Ingrown hairs occur when hair grows back into the skin, not to the surface. Most often, hair that is shaved, waxed, or plucked will grow back through the skin and toward the surface.
When an ingrown hair develops, you may notice small, round bumps called papules or small, pus-filled bumps called pustules. In some cases, the skin around the ingrown hair may become darker. This is known as hyperpigmentation. You may also experience pain or itching around the area of the ingrown hair.
You risk developing an ingrown hair any time you remove hair from your body. This includes shaving, waxing, or plucking. Certain people may be at a higher risk for ingrown hairs. For example, people with thick, curly hair tend to develop ingrown hairs more frequently than people with fine, thin hair. This is especially true with pubic hair, which tends to be coarser than hair on the head or the rest of the body.
When you remove hair, it usually grows back. Most hair shafts will come up through the skin and not cause a problem. Other hairs, however, may grow underneath the skin. When this happens, the body responds to the hair as if it were an invading or foreign object. That’s when symptoms, including pain, itching, redness, or swelling begin.
In most cases, ingrown pubic hairs do not require treatment. That’s because they can, and do, clear up on their own without treatment. Occasionally, however, treatment may be necessary. The following treatment options may be helpful if you have ingrown pubic hairs.
Stop removing the hair in that area
Stop waxing, shaving, or plucking the hair in that area until the ingrown pubic hair is removed. Such treatments will only aggravate the sensitive area even more. Scratching or picking at the ingrown hair will also make the discomfort worse. It could even lead to a skin infection or leave a scar.
Remove dead skin
Gentle washing and exfoliating around the ingrown hair may help the hair return to the surface of the skin. If that doesn’t work, your doctor might prescribe a drug that can help dead skin cells slough off more quickly. Retinoids, such as tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A), can speed up the clearing of dead skin cells. They may also help clear up dark skin patches that occurred because of the ingrown hair.
Use creams to reduce inflammation
If the ingrown pubic hair is causing a lot of redness and inflammation, your doctor may prescribe a steroid cream. This topical treatment can reduce the swelling and irritation around the hair.
If the ingrown pubic hair results in an infection, you may require an antibiotic ointment. If the infection is severe, an oral antibiotic might be needed.
The best way to prevent an ingrown pubic hair is to not remove hair in the first place. However, that’s not always a possibility. Waxing, shaving, and plucking may be necessary for medical or cosmetic reasons. In that case, you can follow these steps to hopefully prevent future ingrown pubic hairs.
Prime the pubic area for shaving
Treating the pubic region before you take a razor to the area may reduce your risk for ingrown hairs when the hair starts to grow back. First, wash your skin with a mild soap. Then, use a lubricating shave cream or gel, or one that’s designed for sensitive areas, when shaving. When you’re finished, dry the area thoroughly before putting on undergarments and pants.
Use a sharp razor
If your razor is several uses old, you may want to begin with a fresh one. Dull blades do not make for a clean, precise cut on the hair, which increases your risk for an ingrown hair.
Consider laser hair removal
Though expensive, laser hair removal is a long-lasting solution to the problem. Laser hair removal removes the hair at a deeper level, damaging the hair follicle. In most cases, that prevents the hair from growing back. Laser hair removal requires several treatments over the course of a few weeks and months, but the results are usually semi-permanent.
Look into other non-razor hair removal options
Chemical hair removers are an option, but they can irritate sensitive skin. Test a small patch of skin before using it all over. Some prescription creams can reduce hair regrowth, especially when used after a hair removal treatment, such as laser treatment. Electrolysis is a permanent hair removal treatment. It uses an electrode to destroy the hair root. Like laser hair removal, electrolysis requires several treatments over the course of a few weeks or months.
When to see your doctor
An occasional ingrown pubic hair is nothing to be alarmed about. Following the prevention steps discussed above may help you avoid ingrown hair in the future. However, there are a few occasions when you might want to see your doctor about ingrown pubic hairs. These situations include:
- The ingrown hairs have become chronic. If you are having trouble with frequently recurring ingrown hairs, your doctor can help you find a treatment that will hopefully prevent future problems.
- The ingrown hairs are the result of too much hair. If you are experiencing abnormal or unusual hair growth, your doctor may need to look for an underlying cause that could be contributing to the ingrown pubic hair problem.