Perhaps the best way to stop picking at your skin is to change how you think about it. That little red bump is not the enemy—chances are, you're the only one who can see it anyway. No, that spot is not the enemy at all. You are. Because you know what that little red bump is going to look like after you so much as touch it? An inflamed, red welt.
But if that mentality is not going to work, there's another solution: preventing the bumps in the first place. And when those bumps happen to be ingrown hairs, there are a few things to know:
Shaving Is The Enemy
The Rolls-Royce of hair elimination is obviously laser. But that's not everyone's bag (cost, fear of lasers...). So if you're not going to laser— or even wax—shaving cream is your friend. Ursa Major Stellar Shave Cream is nice to have in rotation, but really any alcohol-free, moisturizing one will work. And though it seems entirely counterintuitive, you should be shaving in the direction of your hair’s natural growth, not against it (this applies to legs, bikini area, arms, or anywhere else you stick that razor). Pushing hair in other directions makes it that much easier for the strands to get stuck under the skin as they’re growing back.
Sporadic Exfoliation Won't Cut It
If you want to avoid ingrown hairs, you should be exfoliating once or twice a week—and yes, that includes your bikini area (just be gentle). For a conventional scrub situation, African Botanics Marula Detoxifying Salt and Sugar Body Scrub is a nice compromise between the salt and sugar exfoliation camps. Throw a Clarisonic in there every once in a while, because why not?
But really, the most comprehensive method is dry brushing. Nothing else can completely banish chicken skin (aka keratosis pilaris) bumps on arms and legs while keeping the ingrown hairs at bay as well.
And Now, For The Products
Surprisingly enough, these are not all just a marketing ploy. The best are Bliss’ Ingrown Eliminating Pads (aka fancy Stridex pads). They are soaked with both glycolic and salicylic acids, which help to reduce dead skin buildup and inflammation, keeping ingrown hairs from forming in the first place. They can be used every day or weekly depending on how sensitive your skin is. Then there's the slightly gentler Whish Flawless Post-Wax and Shave Serum and the Swipes. These include willow bark extract, which is a natural form of salicylic acid, and papaya extract, which weakens the hair follicle and slows regrowth. Note: Both Bliss and Whish are great to use a few days post-shave or wax, but both will sting like hell if you use them on newly hair-free skin. Also, be sure to moisturize afterward. The acids can be kind of drying.
If you're a chronic sufferer, be prepared to be amazed by results. However, if any of the above does fail you (hey, it happens), just remember—don't pick!
Photo courtesy of Victoria Lewis. How often do you get a bikini wax?