How to Remove an Ingrown Hair Cyst

At-home treatment involves warm compresses, not popping

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Ingrown hair cysts are small, fluid-filled sacs of tissue on the skin. They form around a piece of hair that is growing into the skin instead of out of it.

It may resemble a pimple on the skin. In some cases, you may be able to see the hair at the surface of the bump.

Ingrown Hair or Cyst

An ingrown hair is a place where hair has gotten trapped under the skin. It can cause a fluid-filled bump called a cyst.

Ingrown hair cysts commonly form on the parts of the body that people shave, such as the armpits. Razor bumps from shaving (pseudofolliculitis barbae) are a type of ingrown hair cyst. They often go away on their own but can become infected and need treatment.

This article explains what an ingrown hair cyst looks like and why they form. It also covers some home remedies and medical treatments for ingrown hair cysts, as well as tips for preventing them.

Shaving leg

Guido Mieth / Getty Images

What Does an Ingrown Hair Cyst Look Like?

Ingrown hair cysts can show up on any part of the body that has hair, but they commonly develop on the parts that you shave, including:

  • Face
  • Armpits
  • Pubic area
  • Legs

A cyst from an ingrown hair can be red, white, or yellow. An ingrown hair cyst looks like a pimple, but it can grow bigger. Sometimes, you can see the hair in the cyst. 

If the bump gets larger or redder, oozes, or hurts, it could be infected. An infected ingrown hair cyst needs medical treatment.

Ingrown Hair Cysts vs. Cystic Acne

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

Signs of an Infected Cyst From an Ingrown Hair

Ingrown hair cysts usually go away on their own. However, see a healthcare provider for an ingrown hair cyst or razor bumps if you notice signs of infection, including:

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

How to Safely Remove an Ingrown Hair Cyst

Ingrown hair cysts will often go away on their own in about a week. If you can, stop shaving the area while it heals. It’s also important to keep the area clean and moisturized.

You can help the process along with a simple home remedy. Just apply a warm, clean washcloth as a compress to soften your skin, which can help move the hair to the surface of the cyst. 

You can try using some topical treatments—either over-the-counter or prescription from your provider—to help with healing. Natural antimicrobials like tea tree oil can also be helpful.

Do not try to pop an ingrown hair cyst. It will make an infection more likely and can lead to scarring.

If the cyst looks infected or didn't go away after you tried at-home treatment, see a healthcare provider. They can give you antibiotics and other treatments to keep the infection from spreading and prevent scarring.

What Causes an Ingrown Hair Cyst?

Ingrown hair cysts often show up where your hair is coarse or curly, like in the pubic region. You might be more likely to get ingrown hair cysts if you have coarse or curly hair. The cysts can also form where dead skin cells are blocking hair follicles.

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

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

How to Keep an Ingrown Hair Cyst From Coming Back

If you get a lot of ingrown hair cysts, try these prevention measures to keep them from coming back:

  • 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 tools clean
  • Do not shave too closely
  • Always shave in the direction the hair grows and do not pull the skin
  • Shave less frequently, if possible
  • Moisturize your skin after shaving

If you have chronic ingrown hair problems, it might be best to avoid shaving altogether. Instead, consider permanent ways to remove hair, like laser treatments, electrolysis, or creams.


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

To reduce the chances of getting ingrown hair cysts, keep your skin clean and gently exfoliated and moisturized. You may want to shave less often. If you do shave, don't shave too close, and always shave in the direction the hair grows.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you get rid of ingrown hair scars?

    Try to let the ingrown hair cyst heal on its own. You can help the process by avoiding shaving, keeping the area moisturized, and applying a warm compress. If these methods do not help, see a healthcare provider for treatment.

  • Can ingrown hair cysts cause infection?

    Ingrown hair cysts do not cause infection, but they can get infected if 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. If they're in the pubic area, the bumps can be confused for genital herpes sores.

4 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. University of Michigan Health. Razor bumps.

  3. Cedars-Sinai. Ingrown Hairs (Pseudofolliculitis).

  4. National Health Service. Ingrown hairs.

By Nancy LeBrun
In addition to her extensive health and wellness writing, Nancy has written about many general interest topics for publications as diverse as Newsweek, Teen Vogue,, and Craftsmanship Quarterly. She has authored a book about documentary filmmaking, a screenplay about a lost civil rights hero, and ghostwritten several memoirs.