Ingrown hair cysts and ingrown hairs on the pubic area or the vulva are two common conditions that people deal with. Knowing the difference between an infected ingrown hair and an ingrown pubic hair cyst will help you determine how to best treat it at home or when to see a doctor. Keep reading to learn about the differences between these two conditions, and how to treat and prevent them.

What causes ingrown hairs?

An ingrown pubic hair can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Waxing, plucking, or shaving pubic hair: Waxing, shaving, or plucking pubic hair can irritate the skin and cause pubic hair to regrow and curl into the skin rather than the hair follicle.
  • Coarse or curly hair texture: if you have coarse or curly hair texture, you will be more prone to have ingrown hair, as this hair texture is more likely to curl back into the skin.
  • Tight clothing or underwear can cause friction, pushing the growing hair deeper into your skin. Synthetic fabrics, like polyester and nylon, can aggravate ingrown hair symptoms.

3 ways to tell if you have an ingrown pubic hair cyst

  • Painful or itchy bumps: One of the most common signs of ingrown hairs are small, red bumps on the skin that can be painful or itchy to the touch. These bumps may also become swollen, inflamed, or filled with pus.
  • Hair trapped under the skin: An ingrown hair occurs when shaved or waxed hair grows unevenly or curves into the skin. This causes the hair to become trapped beneath the skin, where it can cause infection, inflammation, and irritation.
  • Hair visible beneath the skin's surface: Hair beneath the skin's surface may become visible at times, and you may notice a small, dark spot or a hair loop beneath the bump. This is a clear indication of an ingrown hair and should be treated immediately to avoid irritation or infection.

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What causes an ingrown hair to become infected?

When a hair follicle becomes entrapped beneath the skin and begins to grow inward rather than outward, this condition is known as an infected ingrown hair. This can result in red, itchy bumps that look like pimples, irritation, and inflammation. The ingrown hair bump may also contain pus or fluid that is uncomfortable to touch.

The symptoms of an infected ingrown hair are:

  • Redness and swelling around the affected area
  • Itching or burning sensation
  • Pain or discomfort when touched or rubbed
  • Pus or fluid-filled bumps
  • Skin irritation or inflammation

What is an Ingrown Pubic Hair Cyst?

An ingrown pubic hair cyst is a type of cyst that develops when a hair follicle becomes blocked or infected. Unlike an infected ingrown hair, a cyst is a closed sac that contains fluid, which can cause it to appear larger and more pronounced. Cysts can also be deeper within the skin, making them more challenging to treat.

Signs of an ingrown pubic hair cyst may include:

  • A larger, more pronounced bump or lump
  • Redness and inflammation around the area
  • Pain or discomfort when touched or rubbed
  • The presence of hair that is growing inwards or sideways
  • A hard, non-tender lump

How to Tell the Difference

While infected ingrown hairs and ingrown pubic hair cysts may share some similar symptoms, there are a few key differences that can help you determine which condition you are experiencing.

  • Size: Infected ingrown hairs tend to be smaller, while ingrown hair cysts are usually larger and more noticeable.
  • Tenderness: Infected ingrown hairs can be painful to touch, but ingrown hair cysts are typically less tender or painful.
  • Appearance: Infected ingrown hairs often resemble small pimples, while ingrown hair cysts may appear as larger, more pronounced bumps or lumps.
  • Duration: Infected ingrown hairs may clear up - on their own - within a few days, while ingrown hair cysts can persist for weeks or even months.

How is an ingrown hair treated?

  • Compressed heat: Applying a warm pack to the impacted region can help alleviate irritation and bring the ingrown hair nearer to the outer layer of the skin, making it simpler to eliminate.
  • Exfoliation: Dead skin cells and other debris that can clog hair follicles and cause ingrown hairs can be removed by gently exfoliating the skin. Be that as it may, do not over-exfoliate, as this can irritate the skin more.
  • Treatments for the skin: There are several lotions, gels, and creams available over-the-counter that can assist in reducing inflammation and preventing infection. Alpha-hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide are all ingredients to look for in products.
  • Tweezers: Using a pair of clean, sterilized tweezers, you may be able to gently remove the ingrown hair if you can see it close to the surface of the skin. To avoid infection, sanitize the tweezers before and after use.
  • Try not to pick or scratch: Picking or scratching the ingrown hair can irritate it even more and increase the likelihood of infection.

When to Go to the Doctor 

If you think you might have an infected ingrown hair or an ingrown pubic hair cyst, you should go to the doctor as soon as possible. To alleviate your symptoms and prevent complications, your healthcare provider can examine the affected area and suggest the most effective treatment options.

Your doctor may have to drain the cyst or give you antibiotics to treat an infection in some cases. To stop the growth of additional ingrown hairs, they may also suggest methods of hair removal like shaving or waxing.


Most of the time, these cysts can go away by themselves. However, if a cyst causes pain or becomes infected or inflamed, you may need to consult a doctor. Therefore, it is essential to know the difference between an infected ingrown hair and a pubic hair cyst to know when to treat it at home or when to see a doctor. 

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April 12, 2023
Tags: Ingrown Hair

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.