What causes ingrown hair infection? What are some of the symptoms you expect? Learn more causes for various parts such as on the leg, face, armpit, stomach, groin (vag) as well as treatments and removal. We will also cover something on cysts and staph.
How does it happen?
One gets an ingrown hair “when the sharp tip of the hair curls back or grows sideways into the skin of the hair follicle” [medicinenet.com]. This is common in teenagers when they begin puberty and in young adults. People who often shave their legs, pubic hairs, neck, arm, chest, back, armpits and facial hairs will tend to suffer from this problem.
Despite every effort to avoid it from being infected, this does happen i.e. you might end up with infections. This can happen anywhere on the various areas where you commonly shave your hairs and it might be irritating and very embarrassing especially in areas such as between your legs (inner thighs), along with the bikini line, on your groin or face.
To illustrate ingrown bikini hair problem, here is what a user once reported on vogue.com.au
“This big red bump has formed and there are hairs trapped underneath. I pricked the bump this morning and poked around with a pair of tweezers and (excuse the grossness!)
all this fluid/blood and gunk came out and it left a small hole, which I can see is really deep! I managed to pull out one or two hairs but deep in the hole looks black and I’m sure there are more hairs trapped.
What can I do about this? How can I heal it or draw any remaining hairs out? And prevent scarring? “- [vogue.com.au]
What causes them
Infected ingrown hairs are often caused by fungal or bacterial infection. This might include pseudofolliculitis barbae, an inflammation due to shaving often characterized by dark raised scars common on face, neck and groin area.
Picking, scratching or squeezing spots formed due to this problem breaks your skin, creating an avenue for entry of bacteria and fungi.
Which symptoms you will have
It will often have ‘raised red spots’ but when they are infected, they “turn into painful pus-filled sores” [nhs.uk] or boil like very painful sores. Other possible infection symptoms include inflammation, redness, and appearance of abscesses, pustules, and cysts. Pustules cysts and abscesses happen commonly when you have a bad infection.
Pictures of an infected ingrown hair
To get a visual impression, we have included photos, one below and a few others in this post. I hope they will help you.
How to treat, heal or cure it
Although knowing how to treat an infected it is important, you need to ensure you stop them in the first place through the various methods such as using a sharp razor, shaving in the correct direction, using gels or shaving creams, treating your skin after shaving and opting for other hair removal techniques.
1. Home remedies and leaving them alone
Mild infection cases may clear up without treatment. Avoid shaving during this time and try some of the home remedies such as dabbing an antiseptic such as tea tree oil. If you cannot get tea tree oil, other antiseptics you can put on your infected ingrown hair include witch hazel, aloe vera, benzoyl peroxide, rubbing alcohol, etc.
Other home remedies that can promote quicker healing include applying a hot moist washcloth (helps in loosening of hair and promotes drainage), cleaning with a sterilized piece of cloth and an antibacterial soap,
2. Antibiotics for ingrown hair infection
However, if you have bad the infection i.e. huge or deep ingrown and infected hair follicle, you might need treatment. Normally, to treat such a case antibiotics are the most often recommended especially if you have pustules and abscess. You might be given both oral and topical antibiotic ointments, gels or creams.
3. Other treatments
To reduce inflammation, anti-inflammatory creams such as steroid creams (1 percent hydrocortisone cream). If the area remains warm, tender and red for a few more days, see a dermatologist or doctor to help you in treating them.
Try anti-acne medications as well as Tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A) to help in getting rid of dead skin cells (exfoliation).
Besides the above, you should avoid tight fighting clothes if you have the problem in your armpits, groin area (including on your vag), on the stomach, along with your bikini line or on your inner thighs. Go for clothing with softer materials.
Secondly, avoid being aggressive on already infected and swollen ingrown face, public, legs or neck hairs. This will worsen the swelling and inflammation.
Finally, avoid popping them since this can spread the bacteria causing the infection as well as make them swell more.
Is removal helpful?
If you have this problem, I can certainly guess the fact that you must be wondering what to do with an infected ingrown hair, should you remove it or not. Actually, you can remove the infected ingrown face, pubic, stomach, or leg hairs or anywhere else on your body. However, it is not recommended since it can damage your skin and worsen the scarring.
Instead of plucking the entire infected follicle, the best practice will be removing its tip from under your skin using a sterilized tweezers or toothpick to raise it gently by slipping below the loop before lifting it up gently. You can then apply your antiseptic or antibiotic ointment to help treat them.
Finally, if you have a huge or deep infected ingrown facial, neck, armpit, groin, leg or along your bikini line, a small medical incision might be done before the hair can be pulled out.
Ingrown hair staph infection and boils
Can this problem cause staph infection or can it be turned to staph? How is it treated? If you didn’t know, staph can get into your body through an ingrown scratched hair and cause an infection i.e. boils or “abscesses may form on the ingrown hair sites due to the infection with common skin bacteria, such as Staphylococcus” [medicinenet.com]
Staphylococcus aureus bacteria or simply staph is a common skin bacteria that affects about 30% of a healthy individual. However, according to George G. Kihiczak, a clinical instructor of dermatology at NYU, if it gets into your skin through cuts such as the ones that might happen during waxing, shaving, a picked ingrown, it “can create an abscess that grows until it’s drained” [cosmopolitan.com].
When caused by staph, treatment will involve oral and topical antibiotics as well as an incision to drain it when it is so big. Sometimes, smelly pus-filled boil-like sores can also be present, as one of the signs of staph on your hair follicles.
Dealing with cyst
Although not common, it is possible for one to end up with infected ingrown hair cysts especially infected ingrown pubic hair cysts and infected ingrown pubic bikini line cysts. This happens when an infection is deep in your skin.
Common symptoms you are likely to experience include yellow or green pus, itchiness, inflammation, warmth, tenderness including redness in the infected area.
Treatments of such cysts are usually by both oral and topical antibiotics as well as draining of the cyst. Steroid creams might be recommended to reduce inflammation. To avoid scarring, go to dermatologist or doctor to help you drain the cyst i.e. deep cysts removal requires an expert.
If you are fond of shaving your legs, they can be a common site for this problem. This could happen anywhere on your legs including on the thighs and in-between your legs (inner thighs). See picture beside.
On pubics, groin, and vag
A rather embarrassing place to have this problem is on your groin, vagina or even on your bikini line. This is definitely going to affect your confidence. In fact, you might want to avoid going to the beach in your bikini if you have them along with your bikini lines.
This is one of the common sites, especially in men. It might be on the chin, cheeks, or anywhere where there are facial hair including the neck i.e. on neck
Our sources and references