Ingrown hairs are less than ideal for anyone who takes the time to remove hair from their body. But truth be told, ingrown pubic hairs are common. The problem, of course, is that they can be especially painful. Not only do these problematic hairs occur in a spot that receives a lot of friction — thanks to a number of things, including but certainly not limited to tight underwear, pants or regular sexual activity — but an unexpected bump around your bikini line or on your vulva can lead to some major physical pain and substantial anxiety.
So if you find yourself plagued with ingrown pubic hairs, know that you’re not alone. “More than 50% of women who use some form of pubic hair removal will report an ingrown pubic hair during their lifetime,” Dr. Shweta Pai, MD, an advisor for Love Wellness, tells Woman's Day. And considering the fact that 87% of women utilize some type of hair removal, there are a lot of ingrown pubic hairs showing up at the most inopportune of times.
Thankfully, there is a way to treat and prevent these irritating skin issues. Woman's Day talked to a number of dermatologists to figure out what to do about ingrown pubic hair.
What Causes Ingrown Pubic Hairs?
“There are certain risk factors that make a woman more prone to ingrown hairs,” Pai says. “These include coarse, thick hair, curly hair, and women who use shaving, tweezing, and waxing to remove pubic hair.”
Here’s how an ingrown hair happens: when you remove hair, the hair shaft can break below the skin’s surface. This is especially common with shaving, but can occur if waxing isn’t done properly and the hair isn’t completely removed.
“The hair, instead of growing out from the root, begins to burrow back into the skin,” Pai explains. This is why curly and coarse hair types are most susceptible — the natural growth pattern of this kind of hair means it tends to curl on its own. “When the hair begins to burrow back in, it causes the body to launch an inflammatory reaction against the hair as if it were a splinter or another foreign body,” Pai says.
Pai goes on to explain that shaving tends to irritate the skin, too, which is why you may have more irritation with ingrown hairs caused by shaving.
How To Tell If You Have an Ingrown Hair
An ingrown pubic hair can be particularly worrisome given their location. It's not uncommon for people to confuse an ingrown hair for a sexually transmitted infection. So, or the uninitiated, an ingrown hair will appear as a little red bump or papules, similar to that of a pimple.
“These can become infected and fill with fluid or pus,” Pai says. “If infected, the skin around the pustule may also appear red and irritated.” Pai notes that, if your hair is on the darker side, you may be able to see the actual hair shaft within the bump.
Of course, not all bumps around the groin area are automatically ingrown hairs. They could be folliculitis, which is a bacterial infection in the hair follicle that isn’t caused by an ingrown hair. This typically resolves on its own, but extreme cases might require a trip to your local doctor's office.
It could also be something more serious, Dr. Ellen Marmur, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare, tells Woman's Day. “Infections, cysts, and even skin cancers can occur in the pubic area,” she says. “You should consult your board-certified dermatologist immediately if anything is unusual, or if a bump, persists for more than two weeks.”
How To Deal With An Ingrown Pubic Hair
While a lot of ingrown hairs will resolve on their own, some might need a little intervention.
The first thing to do is stop your hair removal ritual after you notice the presence of an ingrown hair. “It can irritate it further,” Pai says. Next, you want to exfoliate the area, in order to release the hair shaft from where it has burrowed into the skin. First Aid Beauty’s KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub with 10% AHA is a great option, not only because it's gentle but because it utilizes alpha-hydroxy acids to help loosen the top layer of skin and clear out any gunk that might cause infection.
If exfoliation isn’t working, do not try to break the skin and pull the hair out on your own. “Warm compresses and topical corticosteroids can help treat ingrown hairs,” Jeffery Fromowitz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Boca Raton, Florida, tells Woman's Day. Repeat the process until the hair emerges from the skin.
Once the hair is out, you can pluck it out using tweezers. “But if at any time the skin appears overtly swollen, red, or painful, you may have a superficial skin infection that requires antibiotic treatment, so it’s important to touch base with your doctor,” Pai says. Once the hair is out, make sure to wear loose, cotton underwear until the wound is totally healed.
How To Avoid Ingrown Pubic Hair In The Future
Just because you’re prone to ingrown hair, doesn’t mean that you have to suffer through them every time you shave or wax. “Make sure you’re not using an old, dull, or dirty razor if you shave,” Marmur explains. She also suggests stealing a tip from people with beards. “They use oils to soften the hair and condition the skin so it’s less traumatic to shave, leaving calmer, smoother skin.”
Fur Oil is specially-formulated for exactly this purpose. It conditions the hair and skin with a blend of soothing oils, so you’re less likely to experience irritation. It also contains tea tree oil and clary sage oil, two powerful astringents that kill bacteria, which helps prevent infection.
But the easiest way to prevent ingrown hairs, according to Dr. Marmur. “Laser hair removal is the final common pathway for people who suffer from ingrown hairs.”
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