If the site of the ingrown hair acquires an infection with Staphylococcus aureus, it can cause itchy bumps, pain, flushed skin, and pus.

Staph infections come from a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus that is present naturally on the skin. It can cause serious problems, such as sepsis, if it enters a person’s bloodstream. Ingrown hairs are hairs that have grown back into the skin.

In 2017, there were more than 119,000 cases of bloodstream staph infections. In the same year, almost 20,000 people died because of these infections.

Nearly 1 in 10 people with bloodstream staph infections in 2016 had been injecting drugs, such as opioids. However, individuals may also have a higher risk of contracting this infection if they have:

  • had surgery or a stay at the hospital
  • had medical devices, such as IVs, in their body
  • been in close contact with someone else who has staph

While cases of staph are becoming rarer in hospitals, they may be increasing in the wider community. Still, it is important to note that the likelihood of acquiring sepsis from ingrown hair is highly unlikely.

In this article, we discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for ingrown hair staph infections.

Staphylococcus is the name for a group of over 30 different types of bacteria. One type of staph that lives naturally on human skin is Staphylococcus aureus. About 30% of people also have this bacterium living in their nose, although it may not cause symptoms.

If staph enters the body through an open wound and gets into the bloodstream, it can cause serious illness.

Staph is one of the most common reasons for skin infections in the United States each year. These infections are mostly mild, and doctors can often treat them successfully with oral or topical antibiotics.

However, staph can sometimes cause serious conditions, including:

  • surgical wound infections
  • bloodstream infections
  • pneumonia

Staph infections in people without underlying conditions that have not originated in the hospital usually involve skin infections, such as pimples and boils.


MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It is a type of staph infection.

MRSA may be more difficult to treat because it is resistant to certain antibiotics.

An ingrown hair may cause flushed skin and raised spots that might itch. If the ingrown hair has contracted an infection with staph, it may resemble acne, a pimple, or a boil. A person may also experience:

  • swelling
  • pus
  • crusting on the skin
  • a feeling of heat at the site
  • fever
  • a general feeling of being unwell

Read about signs of a pimple with an infection.

The skin may respond to a staph infection in several different ways. It may develop:

  • Abscesses and boils, painful sores that develop underneath the skin’s surface.
  • Cellulitis, which involves swelling beneath the skin’s surface and flushed skin.
  • Folliculitis, where a person may notice a small blister resembling a pimple at the hair follicle.
  • Impetigo, where blisters or sores may form a crust.
  • Staphylococcal scalded-skin syndrome, a serious infection that causes skin peeling.

Any of these signs near an ingrown hair might indicate a staph infection.

A person with staph is also likely to experience recurrences of this infection.

Learn more about the symptoms of MRSA staph infection.

People should consult with a doctor if they develop:

  • a pimple or boil-like sore develops around the ingrown hair
  • a sore that keeps growing
  • swelling or warmth around the ingrown hair
  • fever
  • chills
  • a general feeling of being unwell

Staph infections need prescription antibiotics. For a skin infection, these antibiotics may be topical or oral. If the infection has reached the bloodstream, then IV antibiotics may be necessary.

If the staph infection is resistant to antibiotics, a doctor can discuss appropriate alternative treatments with a person.

Staph infections occur when germs that normally live on the surface of the skin can enter the body through an open wound. That is why it is important to leave ingrown hairs alone and not pick at them.

Staph infections are also contagious and can spread from person to person. Risk factors include:

  • having surgery
  • staying in healthcare facilities
  • having medical devices in the body
  • injecting drugs
  • having close contact with someone with staph

Staph can develop in hospitals or the wider community.

In hospitals

Hospital staff can help prevent the spread of staph by:

  • following current recommendations for preventing infections from devices or procedures
  • using contact precautions, such as gloves and gowns, for resistant infections
  • screening high-risk patients
  • decolonizing germs during high-risk periods, such as intensive care unit stays, surgery, or after device use
  • treating infections rapidly
  • educating their patients on ways to avoid the infection and spread of staph
  • informing their patients about the early signs of sepsis

In the community

A person can help reduce the risk of staph infection by keeping the area clean and covered and washing their hands. They also need to seek medical treatment if they believe they have an infection.

People in the wider community can help prevent the spread of staph by:

  • keeping their hands clean
  • covering their wounds, including hairs with infections
  • avoiding sharing items that touch the skin, such as towels, razors, and needles
  • being aware of signs of infection and its complications, such as sepsis
  • informing their doctors if they have a diagnosis of a resistant staph infection

A doctor will examine the affected area and ask about a person’s symptoms. They may ask about systemic symptoms, such as vomiting and fever, to determine whether the infection has spread through the rest of the body.

A healthcare professional may be able to diagnose a staph infection on sight but may also take a sample from the area, draw blood, or perform other tests to confirm the diagnosis. They may also drain the wound if it contains pus.

Staph infections can worsen very quickly, so do not wait to make an appointment with a doctor.

Antibiotics are necessary to treat staph infections. However, a person may find temporary symptom relief by taking over-the-counter painkillers or holding a clean, cold compress over the wound.

If an individual has developed an MRSA infection that is resistant to certain antibiotics, a doctor can recommend other treatments. This may involve other antibiotics that are more effective against infections. A healthcare professional may also drain the wound.

Learn about how to treat an ingrown hair.

Many types of bacteria can cause infections in an ingrown follicle. While not all ingrown hairs will contract an infection with staph, some can develop this type of infection from a bacterium that usually lives on the skin. Symptoms include a pimple or boil that forms at the ingrown hair’s follicle, warmth or swelling around the ingrown hair, fever, or a general feeling of illness.

Staph infections can spread to the bloodstream and become very serious. They do not go away on their own, so it is crucial to seek medical attention quickly to receive prompt treatment.

These infections respond well to antibiotics, which a person may take orally or apply topically. In rare cases, an individual may need intravenous antibiotic treatment if the infection has spread throughout their body.