There's nothing quite like, say, being in the grocery store (or anywhere in public really) and needing to itch yourself down below. Scratching on the sly is a nearly impossible task. And as you go there, you ask yourself: Why is my pubic hair itchy?
Several things may be going on, but itchy pubic hair can be more likely during certain times of year: "It's a common complaint, especially as the summer draws near," Taraneh Shirazian, MD, board-certified gynecologist with the Women's Wellness Center of New York and Monistat Brand Ambassador, tells LIVESTRONG.com. (Ditto: sweaty groin.)
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That can be due in part to infections of the vagina and vulva (more on this in a minute), which can make the entire pubic hair area itchy.
Read on for reasons why you may have itchy pubic hair and what you can do to relieve the itch:
1. It's From Shaving
Your pubic hair protects your genital skin, and removing it can leave it vulnerable. Shaving irritation can be brutally itchy, leading to little red bumps that you want to scratch.
June 2014 research in the American Journal of Obstetric & Gynecology shows that about 20 percent of people who remove their pubic hair via any method (razor, trimming, waxing) have experienced "severe itching."
Problem is, scratching makes this irritation worse.
If you have an itchy pubic area after shaving, “keep the area clean, and consider not shaving until the irritation clears up,” Dr. Shriazian says.
To prevent irritation in the future, trimming pubic hair is the safest bet, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Otherwise, if you must shave, do so with a new, clean razor and shave in the direction of hair growth.
2. It’s an Ingrown Hair
In addition to itching, the inflammation from an ingrown can also make the spot painful.
If you have an itchy ingrown pubic hair, keep your hands off. “Be sure not to pick! This can cause infections and pain,” Dr. Shirazian says.
Instead, wet a clean washcloth with warm water and use it as a compress on the ingrown hair for 10 to 15 minutes. Gently moving the compress in a circular motion can help exfoliate the area to bring the hair to the surface, Dr. Shirazian says.
You can also try applying an exfoliant with glycolic, lactic or salicylic acid, such as CeraVe's Skin Renewing Nightly Exfoliating Treatment ($18.82, Amazon).
3. You've Got Pubic Lice
When you have itchy pubic hair, your mind might go right away to pubic lice, also known as crabs.
These are tiny parasitic insects typically spread through sexual contact that commonly hang out in pubic hair, though they like any sort of coarse hair, including the hair on your legs, armpits and eyebrows, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (You may not feel itchy immediately after the sexual contact, for the record; sometimes that symptom pops up one to three weeks afterward.)
Along with itching, you might be able to spot the tiny lice (we're talking smaller than a match head) in your pubic hair (they're tan or grayish-white in color, per the CDC).
It's a myth that shaving your pubic hair will get rid of the lice. Instead, head to your local pharmacy for an over-the-counter lice treatment that contains 1% permethrin or pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide, such as Nix ($11.89, Amazon).
You will also need to pick out the nits (lice eggs), per the CDC.
4. It’s a Yeast Infection
When you have itchy pubic hair and no lice, a common cause may actually be a yeast infection. "The irritation may be either inside the vagina or on the outside skin or vulva," Dr. Shirazian says.
Along with itching, you might also notice cottage cheese-like discharge or redness and irritation of the outside skin, she says. In addition, vaginal intercourse may hurt.
If this is your first yeast infection, welcome to the club: 75 percent of people with vaginas will have a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime, according to InformedHealth.org.
First-timers suspicious of a yeast infection might want to check in with their ob-gyn just to make sure they do indeed have a yeast infection (and not something else, such as bacterial vaginosis). Otherwise, if you’ve been there before, you can try an over-the-counter antifungal yeast infection treatment, like Monistat ($12.70, Amazon).
5. You Have Psoriasis
The same skin conditions that can affect your face, arms, legs and other areas of your body can also affect the skin on your genitals. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), people who have psoriasis will often have a flare-up of symptoms like itching, pain and burning in the genital area.
Your best bet is to see a dermatologist, Dr. Shirazian says. Even if you're used to treating psoriasis elsewhere on your body, the same treatment shouldn’t be used on your pubic area, as it may be too harsh, says the AAD.
Your dermatologist may recommend a corticosteroid or another medicated cream or ointment, as well as practicing gentle skin habits, such as using a mild cleanser in the area and wearing loose clothing.
6. You've Got Eczema
Eczema can also cause the pubic hair area to feel itchy. In a study of 220 people with eczema, 45 percent said they had genital eczema at some point, per a March 2021 study in The Journal of Dermatology.
According to the UK-based National Eczema Society, eczema can be found on the vulva, as well as around the opening of the anus and the skin between your cheeks.
A type of eczema called allergic contact dermatitis can also crop up when your skin reacts to contact with a chemical or other substance you're sensitive to, per the Mayo Clinic. (Think: scented wipes, washes, dyes.) If you've recently started using a new hygiene or cosmetic product down there and have an itchy rash, contact dermatitis could be to blame.
As with psoriasis, see a dermatologist to help with treating eczema in the genital area. Treatment typically includes topicals like steroid creams to reduce inflammation and irritation and soothe skin.
If you think it's contact dermatitis, stop using the product you're reacting to and try soothing your skin with a cool, wet cloth. The rash and itch should clear up within two to four weeks, per the Mayo Clinic.
But if it doesn't — or you're having trouble pinning down which substance or product is causing the reaction — see a dermatologist for help.
When to See a Doctor About Itchy Pubic Hair
If you can correctly identify the cause of the itch and the treatment is available over-the-counter, you can likely treat yourself at home.
However, if you have or may have eczema or psoriasis, see your dermatologist.
If you're not sure about the cause and the itch comes with additional vaginal symptoms (like discharge), make an appointment with your ob-gyn, who may evaluate you for a sexually transmitted infection.
"If you ever feel irritation that you're unfamiliar with or concerned about, I always recommend getting it checked out by your doctor," Dr. Shirazian says.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)."
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Treatment."
- InformedHealth.org: "Vaginal yeast infection (thrush): Overview."
- American Academy of Dermatology: "How Can I Treat Genital Psoriasis?"
- The Journal of Dermatology: "Real-world prevalence and burden of genital eczema in atopic dermatitis: A multicenter quetionnaire-based study."
- National Eczema Society: "Female genital eczema."
- American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology: "Complications related to pubic hair removal."
- Cleveland Clinic: "Ingrown Hair."
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "To Shave or Not to Shave: An Ob-Gyn's Guide to Pubic Hair Care."
- Mayo Clinic: "Contact Dermatitis"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.