"Don't Suffer in Silence: Discover the Treatment and Prevention of Ingrown Hair Cysts"

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Underneath the surface of your skin, an ingrown hair bump, or cyst, can grow to be a pain in the neck. It may present as a red pimple with a hair protruding from its surface, but it extends deep into the skin. Sometimes, this bump can escalate and lead to the development of an ingrown hair cyst. However, it’s important to note that other types of bumps, such as pseudofolliculitis barbae, razor bumps, and pimples, can be confused as ingrown hair cysts. Understanding the causes, treatments, and how to prevent them from recurring is key.

close-up of an ingrown hair cyst

The initial trigger for an ingrown hair cyst is the ingrown hair itself, but it can become more severe if left untreated and may result in a larger bump that can appear in various colors like red, white, or yellow. Furthermore, it may also become sensitive to the touch.

When it comes to identifying these skin conditions, razor bumps, also known as pseudofolliculitis barbae, are often confused with ingrown hair cysts. While cysts can grow near ingrown hairs, most bumps that form near ingrown hairs are razor bumps. Your armpits, face, head, neck, legs, and pubic region are the areas where razor bumps typically develop.

Cystic acne is another skin condition that may resemble ingrown hair cysts and razor bumps. However, unlike ingrown hair cysts that form around a hair protrusion, cystic acne is caused by bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells that accumulate deep inside the hair follicle. Knowing the key differences can help identify which skin condition you have.

Cystic acne has the potential to heighten significantly in one specific area on your body, such as your face or back. Conversely, ingrown hair cysts tend to remain contained and are fewer in number, with only a single cyst possibility.

Poor hair removal techniques can lead to the development of these bumps.

Regardless of whether you shave, wax or pluck, achieving hair removal can pose difficulties. The process may cause inflammation resulting in irritations like razor bumps or cysts.

Hair removal also has the potential to create distorted hair growth, leading to sideways growth with subsequent curling downwards. The overlying skin can then close over the hair, causing it to become trapped, or ingrown. Inflammation is triggered in response to the foreign object so that surrounding tissue becomes swollen.

Razor bumps primarily occur in individuals of black ethnic origin who shave. Those with naturally curly hair are also more prone to developing bumps associated with ingrown hairs.

Treatment primarily aims to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of infection. Ceasing shaving allows ingrown hairs to grow out while maintaining hydration can also be of benefit.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as benzoyl peroxide or retinoids can help to mitigate inflammation and reduce the size of razor bumps or ingrown hair cysts. In instances where OTC remedies prove ineffective, prescribed acne medications such as hydrocortisone cream can aid in the reduction of pain and redness.

Cystic acne is unlikely to improve without prescription-strength medications.

The primary objective when managing ingrown hairs is to reduce their frequency by keeping the skin moisturized and exfoliated. Using gentle glycolic acid body washes and lotions can be beneficial. If cysts caused by ingrown hairs become inflamed and fluctuate in size, incision and drainage procedures may be necessary to decrease the cyst’s size and remove the trapped hair.

It is important not to pop an ingrown hair cyst, as this can lead to scarring or infection. Trying to use tweezers to extract the hair is ill-advised as the hair is too deeply embedded within the cyst. Instead, encourage the bump or cyst to subside and the hair to straighten back up by gently exfoliating the area with a warm cloth a couple of times a day.

Managing Infections

If an infection develops, your healthcare provider may prescribe either oral or topical antibiotics to mitigate inflammation, pain, and to prevent the spread and worsening of the infection.

For most bumps and cysts, over-the-counter treatments are sufficient for resolving the issue and coaxing the hair out.

However, if the bumps or cysts persist or become troublesome, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional or a dermatologist who can drain the cyst and remove the ingrown hair. You can use Healthline's FindCare tool to book an appointment with a dermatologist in your area.

It is also important to see a healthcare professional if you suspect an infection. Signs to look out for include pus oozing from the bump or cyst, increased redness, itching, pain, foul odor, swelling, and fever.

Razor bumps and ingrown hair cysts can take several days or weeks to completely clear up on their own. It is advisable to seek timely treatment to eliminate them and prevent their recurrence.

Cystic acne, on the other hand, may necessitate prescription acne treatments.

If you continue to experience ingrown hairs despite treatments, consult a healthcare professional for further diagnosis and management. Permanent hair removal methods such as laser hair removal may also be advised to reduce the risk of ingrown hairs and bumps; however, it is impossible to prevent them entirely unless you refrain from hair removal altogether.

Hair removal methods that do not require shaving may mitigate the risk of ingrown hairs but may not entirely resolve the issue if you are predisposed to them. The most efficient way to reduce the incidence of ingrown hairs is to avoid tweezing, plucking, and waxing until the ingrown hair has surfaced naturally or with professional help.

If you decide to remove hair yourself, ensure that you follow best hair removal practices to minimize the possibility of ingrown hairs.

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