How to Deal with Ingrown Pubic Hairs

Shaving your nether regions almost inevitably leads to pesky ingrowns, but you're not doomed. Here's how to get rid of ingrown pubic hairs and prevent them from coming back.

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For those who prefer being completely bare downstairs or who like the look of a perfectly groomed landing strip, ingrown pubic hairs seem like a fact of life. Still, you might think a few cherry-red, itchy bumps here and there are worth the fuzz-free bikini line and ability to feel like your most confident self.

But are ingrown pubes totally inescapable? Here, experts break down what ingrowns are, exactly, and share tips on how to get rid of ingrown pubic hairs. Plus, you'll find simple steps you can take to prevent them from sprouting again.

What Is an Ingrown Pubic Hair?

Under ordinary circumstances, each individual hair will grow straight up from the follicle and pierce through the skin's surface. But when the hair curls before it reaches the surface, it can get trapped beneath the skin, creating inflammation, pain, itching, and solid bumps, says Kameelah Phillips, M.D., an ob-gyn and the founder of Calla Women's Health in New York City. "Sometimes people will see a little pustule, so it will look like a pimple," she says. "That's the head of inflammation that's associated with the ingrown hair."

These rogue hairs and their not-so-pretty symptoms are often found on the head, chin, and pubic area, with the mons and labia being the most commonly affected area, says Dr. Phillips.

The Main Causes of Ingrown Pubic Hairs

The biggest culprits behind ingrown pubic hairs? Hair grooming processes that tear the hair — like shaving and waxing — or having curly hair (though some people can occasionally develop ingrown pubic hairs at random), she says.

To make matters worse, hairs in your nether regions tend to be coarser and curlier than other parts of the body. So when you shave with a manual razor in the pubic area, you're breaking through a rough hair shaft that's already more likely to curl back and form an ingrown pubic hair. And if you're running the razor against the grain of the hair, it will oftentimes cut the shaft in an uneven way, which can further encourage the hair to curl while growing and increase your risk of developing an ingrown pubic hair, says Dr. Phillips. The same goes for waxing: When you pull the hair off in the opposite direction that it grows in, you're creating the ripe conditions for an ingrown pubic hair to develop.

How often you shave can also increase your odds of developing an ingrown pubic hair. If you shave the area the second you feel any small hair prickles, you can end up removing multiple layers of the skin, which is why you might leave the shower with razor burn, aka irritated red spots that burn or itch, she says. "To me, razor burn and ingrown hairs are linked," says Dr. Phillips. "Razor burn is the skin's immediate reaction to shaving [when your hair is still short], and at the level of the follicle of the hair, you get an ingrown hair." Simply put, razor burn is the nearly instant symptom of shaving your barely-there hair, and as the hair tries to grow out over the next few days, you might see an ingrown pubic hair in that spot too.

Ingrown pubic hairs can take anywhere from days to weeks to heal, depending on the amount of inflammation and how many hair follicles are involved. What's more, the pustules can go away fairly quickly, but the inflammation at the level of the hair follicle underneath the skin can feel like a hard knot for some time after, she says.

How to Prevent Ingrown Pubic Hairs

Stopping ingrown pubic hairs from developing in the first place is much easier than trying to get rid of them, says Dr. Phillips. To do just that, put these three tips into action.

Let your pubic hair grow out between removals.

That's why she recommends embracing at least a little bit of hair down there in between removals, rather than aiming to achieve a mons and labia that's super smooth 24/7. "When you let the hair break through the skin, it minimizes the chances it will dive back down and cause an ingrown hair," she explains. "Again, ingrown hairs occur when the hair gets chopped off at the level of the skin and the growth process is interrupted, so it dives back down. So if you let your hair grow out just a few millimeters, it pops above the surface of the skin and can grow in a normal pattern." This process applies to both shaving and waxing, as overwaxing can lead to irritated hair follicles in addition to ingrown hairs, she says.

Switch your grooming tool.

Another key way to prevent ingrown pubic hairs if you're comfortable with a bit of fuzz: Toss that manual razor. To control your hair growth and keep it groomed short, Dr. Phillips recommends using an electric shaver that's specifically designed for vulvas. "It keeps the hair very low, but it doesn't pierce the skin, it minimizes ingrown hairs, and it's only for the vulvar region," she says. "I do not recommend shaving with a razor at all."

Use the razor on your pubic hair only.

But if you simply refuse to give up your disposable, budget-friendly razor, make sure to use a brand-spanking-new blade every single time and use it only on your vulva, she says. When you take a razor that's been used on your armpits or legs and use it to remove hair downstairs, the blade will be dulled down, which can create a jagged edge on the hair shaft and cause it to dive back into the skin, creating an ingrown pubic hair. Plus, you'll also potentially be introducing bacteria from other body parts to your vulva. "There's not really a huge harm in doing so, but for minimizing the risk of ingrowns, you just want to maintain the best hygiene possible and use a dedicated razor for your vulvar region," notes Dr. Phillips.

How to Get Rid of Ingrown Pubic Hair

If you took all the precautions and still end up with angry, irritated pubes, don't fret. Here, your game plan for how to get rid of an ingrown pubic hair.

Leave the ingrown pubic hair alone.

First things first, don't go digging at it with sharp tweezers and dousing it in rubbing alcohol. Most of the time, ingrown pubic hairs will go away on their own if you stop shaving, waxing, or plucking for the time being and let the hair grow out of the skin naturally, says Dr. Phillips. And if you aren't patient enough to let the ingrown pubic hair do its thing, you might be tempted to use a needle, tweezers, or some other sharp tool to open the skin and lift the hair out. But this home remedy can do more harm than good, as it increases your chances of developing an infection and create more inflammation, she adds.

Apply compresses and gently exfoliate.

You can also apply a warm compress on the area or gently exfoliate it with a washcloth to help soften the superficial layer of skin, allowing the ingrown pubic hair to break through. "When patients have a condition in their vulvar region, they can sometimes take it to the next level [in terms of home treatment]," says Dr. Phillips. "So just use a washcloth — you don't need a pumice stone or aggressive loofah. And if it hurts, it shouldn't be done."

To soothe the area, applying a cold compress or using A+D Ointment or a light, alcohol-, dye-, and fragrance-free aloe vera gel may sometimes help, says Dr. Phillips. "But if you have open skin, I usually recommend leaving it alone," she says. "Often, some of the astringents people put on [an ingrown hair] further burn and damage the skin, so I try to encourage people to let their body do its healing."

Book an appointment with your doctor.

If all of these strategies for how to get rid of an ingrown pubic hair don't work — it hasn't resolved in a few days and the bump is getting bigger and more painful — it's time to book an appointment with your doc. "That's to make sure we're really talking about an ingrown hair and not any other type of infection," says Dr. Phillips. "Sometimes ingrown hairs can lead to superficial skin infections, and you might need an antibiotic."

And remember, ingrown pubic hairs aren't happening on a tough-as-nails part of the body, but a sensitive — and intimate — one, and how you treat this skin should reflect that. "People can't be as aggressive with their vulvar skin as they are with the skin on their arm, or their leg, or their elbow," she says. "And I really encourage [people] to have some hair and minimize their grooming processes to minimize complications that go along with that. I also encourage [folks] to think about, 'Why am I doing this? Is this necessary for me to feel comfortable? Am I doing this for someone else?' and just to respect the skin between your legs because it is special."

If you still really want it gone, that's okay; it's your body and you're allowed to do whatever you want with your pubes. Just follow the guidance above so, hopefully, you don't have to deal with an ingrown pubic hair again.

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