How to Treat an Ingrown Hair Cyst

An ingrown hair is a hair that's growing into the skin instead of out of it. A cyst is a small sac of tissue that develops on the skin that can be filled with fluid or pus. An ingrown hair cyst occurs when a cyst forms around an ingrown hair. Razor bumps from shaving, also known as pseudofolliculitis barbae, are a form of ingrown hair cysts.

Read on to learn how to treat and prevent ingrown hair cysts.

Shaving leg

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Symptoms

Ingrown hair cysts are common and can occur anywhere on the body where you have hair. But they often develop on the areas where you shave, which can include:

  • Face
  • Armpits
  • Pubic area
  • Legs

A sign of an ingrown hair cyst is a bump on the skin that looks like a pimple, but you may be able to see the hair in it. The bump may be red, white, or yellow. If the bump grows larger or becomes redder, oozes, or is painful, it may be infected. An infection requires medical treatment.

Cystic Acne

Ingrown hair cysts are not the same thing as cystic acne, which are bumps that form under a skin follicle due to a buildup of bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells.

Causes

Ingrown hair cysts tend to develop where hair is coarse or curly, like in the pubic region. If you have coarse or curly hair, you may be more likely to develop ingrown hair cysts. They can also develop where there are dead skin cells blocking hair follicles.

Removing hair is one of the most common causes of ingrown hair cysts, whether from shaving, waxing, or tweezing. Any of these methods can irritate your skin, causing it to become inflamed and swollen.

When a new hair forms, if the hair follicle is closed up, the hair can't grow out of the follicle and through the skin. Instead, it grows inward or sideways.

Infection

Ingrown hair cysts usually go away on their own. But if one becomes infected, it needs professional treatment.

Symptoms of infection include:

  • Swelling
  • Pus
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Odor
  • Fever

If you notice any of these symptoms, call or visit your healthcare provider.

Never Pop an Ingrown Hair Cyst

It may be tempting, but do not attempt to pop an ingrown hair cyst. Popping a cyst makes infection more likely and can lead to scarring. A healthcare provider should treat cysts if they don't go away on their own.

Treatment

Ingrown hair cysts will often go away on their own, but you can help the process along. If you can, stop shaving the area while it heals, and keep the area clean and moisturized.

You can also help the process along by applying a warm, clean washcloth as a compress to soften the skin, which may help move the hair to the surface.

If the cyst becomes more inflamed, oozes, becomes painful, or you see other signs of infection, see a healthcare provider.

Prevention

If you regularly develop ingrown hair cysts, try these prevention measures:

  • Wash your skin with warm water and a gentle cleanser before shaving
  • Use a gentle exfoliating agent before shaving to remove dead skin cells
  • Use a single blade or electric razor and try not to keep going over the same areas
  • Keep shaving implements clean
  • Don't shave too closely
  • Always shave in the direction the hair grows and don't pull the skin
  • Shave less frequently, if possible
  • Moisturize after shaving

You can also consider permanent hair removal methods like laser hair removal, electrolysis, or hair removal creams.

When to See a Doctor

You should see a healthcare provider for an ingrown hair cyst or razor bumps if you notice signs of infection, like redness, pain, itching, pus, increased size, or fever.

A healthcare provider can treat cysts with antibiotics or other methods, so that the infection doesn't spread or scar.

Summary

Ingrown hair cysts occur when a hair follicle gets blocked and the hair grows into your skin instead of outward. You should never pop an ingrown hair cyst, because it can cause infection and scarring. They may go away on their own, but if they hurt, become red, or ooze pus, see a healthcare provider.

To reduce the likelihood of ingrown hair cysts, keep your skin clean, gently exfoliated, and moisturized, shave less frequently, and always shave in the direction the hair grows.

A Word From Verywell

Ingrown hair cysts and razor bumps can be painful. Fortunately, they usually go away on their own, and there are many ways to prevent them. If you see a bump growing in size, becoming redder, hurting, or oozing, have it checked by a healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does an ingrown hair look like?

    An ingrown hair cyst looks like a pimple, though it can grow larger. Sometimes you can see the hair in it. They may be red, yellow, or white. They can be anywhere, but they are often found in areas where you shave, like the face, pubic area, or armpits.

  • How do you get rid of ingrown hair scars?

    At home, try to let the bump heal on its own. You can help by avoiding shaving, keeping the area moisturized, and applying a warm compress. If these methods don't help, visit a healthcare provider for other treatment options.

  • Can ingrown hair cysts cause infection?

    Ingrown hair cysts don't cause infection, but they can become infected if certain kinds of bacteria grow in or around them.

  • What can an ingrown hair be mistaken for?

    Ingrown hair cysts can look similar to cystic acne or other pimples.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Ingrown hairs.

  2. National Cancer Institute. Cyst.

  3. University of Michigan Health. Razor bumps.

  4. Cedars-Sinai. Ingrown hairs (pseudofolliculitis).

  5. National Health Service. Ingrown hairs.