Symptoms and Signs of Ingrown Hair

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/14/2022

Doctor's Notes on Ingrown Hair

An ingrown hair is usually a small hair that lies under the skin and does not grow through the skin. It may grow sideways or curl back toward the hair root (follicle). Symptoms and signs of ingrown hair often appear as small reddish, pink, or tan bumps on the skin. Occasionally, they look like tiny pimples with a pustular head. Within the pus, you may see a black dot; this is the hair surround by pus. In addition, the skin may be inflamed or reddish in color around the base of the lesion. Ingrown hairs may also itch and cause pain. In males, ingrown hairs commonly affect the cheeks, chin, and neck while in females, they often occur in the armpits, pubic region, and on the legs.

The most common causes of ingrown hairs are due to shaving, waxing, and hair removal by tweezers that leaves the sharp tip of the hair close to the skin surface but beneath the skin. This causes the hair to grow sideways or to curl back toward the hair root. This results in the hair being trapped underneath skin. Other causes that contribute to the development of ingrown hair are hair follicles blocked with dead skin cells and wearing tight clothing. Individuals with coarse and curly hair are at higher risk to develop ingrown hairs.

What Are the Treatments for an Ingrown Hair?

The following treatments for an ingrown hair can begin at home:

  • Stop removing (cutting or shaving) the hair.
  • Apply warm compresses.
  • When hair tip is exposed, gently pull out the hair.
  • Clean the skin away from the hair follicle.
  • Use creams to reduce inflammation.

In addition, your doctor may prescribe retinoids and/or antibiotics if needed. Also, the doctor may make a small cut in your skin to release a buried hair. Occasionally, steroids are prescribed to reduce swelling and inflammation.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.