Ingrown Hair

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Ingrown Hairs and Pilonidal Cysts

Most experts believe that the cysts arise due to trauma to the area that results in ingrown hairs. Pilonidal cysts often contain hair when excised, but hair follicles have not been demonstrated in them, suggesting that the hair may have been introduced from outside the cyst.

Ingrown hair facts

  • Ingrown hairs are a benign skin disorder commonly seen in teenagers and adults.
  • Ingrown hairs more frequently occur in adult men with darker skin.
  • Ingrown hairs commonly occur on shaved areas, such as the face, neck, armpit, legs, and pubic region.
  • Ingrown hairs look like scattered, pinpoint tan or red bumps.
  • Ingrown hairs can be cosmetically disfiguring.
  • Ingrown hairs are often caused by shaving too closely.
  • Ingrown hairs may resolve on their own without treatment.
  • Infection of skin can occur.
  • Avoid close shaves to prevent ingrown hair.
  • Ingrown hairs may require ongoing maintenance therapy.
  • Many topical creams are available to help control ingrown hairs.
  • A combination of treatments may be needed to achieve the best result.
  • Laser hair removal can be a good option to prevent ingrown hairs.

What is an ingrown hair?

An ingrown hair happens when the sharp tip of the hair curls back or grows sideways into the skin of the hair follicle. It is a benign condition, which usually appears as a small tan or sometimes pink bump under the skin. Often, a small pinpoint (often dark) part of the underlying hair may be seen under the skin bump. In more extensive cases, multiple small red or pink little bumps around hair follicles may be seen on any skin area that has been frequently shaved, such as the face, neck, armpits, legs, and pubic region.

Ingrown hair is a very common skin condition occurring primarily after puberty. Ingrown hairs tend to be more common in areas with coarse hairs, like the bikini area in women, and beard and neck in men. Individuals with thicker, coarser hairs, such as African Americans, tend to have the highest rate of problems with ingrown hairs, particularly of the beard area. Rarely, an ingrown hair may also appear in other skin parts, such as the eyelid. Generally, an ingrown hair is medically harmless, yet it may become cosmetically disfiguring and lead to scarring, skin discoloration (referred to as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation), skin infection, and rarely keloid scar formation.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/5/2015

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