Hairs often become ingrown due to friction and shaving, and people can treat these by themselves at home.
Ingrown hairs can be itchy, painful, and uncomfortable, especially when they appear around the genitals.
This article will discuss the causes of ingrown hairs, their treatment, and prevention, along with similar conditions that can trigger the same symptoms.
Ingrown hairs are a result of damage to the hair follicles.
Often, people damage the hair follicles by:
- touching or rubbing the skin
- wearing tight clothing
- rubbing skin against skin, such as the thighs
- shaving, plucking, or waxing
If an ingrown hair is not due to an infection, people may be able to see the hairs under a thin layer of skin.
However, if the ingrown hair does have an infection, the most common cause is a superficial bacterial infection of staphylococcus aureus.
Other causes of an ingrown hair infection include:
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium present in improperly maintained swimming pools and hot tubs
- the fungi Malassezia, often a result of an increase of activity in sebaceous glands
- viral infections, such as molluscum contagiosum or herpes
- the mite Demodex folliculorum
- acquiring advanced HIV
Some people may not have any symptoms of an ingrown hair, whereas others may find the area itchy and painful.
If the ingrown hair has an infection, the skin may appear raised and red around the hair and present with a white head.
Sometimes, what appears to be an ingrown hair on the scrotum can be one of several other conditions.
Conditions with similar symptoms to ingrown hair, especially if a person has acquired an infection, include:
- scrotal calcinosis
- genital warts
Several types of pimples that may appear on the scrotum include:
- blackheads, small black or yellow bumps
- whiteheads, which are similar to blackheads but may feel firmer
- papules, small red bumps that may be tender or sore
- pustules, which are similar to papules but have a white head in the center
- nodules, large hard bumps that may be painful
- cysts, large lumps with pus inside
People should not try to pop pimples, as this can lead to scarring.
There are many lotions and creams available over the counter that people can use to manage pimples.
In severe cases, a doctor can prescribe medications to treat pimples.
Scrotal calcinosis is a harmless condition where one or more calcified nodules develop on the scrotum.
Nodules usually appear in early adulthood and can increase in size and number as people get older.
Most of the time, these nodules do not present with any symptoms, but some people may notice a heavy sensation or a chalky discharge.
As these nodules are cosmetic, doctors will only recommend surgery if they severely affect a person’s life.
Surgery is a simple procedure involving a surgeon cutting the skin above the nodules and extracting them.
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection that may result from the herpes simplex virus type 1 or type 2.
People can acquire or pass on this condition through vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Genital warts usually appear as one or more small bumps in the genital area. These bumps may be small or large, flat or raised, and may be itchy or painful.
Genital warts may go away by themselves, but a doctor can help with managing symptoms.
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection that may be due to the herpes simplex virus type 1 or type 2.
People can catch or spread genital herpes through vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Some people may have no symptoms, but others may experience one or more blisters that break and leave painful sores around the genitals, bottom, or mouth.
Some people may experience flu-like symptoms such as fever and swollen glands.
There is currently no cure for genital herpes. However, people can manage symptoms by taking prescription anti-herpes medication.
There are several different treatments available to manage ingrown hairs on the scrotum.
In most cases, people can treat ingrown hairs at home.
Usually, ingrown hairs go away by themselves if a person has a healthy immune system, and they stop doing what causes them, such as shaving or wearing tight clothing.
However, people may find relief from symptoms by applying a warm compress 3–4 times a day for up to 20 minutes each time.
If there is no infection present, and the skin has simply trapped the ingrown hair, a person can use a gentle exfoliating scrub to release the hair.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommend people stop shaving, plucking, or waxing for 30 days if they cause ingrown hairs.
Often, ingrown hairs go away by themselves, or people can treat them at home.
However, immunocompromised people, such as those living with HIV, or those who have contracted a severe infection, may need medical treatment.
Below are treatment options for ingrown hairs due to the following conditions:
- Bacterial infections: Doctors will prescribe antibiotics for bacterial infections, such as the topical medication mupirocin and clindamycin.
- Fungus: If the infection is due to a fungus, healthcare professionals may prescribe itraconazole and fluconazole.
- Mites: Doctors will prescribe anti-parasitic agents such as topical permethrin and oral ivermectin.
- Herpes: If the ingrown hair is due to herpes, healthcare professionals will treat this with antivirals.
- Molluscum contagiosum: If the ingrown hair is due to molluscum contagiosum, the doctor will likely suggest cutting away the condition or offering cryotherapy.
- HIV: Doctors will help treat the underlying condition. In most cases, treating HIV resolves ingrown hair infections.
It is important to contact a doctor if an ingrown hair does not resolve itself and becomes very painful.
Healthcare professionals can prescribe different medications that may ease severe symptoms and treat the infection.
It is also vital to contact a healthcare professional if a person believes they may have herpes or genital warts, as these conditions are infectious, and people can pass them on to others.
There are several lifestyle modifications that people can use to reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs or prevent them, including:
- wearing loose clothing, especially during hot and humid weather
- making sure hot tubs are clean with the correct acid and chlorine levels
- wearing clean and dry bathing suits or wetsuits
- when using medications, uncover the affected area of scrotal skin and apply the medication in the same direction the hair grows
For people who shave, it is also crucial to know how to do so correctly. The American Academy of Dermatology suggest the following steps:
- soften the skin and hair by wetting them
- apply shaving cream or gel, using a sensitive skin formula for delicate areas such as the genitals
- shave in the direction of hair growth to help prevent razor bumps
- rinse the razor after each pass and throw away disposable razors after 5–7 uses
- after shaving, store the razor in a dry place to prevent bacteria from growing
It is important to experiment with different kinds of razors to find out which one suits each person.
For example, some people may find better results with a disposable razor, while others prefer electric versions.
All razors should be sharp, and it is crucial not to press too heavily on the skin, as this can cause cuts, allowing bacteria to multiply.
Ingrown hairs on the scrotum may be uncomfortable, painful, and itchy, especially if an infection occurs.
However, they often go away by themselves, and people can speed up the process by using warm compresses and gently exfoliating the area.
It is important to speak with a doctor if a person acquires a severe infection, has an underlying condition such as HIV, or believes they may have a sexually transmitted infection such as genital warts or herpes.