Infected Ingrown Hair: Symptoms, Removal, Treatment with Pictures

Ingrown hairs are quite frustrating. It is even worse when you have to deal with an infection. The main problem is that treating an infected ingrown hair at home may end up spreading the infection or cause scarring.

There several ways to manage a staph infection in an ingrown hair. This article discusses the causes, symptoms, treatment and removal options.

Causes and symptoms of infected ingrown hair

Hair originates in follicles and grows straight above the skin. It sometimes happens that instead of this normal growth, hair grows into the skin, either after exiting the follicles or before. The immune system sees ingrown hair as foreign material and attempts to get rid of it. This results in irritation and swelling under the skin.

Staph bacteria thrives on the skin. The bacterium is harmless unless it gains access into the skin through a break or a crack. It is this bacteria that causes staph infection in ingrown hairs. Causes of ingrown hairs include:


After shaving, hair is left with sharp tips which pierce the skin if the hair curls towards the skin. Poor shaving habits such as shaving against the grain and shaving too close to the skin encourage ingrown hairs.

Curly or thick hair

People with curly, thick or coarse hair are more likely to develop ingrown hairs. It is for this reason that body areas such as the armpits, genitals, chin and legs are more often affected compared to the scalp.

Clogged skin pores

Clogged skin pores force hair to grow sideways. Clogging can be caused by dead skin cells, excess sebum and other forms of skin dirt.

Dry skin

Dry skin is very prone to ingrown hairs. For one thing, shaving on dry skin forces you to shave very close to the skin. Also, skin dryness encourages the accumulation of dead skin cells which block skin pores.


Infected ingrown hairs start as small red bumps. As pus starts to form, the bump will gradually grow larger. Other symptoms may include:

  • Itchiness – Itchiness is caused by pus formation and irritation
  • Pain – pain is almost inevitable where bacterial infection is involved.
  • Swelling – as pus forms, the skin around the ingrown hair will swell. The swelling may form a noticeable bump.
  • Tenderness and warmth – any infection that involves pus formation will cause tenderness and warmth on the affected area.
  • Color change – initially, an ingrown hair appears as a red bump. The appearance may change to yellow or green due to pus formation.

How to treat an infected ingrown hair

Below are tips on how to treat an infected ingrown hair:

Apply a warm compress

  • Soak a thick piece of cloth in hot water
  • Wring it until no more water drains from it
  • Cover the infected ingrown hair with the cloth
  • Leave it for 5 minutes
  • Repeat the treatment 3 times in a day

This treatment works by reducing swelling. It also draws both the ingrown hair and the pus closer to the surface. There, the hair can be pulled out while the pus may drain.

Make use of antibiotics

Antibiotics control staph infections in ingrown hairs. You can buy them over the counter in form of creams, lotions and gels. If the infection is severe, your doctor will prescribe oral antibacterial medications. Ensure to clean the affected area before applying the antibiotic.

Exfoliate regularly

More skin dirt will make ingrown hair infection worse. Prevent this by washing and scrubbing the affected area. This will keep the skin soft enough for the ingrown hair to break though.

Get medical treatment

If the infection gets worse, the best approach is to get it treated by a doctor. Retinoids and stronger antibiotics are usually prescribed. Retinoids are medications that remove dead skin and prevent formation of scars. Also see, your doctor if you have ingrown hair on lip, eyebrows or nose. Infection in these areas can spread to the brain and cause serious complications.

How to get rid of an infected ingrown hair

Infected ingrown hair removal can be done at home or in a clinic. Doctors discourage removal at home since it can lead to some complications. Here is how to go about doing it:

  • Wash the affected area with a mild cleanser and water.
  • Pat dry with a soft towel to avoid breaking the tender skin.
  • Warm compress for about 5 minutes. A hot bath can also help.
  • Disinfect a sharp needle or tweezers with alcohol.
  • Locate the tip of the ingrown hair. It appears as a dark spot at the middle of the bump.
  • Prick the bump to drain pus. Keep wiping pus and blood with a cotton ball.
  • Squeeze the skin around the bump to bring ingrown hair to surface.
  • Use the needle or tweezers to pull the ingrown hair out.
  • Apply antibiotic to avoid spread of infection.

Be extra careful when popping ingrown hair especially when dealing with sensitive areas such as the face. This is primarily because it can lead to scarring when done inappropriately.

How to remove infected ingrown hair with home remedies

You probably have heard that some natural remedies can fight bacterial infections. Such remedies are potential candidates for how to remove infected ingrown hair. They include:

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil for ingrown hair removal is very popular. It fights bacteria and also reduces swelling. To use tea tree oil, first dilute it with water or carrier oil. Soak a cotton ball with the diluted oil and apply directly to affected area. If you have sensitive skin, rinse it off after 15 minutes. Otherwise, you can leave it without rinsing.

Epsom salt

Common salt is effective in exfoliating the skin. The main advantage of Epsom salt over common salt is that it brings about a relaxation effect. This can be helpful when dealing with acne breakouts as well as ingrown hairs. To use Epsom salt, add 2 cups of the salt to bath water. Soak in the water for 15 minutes. This is an effective technique for how to get rid of ingrown pubic hair. Alternatively, add 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt to a cup of water and apply directly with a cotton ball.

Sugar scrub

Sugar is a milder exfoliating remedy than salt. Mix half cup of extra virgin oil with a cup of white sugar. Use your fingertips to rub some of the mixture to the affected areas.  Rinse after five minutes.

Baking soda

This readily available home remedy will not only remove dead skin cells but will also ease itchiness. To use it, mix enough powder with water to make a paste. Apply the paste to affected areas in a circular motion. Leave for 10 minutes before rinsing with water. You can use baking soda treatment for ingrown hair on neck, face, legs, armpits and genitals.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is another effective antibacterial home remedy. Like tea tree oil, it also reduces inflammation. Apply it with a cotton ball directly to the affected areas. You can leave it overnight or rinse with water after 30 minutes. Since apple cider vinegar is quite strong, don’t use it on broken skin or an ingrown hair on breast.


Honey will not only prevent infection but will also heal infected ingrown hairs. Use raw honey if available. For best results, apply it directly with a cotton swab. Leave it for 10 minutes before rinsing with warm water. Repeat this treatment 2-3 times a day.

How to prevent infected ingrown hair

Allow time to heal

Shaving on already affected areas can introduce infection. Much the same can be said about picking at or scratching ingrown hairs. As mentioned earlier, staph bacterium enters the skin through breaks. People with chronic ingrown hairs are advised to stop shaving for about 3 months. Most ingrown hairs will have resolved themselves in that period.

Avoid surgical treatment at home

A majority of people feel the need to get rid of ingrown hairs by performing minor surgeries at home to release the ingrown hair. While it is an effective removal technique, it is not advised for when dealing with infected ingrown hairs.

Make use of moisturizers

Regular use of moisturizers is very effective in preventing clogging of skin pores. When choosing a moisturizer, look for non-greasy products and ones free from alcohol. Grease blocks skin pores while alcohol takes moisture from the skin. You can alternatively use essential oils such as lavender oil or coconut oil.

Consider toning

Toning can be of great help when it comes to how to prevent ingrown hairs on bikini area. For best results, apply a small amount of a cream containing salicylic acid with a cotton ball. After that, use a toner or a hair brush. This will keep your skin soft enough for the ingrown hair to break through.

Wash regularly with antibacterial soap

Antibacterial soap keeps bacteria from building colonies on the skin. Wash the affected areas twice every day. Afterwards, pat dry and apply a moisturizer.