Beauty and Anti Aging

What are the Signs and Symptoms of an Ingrown Hair?

The distress and discomfort that underlines a recurring hair growth problem

What are the Signs and Symptoms of an Ingrown Hair?

Key Takeaways

  • An ingrown hair resembles acne or hives but it is neither; appearing on the face, neck, genital areas and buttocks, it spoils your glamour and nixes all close encounters and outdoor activities. 
  • It targets those people familiar with hair removing routines like shaving, hair waxing, and tweezing. 
  • Ingrown hairs curve away from their normally straight forward growth to pierce the skin surface forming pools of infection and puss filled follicles.

If you are shaving to present a picture of perfect grooming, you may experience the direct opposite – a face covered with minute reddish bulbous sacs filled with pus and painful to touch. What you will be staring at in the mirror will be a face full of ingrown hair. It is not an infectious disease; mostly, it is an embarrassing pain. It resembles acne or hives but is neither; appearing on the face, neck, genital areas, legs and buttocks, it spoils your glamour and nixes all close encounters and outdoor activities.

Ingrown hairs curve away from their normally straight forward growth to pierce the skin surface forming pools of infection and puss filled follicles. Hair that ought to be covering the body externally becomes trapped inside the dermal tissues creating much pain and discomfort.

An Ingrown hair can irritate the skin. It produces a raised, red bump that might look like a normal pimple. Sometimes, an ingrown hair can form a painful, boil like sore.The more they are in number, the more itchy and uncomfortable they can get. You may find pus inside the bumps. Or you may see the hair that is causing the problem. In men, ingrown hair often pops up as a bunch of little bumps on the chin, cheek, or neck after shaving. In women, ingrown hair are common on the leg as well in the pubic area and armpit. It is possible that you might get ingrown hair on your buttocks.

Who is more prone to ingrown hair?

Broadly speaking, those affected are individuals (male and female) between the ages of 15 to 25 years. It targets those people familiar with hair removing routines like shaving, hair waxing and tweezing. Basically, these are routines that split or break the hair shaft creating sharper edges that when curled inwards penetrate skin causing widespread distress. Ingrown hair can affect people regardless of whether they practice hair removal or remain hirsute.  

You tend to find ingrown hair more prevalent among African Americans and Latinos as they exhibit an abundance of curly hair. Their affliction is commonly referred to as Pseudofolliculitisbarbae.

They are known to be more common in darker skin.

For some unknown reason, people who have darker skin are more likely to have to deal with ingrown hair. The reason for this cause has not been understood completely. But one of the reason could be that curly and coarse hair types are common in people with dark skin, that could be the cause since they result in ingrown hair more often.

The immediate signs of ingrown hair are:

  • Small bundles called papules that have a reddish hue
  • Pus-filled blisters or pustules that spread infection to surrounding tissues
  • The darkening of the skin in affected areas
  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Embedded hair

Possible complications:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Permanent scarring (keloids)
  • Pseudofolliculitisbarbae, also known as razor bumps
  • Skin darkening (hyperpigmentation)

Symptoms of an ingrown hair

Feeling of warmth and tenderness with a reddish hue

Folliculitis is the medical description for ingrown hair, implying that the hair follicle stands inflamed. The reddish hue acquired by the surroundings gives a good impression of tissues that are suffering different stages of infection following the inward growth of hair. The incidence of this condition is more when the hair is naturally curly or wavy as the hair tends to curve inwards in such people. Facial and genital areas that see maximum hair growth are particularly prone to ingrown hair.

Itching sensation and dull ache

Shaving in the direction opposite to the pattern of hair growth and wearing clothes that are tighter than normal stress the skin. The friction encourages ingrown hair followed by itching, infection, and pain. This will be particularly severe in the armpits, pubic area, and upper thighs. 

Skin rashes and pus accumulation

It resembles a swathe of razor burned skin, and a closer examination may reveal hair growing inside the sac. The follicle fills with opaque fluid, soon to be overcome by infection and pus.

What exacerbates ingrown hair and infection?

  • Picking on scabs, puncturing pustules with non-sterilized needles, and tweezing out papules without sanitizing the area.
  • Excessive dehydration of the skin that leads to keratinization (hardening) when layers of dead cells solidify and prevent healthy hair from growing out of the pores.
  • Improper hair removal by shaving in a direction opposing normal hair growth.
  • Clogging of pores by excessive makeup that is not removed and which is not cleaned thereafter.

Treatment regime includes:

  • Needle incision to drain pus and remove warped hair shaft
  • Application of topical steroidal creams to kill pain and fight infection, and
  • Administration of oral antibiotics to stem the tide of infection that affects open pores
  • Retinoids(Retin A) to remove dead skin cells and reduce the skin pigment changes that can occur from ingrown hair.

Mild infection cases may clear up without any treatment. Avoid sharing during this time and try some of the home remedies such as dabbing an antiseptic such as tea  tree oil. If you cannot get tea tree oil, other antiseptics you can put on your infected grown hair which include hazel, aloe vera, benzoyl peroxide, rubbing alcohol, etc. Other at home remedies that can promote quicker healing include applying a hot moist washcloth (helps in loosening of hair and promotes drainage) , cleaning with a sterilized pierce of cloth and an antibacterial soap.

Tips for caring for infected ingrown pubic , face, leg, armpit or neck hair.

Besides the above ingrown hair infection treatments, you should avoid tight fitting clothes if you have the problem in your armpits, groin area (including the area near your vagina) , on stomach, along your bikini line or your inner thighs. Always go for clothing with soft material.

When to visit the doctor

Most of the time, ingrown hair can be prevented at home by the methods discussed earlier. However, there are few occasions when you might want to see your doctor about ingrown pubic hair. These situations include:

  • The ingrown hair has grown beyond control
  • You are expecting abnormal hair growth or signs of infection