Hair splinters are an occupational hazard of grooming. It is hard to believe that one pesky little hair can cause so much pain and damage to the skin. Those annoying hairs penetrate the skin and stay there until they are removed.
Removing a hair splinter can be tricky, since hair is so thin. Straighter, coarser hairs are more of problem than fine hairs because of their rigidity. Many splinters may be removed at home with a needle or tweezer. Some hair splinters that are embedded may have to be surgically removed.
The best way to remove a hair splinter is by first inspecting it with a magnifying glass. Look at the size and the angle of the splinter. Then soak it in warm water with Epsom salts for 15 to 30 minutes. This allows the skin to soften. If the hair splinter is embedded in a body part that cannot be soaked, use a hot compress. The softer skin makes the skin more pliable, which may aid in the removal of the splinter. Pull the hair out slowly and gently at the same angle that the hair entered the skin.
To remove the hair splinter use tweezers that have ridges and have been disinfected with alcohol. The ridges and alcohol will actually increase its gripping power.
If removing the splinter is painful you can purchase numbing cream at your pharmacy or online.
Do not apply pressure or squeeze the skin around the hair splinter. If it’s sharp, you could embed it further into the skin. If it is brittle the hair could break apart.
If you are unable to remove the hair splinter with tweezers, you can use a sewing needle. First, sterilize the needle by swabbing it with alcohol. Once the needle has dried, gently pry the splinter out of your skin.
Here is a photo of an infected hair splinter.
Photo courtesy of Katrina Frachiseur Sanders
If tweezers or needles do not work, here are some additional suggestions:
1. Take a warm bath and scrub the hair splinter with a loofah or pumice stone.
2. Place a piece of duct tape over the hair splinter. Pull it off in the direction of the splinter.
3. White Glue – Use white, non-toxic, white school glue. Spread it on the hair splinter. Let it dry and peel it off in the direction of the splinter.
4. White vinegar or Baking Soda/Water – Submerge the affected area in the white vinegar or baking soda/water for about thirty minutes. You can also try baking soda and water. The splinter may rise to the top for easy removal.
5. Try a drawing salve. This method is painless and takes about one day. Purchase Ichthammol ointment (also known as black drawing salve) over the counter at a pharmacy. They may not have it out on the shelves, but if you ask the pharmacist they usually have it in the pharmacy. You do not need a prescription. Ichthammol can also be found at the feed store in the horse products. Put a small amount of the salve on the splinter and a Band-Aid over the salve. In a day remove the Band-Aid and the splinter may be drawn out of your skin. Be careful not to get the salve on anything, as it is very greasy and can stain. Be prepared – the salve has an unpleasant odor.
Devon Carpenter uses a product called Prid on her hair splinters. This is a homeopathic treatment with the active ingredient ichthammol. She soaks the affected area in warm water to remove as much dead skin as possible before drying. Then she applies the salve and covers it with a Band-Aid. Prid is available at Walgreens, Walmart, and on Amazon.
6. Biore Pore Strips – Biore strips stick to the skin. When removing the strip the pulling motion can help remove the hair splinter.
7. Pour or spray hydrogen peroxide over the hair splinter. When the hydrogen peroxide bubbles up it may force the hair splinter out so it can be removed with tweezers or a needle.
8. An essential oil called Thieves, made by Young Living, is very effective in helping to draw out hair splinters.
If these options fail it is time to think outside the box. Some of these suggestions might amuse, surprise or make you chuckle.
9. Use a piece of a banana peel covered with a Band-Aid, with the pulp side touching the skin.
10. Place a slice of potato over the splinter for a few minutes or overnight, depending on the size and position of the hair splinter. Cover with a Band-Aid.
11. Place a small piece of bacon over the hair splinter. Cover it with a Band-Aid. It may help the splinter slip out of your skin.
12. Try a poultice of warm bread applied several times throughout the day; this may also be effective in dislodging hair splinters.
13. Apply honey to the surface of the hair splinter, cover it with an adhesive bandage. Leave it in place overnight.
14. Beth Kidd recommends coconut oil. After dealing with an infection from a hair splinter in her nail bed that did not respond to antibiotic cream and drawing salve, she tried coconut oil. Beth applied a dollop of coconut oil, covered it with paper towel and tape and went to bed. In about five days, the embedded dog hair came to the surface and her wound healed. Add this product to the list of fabulous uses for coconut oil!
15. Sabrina Joens uses her Plaq Clnz water pick to remove the hair splinters from under her nails. Sabrina states, "It works great!"
16. Stephanie Salinas scrubs her arms and hands with the green side of a kitchen sponge. This helps a lot!
17. Dana Lamonica places an egg white and a tissue or paper towel on the hair splinter. She lets it dry and peels it off.
If you are able to remove the splinter, always wash the area with soap and water, apply antibacterial cream, and cover with a Band-Aid until completely healed.
Let’s talk about preventing hair splinters:
Some pet stylists use baby powder or corn starch so hair slips off the skin. “Invisible Gloves” is a hand cream that wraps your hands in a protective layer and protects them from the environment. It is available online. Wear socks and/or protective gloves. Wear smocks that cover the elbows and snap or zip up.
Back View/Photo Courtesy of Tracey Wright
No pre-clipping. Dirty dogs go directly into the tub. Clipping clean hair reduces the chances you will get a hair splinter. Wet clip. Never use your hand or arm to brush dog or cat hair off your grooming table. Use a comb or brush.
Use a vac system. Don’t give those pesky hairs a chance to settle. Watch all of those slivers get sucked from your clippers, directly into a hose and tank, which you empty at the end of the day. This is even more important if you clip in reverse and/or do a lot of shave downs. Barbs on the ends of the hair can result in hair splinters.
Kristin Falterman asked for healing prayers from her fellow groomers on the internet recently. She underwent surgery to remove a mass from her left hand, which was a result of dog hair getting trapped between the webbing of her fingers. Over the last year a hole had appeared in which dog hair was getting stuck while grooming. The result was an infection and surgery from hair splinters.
Photos courtesy of Kristin Falterman
Kristin says, “I would love to be able to help educate others from going through what I did.”
Joy Cummings had the same experience, short of surgery. She got a hair splinter between her nail bed and finger that antibiotics could not cure. She had to have it lanced and then another round of stronger antibiotics. Joy advised, “Do not wait too long if the hair splinter does not seem to get better.”
A groomer even got a hair splinter in her nose, that caused an infection and swelling under her eye. She now wears a mask when grooming.
If you have a pre-existing hole from a hair splinter, discuss it with your doctor. This hole is called a sinus cavity and can get larger. The medical term is Interdigital Pilonidal Sinus. Staph and strep infections can grow inside the hole, cause swelling, and result in surgery.
Take hair splinters seriously. They can develop into a serious infection that can include months of pain, antibiotics, treatment, and even surgery. If you suspect you have one and you cannot remove it yourself, see a physician. Think about preventing hair splinters because if you get one, some will not go away on their own. They will only get worse.
Ellen Ehrlich is a mobile pet stylist who loves to think, talk, read, and write about pet grooming. Next to grooming, Ellen loves to empower, motivate, and inspire other groomers to be the best they can be.