, but man, I bought one of these after reading this very thread, and can now report that this is in fact precisely how it feels.

I will also add since I forgot to post this before that I've had some minor improvement after I started using Amlactin daily, but I have never had another lotion that a) smells that bad and b) dries that tacky.

If Tend Skin has been helping you, you might try Sal3 soap? It's a bar soap that also has sulfur in it and it smells TERRIBLE but I think the salicylic acid in the soap works along the same principles as the aspirin in the Tend Skin and it's cheaper. (I've never had a bad reaction to aspirin taken orally but salicylic acid products sometimes make me break out in rashes, so it didn't work out for me long enough to see if it worked.)
posted by Sequence at 10:46 AM on July 22, 2018

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