Though you likely think about it much less than, say, the hair on your head, your pubic hair is susceptible to many of the same problems that can crop up in other hairy areas.
One particularly painful problem down there? An ingrown pubic hair.
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"An ingrown pubic hair is a pubic hair that grows back into the skin," Christine Greves, MD, board-certified ob-gyn at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando, Florida, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Because the hair should grow out of (not back into) the skin, this causes an often-painful skin reaction.
Read on to learn about the symptoms and causes of an ingrown pubic hair, how to treat and prevent them and the signs that you should see a doctor.
Symptoms of an Ingrown Pubic Hair
When your hair curls back into your skin, the body responds with an inflammatory reaction, according to Cedars Sinai.
You may be able to see the hair underneath a layer of skin. Other symptoms include the following, per Dr. Greves and the Mayo Clinic:
- Swollen bumps
- Pus-filled bumps
- Darker area around the skin
What Causes It?
Ingrown pubic hairs are most frequently caused by hair removal in the area, Dr. Greves says.
In a July 2019 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, up to 80 percent of people surveyed said they at least partially removed their pubic hair. (Everyone has their own reasons, but people often said they do so for sexual activity and partner preference.)
However, removing the hair puts you at risk for complications like ingrowns, suggests June 2014 research in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
While there are a lot of ways to remove hair, shaving pubic hair is one of the most common methods, but this can cause trauma that predisposes hairs to grow back into the skin, Dr. Greves says, particularly if you're using a dull razor, not prepping the skin for a shave and shaving against the grain (i.e. in the opposite direction of hair growth).
Other hair-removal methods, such as waxing or tweezing, can lead to ingrowns, too.
How Long Does an Ingrown Pubic Hair Last?
Ingrown hairs in general typically take one or two weeks to properly heal, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
That may feel like a long time to wait, but there are things you can do to speed healing (more on that below) and more skin-friendly ways to remove hair that don't involve shaving over the bump. (Ouch!)
How to Treat It
So, how do you get rid of an ingrown pubic hair? You have options to treat it at home. Here are doctor-approved remedies to try:
1. Use a Warm Compress
This should be your first go-to step when you have an ingrown pubic hair.
"A warm compress is a really nice home remedy," Dr. Greves says.
Gently rub a warm, wet washcloth in a circular motion around the area to help exfoliate the skin. This will allow the trapped hair a better chance at coming to the surface.
2. Try a Hydrocortisone Cream
As long as you don't have an infected ingrown hair (more on this in a minute), dabbing a bit of a 1% hydrocortisone cream on the area can help relieve some of the inflammation in the area, says Dr. Greves. (This won't get rid of the ingrown, but it may make you more comfortable.)
Try maximum-strength Cortizone-10 ($8.48, Amazon).
3. Wait to Pluck
Sometimes you can see your hair curled into the skin, and it may feel tempting to grab a pair of tweezers and pull it out. Resist the urge.
"Don't try to pluck it out until the area looks completely healed," Dr. Greves says. (And when you do, make sure both the tweezers and your skin are sanitized first.)
If there's still a bump and you pluck it out, the hair can grow back inward — and then you'll have the same problem as before.
It's also important not to use tweezers or a needle to dig into the skin, she says, as this could lead to an infection.
4. Reach for Baking Soda
Create a paste by adding a little bit of water to baking soda until it forms a desired consistency.
"Baking soda exfoliates and can provide some anti-inflammatory action," Dr. Greves says.
Just make sure you're using a gentle hand when exfoliating.
How to Prevent an Ingrown Pubic Hair
Ingrown hairs are common, but they don't have to happen to you. The main way to prevent them is to properly remove hair in the area.
1. Shave Correctly
For a gentle pubic hair shave, follow these steps from Dr. Greves:
- Clean your shave area with gentle soap, which will help decrease the risk of an infection.
- Use a lubricating shaving product designed for sensitive skin or specifically the pubic area. If it's a new-to-you product, test a small amount on your inner arm area and make sure it doesn't cause a reaction.
- Use a sharp razor (replace yours if it's dull), and consider using a razor with just one or two blades (more blades increases the risk of ingrowns).
- Shave in the direction of hair growth.
- After shaving, apply a cool washcloth on the pubic area to soothe the skin.
If you have an existing ingrown hair, avoid shaving until it's completely healed.
2. Consider Clippers
Electric clippers can be used to remove hair close to the skin without causing trauma or aggravating any existing bumps or ingrown hairs.
Try the Gillette Intimate Pubic Hair Trimmer ($60, Gillette).
When to See a Doctor
If your ingrown hair is red and swollen, has turned into a hard lump under the skin, is tender to the touch or redness is spreading out from the area, see a doctor, as it may be infected, Dr. Greves says.
You also want to call a doctor if the bump is large, painful and contains pus, which is another indication of infection. "Pus is your body's way of getting rid of an infection," she explains.
Ingrown pubic hairs are common. Using gentle methods like applying a warm compress and hydrocortisone cream can help ease symptoms.
Prevent future ingrown hairs with safe shave practices or use electric clippers designed for the pubic area instead.
- Cedars Sinai: "Ingrown Hairs (Pseudofolliculitis)"
- Mayo Clinic: "Ingrown Hair."
- American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology: "Complications related to pubic hair removal."
- The Journal of Sexual Medicine: "“To Shave or Not to Shave”: Pubic Hair Removal and Its Association with Relational and Sexual Satisfaction in Women and Men."
- Cleveland Clinic: "Ingrown Hair."
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