Ingrown Hair Infection: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Tips

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ingrown hair

Having an ingrown hair can cause irritation, itchiness, discomfort, and even pain. When it develops into an ingrown hair infection, the affected area may be worsened and spread to other parts of the body. Keep reading if you want to know how to get rid of ingrown hair issues.

What is an ingrown hair? It is a hair strand that abnormally grows in the hair follicle or reenters the skin surface.

An ingrown hair may occur after the hair has been cut or shaved. It may present as a red, irritated hair follicle with one or more tiny bumps, and can develop in shaved areas. An ingrown hair in the armpit can cause great discomfort.

If left untreated and scratched, an ingrown hair cyst may form. This is an invitation for a bacterial or fungal infection.

What Causes Ingrown Hairs?

As the ingrown hair is a hair that curls back in the hair follicle or the skin surface, the condition of the hair plays a role in the development of such a situation.

Whether you have an ingrown hair on the head or an ingrown hair on the legs, this condition can affect anyone. With that said, those with thick, coarse, or curling hair are more susceptible to having ingrown hairs.

Hair that is cut or shaved close to the skin’s surface may grow slanted and become an ingrown hair. This usually happens with curly or coarse hair, and with hair follicles blocked by dead skin cells.

An ingrown hair can occur anywhere on the body where the hair follicle may be shaved or cut. And, an ingrown hair on the face is not uncommon either.

In addition to the hair texture, the amount of hair on the body may also cause an ingrown hair. It depends on the level of selected sex hormones produced.

Ingrown Hair Infection

An ingrown hair follicle that becomes inflamed is known as folliculitis. These pus-filled bumps are often caused by a fungal or bacterial infection. A few cases of folliculitis may have pus without an infection.

Any infection should be taken seriously, but a mild case of an infected ingrown hair may clear up on its own. The bumps and irritation in these cases may disappear after a few days of not being shaved.

An infected ingrown hair may cause a spread of the infection, and boils or abscesses may develop. These indicate signs of a serious infection that may require prescribed antibiotics.

An ingrown hair may be affected by the staphylococcus or staph infection strain. This form of bacteria is commonly found on the skin’s surface but can only cause an internal infection through a wound to the skin.

But, not all ingrown hair infection cases are caused by this strain. And only a doctor can determine the appropriate treatment in such a serious case.

Identifying an Infected Ingrown Hair

An infected ingrown hair first starts as an irritated ingrown hair. The small red nodules that once resembled razor bumps can become infected if bacteria enters them.

The area surrounding the ingrown hair will change in appearance as the infection settles in and grows.

An infected ingrown hair may present enhanced or additional signs such as:

  • Skin redness around the ingrown hair as the tissues in the affected area are
  • A cluster of small, rounded red, white, or yellow bumps.
  • Severe and persistent itching accompanied by a burning.
  • A single, large bump, which may indicate a deep ingrown hair curled under the skin’s surface.
  • Tenderness and possible extreme pain.
  • The development of a large lesion filled with pus that will emit a foul-odor and yellow substance when ruptured (and may harden into a crusty covering).

Symptoms of Ingrown Hair

The symptoms of an ingrown hair are the same for males and females, although their location may vary.

Males who shave their head tend to have ingrown hairs develop on their scalp. These hairs are also commonly seen in the areas where the beard may grow such as the cheeks, chin, and neck.

Females may see ingrown hair in the regions of the body that are frequently shaved such as the legs and armpits. Ingrown pubic hairs may also develop.

A developing or fully-developed ingrown hair may show the following signs and symptoms:

  • Tiny bumps
  • Itchiness
  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Pus-filled lesions
  • Embedded hairs
  • Darkening of the skin surface
  • Redness in the affected area
  • A dark center in bump (indicating the hair)
  • Swelling

Ingrown Hair Treatment and Home Remedies

In most cases, ingrown hairs will reverse on own without any special treatment. For ingrown hair removal, precaution is required to prevent the risk of infection. These hairs should be at the skin’s surface, and only sterilized tweezers or a sterilized needle should be used.

A safe treatment for an ingrown hair is to entice the hair to come to the skin’s surface on its own by cleaning the affected area with soap and warm water in gentle circular motions. Natural home remedies can then be used to remove the ingrown hair and treat any related irritation.

1. Warm Compress

Use a soft cloth soaked in hot water and apply it to the ingrown hair. Continue to resoak the cloth with hot water for the 10-minute treatment.

An ingrown hair that does not resurface may require medical assistance or may be a more serious skin condition.

2. Exfoliation

As an ingrown hair may be surrounded by the dead skin cells, dirt, oil, and debris within the pores, it may be released with a gentle exfoliation twice a day.

Massage the area with an exfoliator glove or soft cloth and a mixture of olive oil and sugar or salt.

3. Aspirin

This over-the-counter common household pain reliever is known to treat redness and inflammation. Its salicylic acid component may be used to remove dead skin cells.

