Hair anywhere on your body can occasionally grow inward. Ingrown hairs around nipples can be tricky to treat, requiring a gentle touch. It’s also important to avoid infection in that area. Let’s look at how to treat and prevent ingrown breast hairs.

Like ingrown hair anywhere on the body, ingrown hairs on the breast often resolve on their own after several days.

There are several strategies you can try that may help speed up the process and are even safe to use while breastfeeding. There are also some methods you should avoid.

It’s important to be gentle when trying to remove an ingrown hair from around the breast because the areola is extremely sensitive and prone to scarring.

  • Use a warm (not hot) compress on the ingrown hairs two or three times daily. This will help soften the skin and dilate the hair follicle, helping the ingrown hair to slip out more readily. Moisturize liberally with a non-comedogenic lotion immediately after using the compress.
  • Use a very gentle exfoliator on the area to remove dead skin cells. Things to try include a combination of sugar or table salt with oil. Do not use kosher salt as it’s too coarse. Gently exfoliate the area using soft pressure and a circular motion. This may also help free the hair.
  • Do not use a tweezer or needle to lift out an ingrown hair that’s embedded under the skin. This can cause scarring and infection.
  • Do not attempt to squeeze or pop the ingrown hair.
  • If your skin can tolerate it without burning or flaking, try applying salicylic acid to the ingrown hair. Do not use salicylic acid or any type of retinoid on your breasts if you are breastfeeding.

If you are a woman and think that a medical condition is increasing the amount of hair you have around your breast, talk to your doctor. There are hormonal and other types of treatments that can help address these issues.

Conditions that might increase the amount of breast and nipple hair you have include PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and Cushing syndrome.

If your ingrown hair is painful, swollen, red, or filled with pus, it may be infected. Using warm compresses or warm tea bags may help bring the infection to a head.

You can also use an over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment on your breast to treat the infection. If it doesn’t go away or seems to worsen, your doctor can prescribe oral or topical antibiotics.

Ingrown hairs will not interfere with your baby’s ability to latch onto your breast, but breastfeeding may increase your risk of infection. This is because bacteria in your baby’s mouth can enter your milk ducts, through broken skin. This does not, however, mean you have to stop breastfeeding, unless you want to.

Try covering the areola with a nipple shield, until the ingrown hairs grow out, and the entire area is free from irritation, infection, and cracks. If you are breastfeeding, there are several conditions that require the care of a doctor. These include mastitis and plugged milk ducts (milk blisters).

Ingrown hairs may also cause boils, or cysts to form. These can often be treated at home, unless they become infected or cause high levels of pain or discomfort. Symptoms include:

  • redness and irritation
  • warm and hard to the touch
  • filled with pus

Ingrown breast hairs can cause bumps or pimples to form around the nipple. Pimples in this area can also be caused by other conditions such as acne or a yeast infection. While rare, pimples can sometimes signal more serious conditions including breast cancer.

Ingrown hairs can also be mistaken for folliculitis, a common type of staph infection that occurs within the hair follicle. This condition can be acute or chronic. Symptoms include itching, discomfort, and swelling.

Because ingrown breast hair causes bumps to form on the skin, they may mimic many benign (non-cancerous) breast lump conditions. These include fibrocystic breast disease and intraductal papilloma.

If the bumps do not dissipate on their own within a few days, see your doctor to rule out other conditions.

Hair on the breast is a normal occurrence for all genders. The hair does not need to be removed unless it bothers you for aesthetic reasons.

If you do wish to remove breast hair, you can:

  • Carefully use a cuticle scissor to cut the hairs.
  • Use a tweezer to gently tweeze out hairs that can be seen above the surface. Keep in mind that this method of hair removal may increase your risk of getting ingrown hairs.

Other hair removal methods include:

  • electrolysis
  • laser hair removal
  • threading

Because the skin is easy to nick around the breast, shaving breast hair may not be the best solution. Chemical depilatories should be avoided because they can irritate this area of the body, sometimes severely.

Waxing can be very painful on sensitive breast skin and may not be the best choice. If you do wish to wax, have a professional do it for you and never try to do it yourself.

Nipple and breast hair is natural for men and women. There is no reason to remove this hair unless it bothers you for aesthetic reasons. Hair removal techniques can result in ingrown hairs. These may be more likely to happen if the hair on your breast is thick, dense, or curly.

Ingrown hair often resolves on its own, but there are at-home techniques you can try that may move the process along. The pimples caused by ingrown hairs may also be caused by other medical conditions, including some associated with breastfeeding.

If your ingrown hairs do not go away within a few days, see a doctor.