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How to get rid of ingrown hair cyst

How to get rid of ingrown hair cyst

Navin Khosla NowPatientGreen tick
Written by Rajive Patel, BPharm
Updated on 26 Feb 2024
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Ingrown hair cysts can be a bothersome and painful condition that affects many people. These cysts occur when hair grows back into the skin instead of outwards. They can cause discomfort, inflammation, and even infection if left untreated. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes, treatment options, and prevention methods for ingrown hair cysts.

Understanding ingrown hair cysts

Ingrown hair cysts are commonly seen after shaving, waxing, or tweezing. When hair removal methods are used, the hair strand may curl back and re-enter the skin, leading to the formation of a cyst. These cysts can appear as raised red bumps on the skin and are often accompanied by symptoms such as itching, pain, and skin irritation. Many people call these bumps razor bumps or razor burn, and their medical name is pseudofolliculitis barbae. They often look like a pimple, but they can grow bigger. Ingrown hair cysts typically occur in areas where hair removal is frequent, including the face, legs, armpits, and pubic area. In some cases, you may even see trapped hair beneath the skin’s surface.

Causes of ingrown hair cysts

The primary cause of ingrown hair cysts is improper hair removal techniques. Shaving, waxing, plucking and tweezing only remove the visible part of the hair, while the hair follicle remains intact under the skin. When new hair starts to grow, it may curl back into the skin instead of growing outward. This is more likely to happen with thick, curly hair, or coarse hair. Individuals with skin of color or those who have thick hair are also more prone to developing ingrown hair cysts. Other factors that can contribute to the formation of ingrown hair cysts include:

  • Tight clothing or friction: Wearing tight clothing or experiencing friction against the skin can irritate hair follicles and increase the likelihood of ingrown hairs
  • Improper exfoliation: Failing to exfoliate regularly can lead to a build-up of dead skin cells, which can block hair follicles and contribute to ingrown hairs
  • Dry skin: Dry skin can make hair more prone to breaking or becoming trapped beneath the skin’s surface
  • Bacterial or fungal infections: In some cases, ingrown hair cysts can become infected with bacteria or fungi, leading to increased inflammation and discomfort

Symptoms and diagnosis

Ingrown hair cysts can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • Red, inflamed bumps on the skin
  • Itching or irritation in the affected area
  • Pain or tenderness around the cyst
  • Pus or fluid-filled bumps
  • Darkening of the skin around the cyst

The severity and duration of symptoms can vary depending on the individual and the specific circumstances. In some cases, ingrown hair cysts may resolve on their own without treatment. However, if symptoms worsen or persist, medical intervention may be necessary.

To diagnose ingrown hair cysts, a healthcare provider may perform a physical examination, assess the appearance and symptoms, and inquire about the individual’s hair removal practices and skincare routine.

Treatment options

There are several effective ways to treat and prevent ingrown hair cysts at home. By following these simple steps, you can alleviate discomfort, reduce inflammation, and promote healthy skin:

Exfoliate regularly

Regular exfoliation helps remove dead skin cells and prevents hair from becoming trapped beneath the surface. Use a gentle exfoliating scrub or a washcloth to exfoliate the affected area. Be sure to use circular motions and avoid vigorous scrubbing, as this can further irritate the skin.

Apply warm compresses

Applying warm compresses to the affected area can help open up the pores and facilitate the release of ingrown hairs. Simply soak a clean cloth in warm water, wring out the excess, and apply it to the cyst for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this process several times a day to promote healing.

Avoid picking or squeezing

As tempting as it may be, avoid picking or squeezing ingrown hair cysts. This can lead to further inflammation, infection, and potential scarring. Instead, allow the cysts to heal naturally or seek professional treatment if necessary.

Use over-the-counter treatments

Over-the-counter treatments can help reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms associated with ingrown hair cysts. Look for products that contain ingredients like salicylic acid or glycolic acid, as these can help exfoliate the skin and promote hair follicle health.

Moisturize the skin

Keeping the skin moisturized is crucial for preventing ingrown hair cysts. Choose a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizer to avoid clogging the pores. Moisturizing regularly can help maintain skin hydration and reduce the likelihood of ingrown hairs.

Adjust hair removal techniques

If you frequently experience ingrown hair cysts, it may be time to reassess your hair removal techniques. Consider using alternative methods such as hair removal creams or laser treatment, which can provide longer-lasting results and reduce the risk of ingrown hairs.

Seek professional treatment

In severe cases or when home remedies don’t provide relief, it may be necessary to seek professional treatment. An infected ingrown hair cyst needs medical treatment. A dermatologist or healthcare provider can offer various treatment options, including:

  • Topical steroid cream or injections to reduce inflammation
  • Antibiotic creams or oral medications to treat infections
  • Laser hair removal to permanently reduce hair growth. Lasers can selectively target dark, coarse hairs without affecting the surrounding skin

Preventing ingrown hair cysts

Prevention is key when it comes to dealing with ingrown hair cysts. Proper hair removal techniques can significantly reduce the risk of developing these cysts. Some preventive measures include:

  • Wetting the skin with warm water and using shaving gel before shaving
  • Shaving in the direction of hair growth and using as few strokes as possible
  • Rinsing the razor after each stroke to prevent skin irritation and cuts
  • Using an exfoliating scrub to help release trapped hairs
  • Considering alternative hair removal methods, such as hair removal creams or laser treatment

It is also important to avoid shaving too closely, as leaving some stubble can help prevent bacteria from entering the skin. Additionally, refraining from scratching, picking, or squeezing ingrown hairs can prevent further damage to the skin and reduce the risk of infection.

When to seek medical attention

While most ingrown hair cysts can be managed at home, there are instances where medical attention is necessary. If the ingrown hair or the surrounding area becomes very painful, hot, swollen, or infected, it is advisable to consult a healthcare provider. High temperature, feeling hot, shivery, or unwell alongside ingrown hair can be signs of a more severe infection that requires medical intervention.

Non-urgent advice

For non-urgent cases, a pharmacist can provide helpful advice and recommend over-the-counter products to alleviate symptoms. Creams and lotions can help with itching, while shaving and hair removal products can help prevent irritation. Exfoliating products can be used to prevent ingrown hairs, and mild antiseptics can help prevent infections.

Conclusion

Ingrown hair cysts can be a frustrating condition, but with the right treatment and prevention strategies, they can be managed effectively. By adopting proper hair removal techniques, using home remedies, and seeking medical attention when necessary, individuals can minimize the discomfort and complications associated with ingrown hair cysts. Remember to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment options tailored to your specific needs.

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