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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How do health-care professionals diagnose an ingrown hair?

The diagnosis of ingrown hair is typically very straightforward and based on the skin appearance. In some cases, a small skin biopsy may be used to help the doctor confirm the diagnosis. Other times, a skin bacterial culture may be taken by a cotton-tip applicator to assist in determining an infectious cause. A few other medical conditions may look just like ingrown hairs and need to be examined more closely by a physician specializing in conditions of the skin called a dermatologist.

Does diet have anything to do with ingrown hairs?

Overall, diet does not seem to affect ingrown hairs.

What else could an ingrown hair look like?

Other medical conditions can mimic ingrown hairs. Some possible look-alike skin conditions include folliculitis, keratosis pilaris, acne, cyst, abscess (furuncle), milia (whiteheads), eczema, impetigo, atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, heat rash (miliaria), or dry skin (xerosis).

Less common mimickers include chickenpox, herpes, pustular psoriasis, molluscum contagiosum, viral warts, Fox-Fordyce disease, Graham-Little-Piccardi-Lasseur syndrome, pruritic papular eruption of HIV disease, and erythema toxicum neonatorum. Folliculitis of ingrown hairs may also resemble uncommon skin conditions like lichen spinulosus, pityriasis rubra pilaris, phrynoderma (vitamin A deficiency), ulerythema ophryogenes, ichthyosis vulgaris, eruptive vellus hair pseudofolliculitis barbae, erythromelanosis follicularis faciei et colli, keratosis follicularis (Darier disease), Kyrle disease, lichen nitidus, lichen spinulosus, perforating folliculitis, and trichostasis spinulosa.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/23/2016

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