If you partake in hair removal like shaving, waxing, or tweezing, you may have experienced an ingrown hair or two — it happens! But while you might not bat an eye at an ingrown hair on your leg or chin, an ingrown pubic hair on your labia can be extra bothersome — especially if you’re also experiencing pain or itchiness in this delicate area.
The labia is the part of the vulva that consists of both the inner and outer labia. The outer labia tends to be the place where hair grows. You might get an ingrown hair if you regularly remove the hair in that area. But, what do you do if that happens? How do you get rid of it and prevent it from happening again? How can you stop the ingrown hair from itching and becoming infected? To find out how to take care of an ingrown hair on the labia, we spoke with doctors for details and advice.
What is an ingrown labia hair?
An ingrown hair on the labia occurs when “the free edge of the hair grows back into the skin,” dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner tells O.school. Not all ingrown hairs are visible. If an ingrown hair is visible, you will be able to see that the hair appears to be curved or curled under the skin, instead of sticking straight out like your other hairs. This can cause:
- Darkened skin (hyperpigmentation)
- A bump in the skin (a papule or pustule, which is filled with pus)
- An infection in that area
- Scarring, especially if you itch or pick at the area
How do I differentiate an ingrown hair from an STI/STD?
Ingrown hairs tend to appear as isolated, slightly raised, red bumps, whereas an STI like genital herpes will appear blister-like and in clusters. The latter will rise above the skin more than an ingrown hair and when ruptured, will leak a yellow discharge. Ingrown hairs, on the other hand, typically release white pus if infected and ruptured.
If you are experiencing extreme itchiness or flu-like symptoms — achiness, fever, headache — then you’re more likely to have an STI or STD. For confirmation and treatment, see a healthcare provider ASAP.
Why would you get an ingrown labia hair?
OB/GYN Dr. Jessica Shepherd tells O.school that ingrown labia hairs usually occur when that area is shaved or tweezed, causing the hair to grow back into the skin. Once the hair grows this way and enters back into the skin, the body responds like it would if anything else got stuck in your skin — by turning red, swelling, causing pain, becoming infected, and more (see above symptoms).
What should you do if you get an ingrown hair on your labia?
If you get an ingrown hair on your labia, there are several actions you can take to treat the issue. Dr. Shepherd recommends the following home remedies:
- Warm compresses, which will help open up the hair follicle and release the hair.
- If you wax, shave, or tweeze the hair in the vulvar area, take a break for a while. Do not try removing the hair in the area until the ingrown hair is healed.
- An over-the-counter cortisone cream can reduce inflammation and help soothe the area — especially if it’s itchy. Try light exfoliation to help with dead skin removal.
Dr. Zeichner adds, “If you have an ingrown hair and see the hair itself under the skin, you can clean off the skin, clean off a sewing needle using an alcohol swab, and gently try to free the edge of the hair from the skin.” Do not pierce the skin.
Dr. Zeichner also states to avoid plucking the hair with tweezers because the hair will grow back and could easily become ingrown again. If the area is red or tender, Dr. Zeichner recommends applying over-the-counter bacitracin ointment to treat (and prevent) mild infection. If the area is oozing or red, it might be infected. If you have severe pain or tenderness, always consult a healthcare provider.
What should you do to prevent ingrown hair on your labia?
To prevent an ingrown hair on your labia, make sure you wash your vulva with soap before removing any hair by shaving, waxing, or tweezing. Wash the area with fragrance-free soap, and make sure you’re using shaving cream or gel (also without fragrances) to help lubricate the area before shaving. Before using a new product, patch test it on your skin to make sure you’re not allergic.
If you continue to get ingrown hairs, rethink the tool you’re using. If you’re using a razor, it might need to be replaced with one that has a single blade, which is less likely to pull the hair out in such a way that’ll cause it to be ingrown. Also, if your blade is dull, it definitely needs to be replaced. If you shave daily, Gillette recommends that you replace your razor every one to two weeks.
If you shave with a razor and often experience ingrown hairs, try a different form of hair removal (but not until your ingrown hair has fully healed) like waxing or even laser hair removal, which prevents ingrown hairs by hindering your hair from growing back. Also remember that letting your natural hair grow is also an option.
What should you do if you can’t get rid of an ingrown hair on your labia?
“If the spot is not improving on its own, visit your dermatologist for professional help,” states Dr. Zeichner. You should also visit a dermatologist or healthcare provider if you get frequent or painful ingrown hairs
The bottom line? If you see an ingrown hair, don’t panic. There are many ways to treat and prevent them.