  • Crush two aspirins into one tablespoon of water to form a paste
  • Add a dab of honey to the mixture
  • Apply directly onto the ingrown hair
  • Rinse with cool water after a 10-minute treatment

4. Baking Soda

The anti-inflammatory properties of baking soda may help reduce the irritation and redness of an ingrown hair. Since baking soda exfoliates the hair follicle surface, it also removes any itchiness.

  • Combine one tablespoon of baking water and one tablespoon of water to form a paste
  • Add one tablespoon of oatmeal, if desired
  • Apply the mixture to the ingrown hair and leave it on for five minutes
  • Rinse with cool water

5. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is used in treatments of inflammation, bacterial infections, and as a disinfectant. Use it to treat irritated and damaged skin while preparing the ingrown hair for removal.

  • Add five drops of tea tree oil to two tablespoons of distilled water
  • Alternatively, you can add three drops of tea tree oil to one tablespoon of olive oil
  • Apply the mixture to the ingrown hair and leave it on for 10 minutes
  • Rinse with cool water

6. Apple Cider Vinegar

Use the anti-inflammatory components of apple cider vinegar to treat and remove ingrown hairs. It also acts as a disinfectant and antibacterial to treat and prevent infection.

  • Dab a cotton swab or cotton ball into some apple cider vinegar
  • Apply it directly onto the ingrown hair
  • Rinse with cool water after a 10-minute treatment

Any infected ingrown hair that does not respond to home treatment after several days may need to be accessed by a physician. Prescribed oral and topical medications may be required to prevent the infection from spreading through the bloodstream to other parts of the body and vital organs.

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs

The best way to prevent ingrown hairs is not to shave the hair follicles. You can prevent this by following these tips.

  • Always hydrating the area to be shaved with warm water and soap.
  • Use shaving gel to help prevent harsh friction between the skin and razor blade.
  • Replace your razor blade every three uses.
  • Use a sharp single-bladed
  • Rinse the razor blade with warm water after each stroke.
  • Apply razor strokes in the direction of hair growth.
  • Shave the area using as few strokes as possible.
  • Do not pull the skin taut while shaving.
  • Avoid shaving too close to the skin and leave a little stubble to prevent bacteria from entering the pores.
  • Use a washcloth soaked in cool water to rinse the skin after shaving.
  • Store razor blades in a dry place.
  • Electric razors should be used in slow, circular motions just near the skin’s surface.

Possible Skin Conditions Mistaken for Ingrown Hairs

At first glance, many other skin problems can resemble an ingrown hair. Each one of the following conditions has comparable small bumps as well as other similar symptoms.

1. Keratosis Pilaris

This condition presents as small, dry skin patches with bumps similar to goose bumps or goose pimples. These rough nodules can be found anywhere on the body, and although harmless, they cannot be prevented nor cured.

2. Acne

May appear as red or white tiny bumps most often on the face, back, or chest. These small bumps form when the hair follicle pores become clogged with debris, dead skin cells, and oil. They tend to reappear after treatment.

3. Cysts

These are tissue sacs filled with a liquid or semi-liquid substance as a result of blocked sebaceous glands or an infection. These tiny bubble-bumps range from small to large.

If the cyst contains pus, it is referred to as an abscess.

4. Eczema

Medically known as atopic dermatitis, it presents as red skin patches of flaky, dry skin. Tiny itchy bumps form and may develop into blisters when the skin cracks and becomes infected.

5. Impetigo

This is a contagious skin condition commonly seen among children near the mouth and nose. The small bumps may be red and inflamed before they crack open, exposing a dark yellow pus that dries to form a hard crust over the open sore.

6. Heat Rash

Also known as prickly heat, it appears as a cluster of tiny red bumps with a severe itchy sensation. The skin surface becomes inflamed as the openings to the sweat glands are clogged.

Blisters may form within the folds of the skin.

7. Pustular Psoriasis

This is a rare form of psoriasis. It appears as a cluster of small yellow or white bumps that may be tender to the touch or painful and surrounded by redness. The skin’s surface may become itchy, and small sacs of pus may develop.

8. Molluscum Contagiosum

These tiny raised bumps are caused by a viral infection of the skin. They are more of an annoyance as no pain is present, and they can last up to four years if left untreated.

An ingrown hair infection may present as a small, raised bump filled with pus and surrounded by redness. It starts as an ingrown hair that has curled during growth and has re-entered the skin surface. This may occur after the hair follicle has been cut or shaved close to the skin’s surface.

The pain, discomfort, and itchiness that often accompanies the ingrown hair may cause one to scratch the surface. Doing this allows bacteria and other debris to enter the hair follicle, causing it to become infected.

Home treatments may alleviate the symptoms and treat the ingrown hair infection before it spreads throughout the bloodstream to other parts of the body.

Related Articles

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