We’ve all had an itch that just needs to be scratched, but when that itch happens in our pubic area, things can get a little concerning. After all, it’s not exactly the most low-key place to scratch. Is your itchy pubic hair a symptom of razor burn or dry skin? Is it something that can easily be taken care of at home? Or, is it a yeast infection or pubic lice that requires a run to the clinic?
To get to the bottom of what can cause itchy pubic hair, how to treat it, and how to soothe symptoms, we reached out to a few healthcare providers to get professional advice on all things itchy pubic hair. Below are some common causes for itchy pubic hair and how they can be treated.
Hair removal-related issues (razor burn, ingrown hairs, or folliculitis)
Dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner tells O.school that itchy pubic hair could easily be caused by hair removal techniques like shaving or waxing. “You can develop ingrown hairs or infections of the hair follicle known as folliculitis,” he tells O.school, adding that this is most commonly characterized by raised red bumps or pimples.
How to treat hair removal-related issues:
Changing your hair removal techniques, along with applying antibiotic ointment and steroid cream, are solutions recommended by New York gynecologist Dr. Alyssa Dweck. It’s also important that you don’t continue to remove hair, scratch, or pick at this area, since that can cause infection and scarring. It can also slow down the healing process.
If you find that you have itchy pubic hair, it could be the result of an allergic reaction on the skin (or allergic contact dermatitis). This happens when the skin comes in contact with an allergen, such as a chemical, fragrance, or soap. It can also create:
- A red rash
- Dry or cracked skin
- Blisters and bumps
- Swelling and tenderness
How to treat contact dermatitis:
If you know what is causing the allergic reaction, remove the product from your life and apply an anti-itch cream to the location. You can also take a cool bath or apply a cool compress to soothe the area. If that doesn’t work, see a healthcare provider, who can prescribe medication.
Eczema or Dry Skin
Eczema can commonly be found in the creases of the elbows or knees, but it can also appear on the genital area. It appears as a scaly red rash that can become bumps or leak fluid when scratched. It can be caused by:
- Chemicals in your body products
- Hot or cold temperatures
- Dry skin
If you have itchy pubic hair, but don’t notice a scaly red rash, you could simply have dry skin, which would appear as flaky, ashy, rough skin that flakes or peels off.
How to treat dry skin:
The symptoms of dry skin can sometimes be resolved with moisturizer that’s formulated with sensitive skin in mind (preferably one you’ve used before and haven’t had a reaction to), making sure to avoid the inner pubic area. If you’re not sure whether you have dry skin or eczema, OB/GYN Dr. Jessica Shepherd tells O.School that one should “formally diagnose the skin condition and treat accordingly, usually with topical steroid cream.” In other words, consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
A yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes the vagina and vulva to become itchy and irritated. “Yeast infections of the genitals can be associated with redness on the labia and vulva,” Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine, tells O.school. “They can be accompanied by a cottage cheese-like discharge and vaginal itching.”
How to treat a yeast infection:
If your yeast infection symptoms are mild and the tissue is merely a bit irritated, Dr. Minkin recommends a vaginal moisturizer, which will help the itch. However, if you’re dealing with moderate to severe symptoms, you should visit a gynecologist for anti-fungal medication.
Tinea Cruris (aka Jock Itch)
When coping with this type of fungal infection, Dr. Zeichner states, “Typically patients will develop red, scaly areas on the groin and inner thighs.” It can also spread to the buttocks, and thrives in warm, moist areas. One can get jock itch via contact with someone who may be infected, or from a contaminated towel or article of clothing. (Yuck. A good reason not to share towels or clothes.)
How to treat jock itch:
Dr. Zeichner recommends a topical anti-fungal medication. You should also:
- Keep your groin area dry with a powder like Gold Bond.
- Change our underwear daily and make sure you’re wearing clean clothes.
- Check that your clothes and underwear aren’t too tight.
- Do not share personal items like towels or clothes.
- Ensure that you don’t have athlete’s foot, which can spread to the groin area. Always wear flip flops in public showers to prevent this.
“If you see tiny black bumps on the hairs themselves, you could have pubic lice,” dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner tells O.School. “Spread through direct contact, pubic lice, also known as crabs, is an infestation of lice that are preferentially attached to pubic hair.” According to Dr. Zeichner, many refer to pubic lice as crabs because when placed under a microscope, these parasites resemble crabs.
Other symptoms of pubic lice include:
- Dark, bluish spots on the skin (caused by lice bites)
- Feeling irritable or exhausted
- Yellow or white oval-shaped eggs at the base of the pubic hair
How to treat pubic lice:
Dr. Minkin recommends over-the-counter products such as Nix or Rid, but a primary care doctor or dermatologist can prescribe medication. You can also do the following:
- Notify all sexual partners. They should treat themselves at the same time.
- Do not have intimate contact with anyone until your treatment is complete.
- Wash all of your clothes, towels, and bedding in hot water, making sure to put them in a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes. Only use these freshly-washed items.
- Pick off any stuck-on lice eggs with tweezers or a fine-tooth comb.
If you continue to see lice even after treatment, visit your doctor. Ensure that all partners have completed their treatment before resuming sexual contact.
Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes scales and red patches to appear on the surface of the skin. This is due to psoriasis speeding up a skin cell’s life cycle, which leads to buildup on the skin. You may also have psoriasis if you have:
- Dry skin that cracks and bleeds
- Silvery scales amidst the red patches
- Stiff, swollen joints
- Ridged nails
How to treat psoriasis:
There are many different types of psoriasis, so it’s important that you see a healthcare provider to find out exactly which type you have. For severe psoriasis, Dr. Dweck states that medication may be needed. Other forms of treatment include:
- Topical creams and ointments
- Phototherapy (aka light therapy)
- Oral medications
This condition is characterized by patchy white skin, which can appear thinner than normal skin. It’s not contagious and its cause is unknown, but symptoms include:
- Tearing or bleeding
- Wrinkled patches
- Painful sex
How to treat lichen sclerosus:
If you think you have lichen sclerosus, you should see a healthcare provider for treatment. There are some changes you can make to decrease the itching. Healthcare providers call this “vulvar hygiene” and it includes avoiding stockings, underwear that’s not cotton, tight jeans, pants and swimsuits, soaps, bubble baths, detergents and all fragrances. You might be prescribed a corticosteroid to help with the itching.
If you’re not sure what you have or what to do:
“You could see either a gynecological provider, like your gynecologist or nurse midwife or practitioner; or you could see your primary care provider,” Dr. Minkin tells O.School. In the meantime, to combat the itchy pubic hair, Dr. Zeichner recommends calamine lotion — as long as it doesn’t come in contact with the insides of the genitals or mucous membranes. Before you try anything though, we highly recommend seeing your doctor. Calamine lotion can also burn open wounds. As always, study up on symptoms, but please consult a specialist!