Ingrown Hair Vs Herpes

Perhaps you've shaved your genital area and now you see little bumps begin to form in the area but you're not sure if its an ingrown hair vs herpes. Here's how to know for sure.

What is an ingrown hair?

Most everyone has dealt with an ingrown hair sometime in their lives. Ingrown hairs can appear on several areas of the body including the armpits, legs, face, and genital areas. What do all of these areas have in common? Either all of them or some of them are shaved by individuals, which often leads to ingrown hairs. The most common areas, however, are under your arms, on your legs, and unfortunately, in your genital area after shaving or waxing. Another reason you may end up with ingrown hair is due to tight clothing rubbing against the area frequently.

An ingrown hair is simply a hair that does not grow out the right way, it may regrow sideways, causing it to become ingrown. They often happen when you shave too close to the skin or use incorrect shaving techniques. Taking precautions when shaving such as using enough shaving cream and a fresh razor can help prevent an ingrown hair from forming.

Symptoms of an ingrown hair

The sight of an ingrown hair is what sometimes confuses people into thinking that they may have herpes as opposed to just an ingrown hair, especially in the genital area. The symptoms of an ingrown hair are:

  • little red bumps, similar to razor burn
  • the bumps may have a black dot in the middle of them
  • they look like little pimples
  • sometimes they can become pus-filled
  • they can be itchy and irritating
  • can cause a slight pain or discomfort

Chances are if these are the red bumps you're seeing in your genital area, they are either razor bumps or ingrown hairs. While they can become more infected and even enlarge in size with irritation, ingrown hairs usually go away on their own, or when you pull an ingrown hair out. Most of the time, there is no need for medical treatment, but if you are concerned something isn't right it is a good idea to contact your physician. Dermatologists can prescribe ointments that will help if you decide to seek medical treatment.

Ingrown hair prevention and treatments

As mentioned, many times ingrown hairs will heal on their own, but there are topical solutions that can help eliminate them and help them to heal. Here are a few actions you can take to lessen your chances of getting ingrown hairs on your skin.

  • Be sure the area to be shaved is well lubricated and wet
  • Avoid dry shaving
  • With an electric razor, shave in circular motions
  • Try using a multi-blade razor
  • Avoid pulling the skin tight
  • Shave in the direction of the hair growth
  • Do not shave too closely to the skin
  • Leave some small stubble in the area, about 1mm is good
  • Place a cool cloth on the are when done
  • Do not push hard on the skin
  • You can remove the hair yourself with sterile tweezers or a sterile safety pin, but physicians do not recommend it

There are products on the market that can stop you from getting ingrown hairs should you decide to use them.

  • Cream hair remover i.e. Nair, Neet, and others
  • Laser hair removal or electrolysis
  • Topical eflornithine HCL cream, which will decrease hair regrowth

What is herpes?

Genital herpes is caused by viral infections that are mostly passed on through sexual contact, they are also known as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Once you have them, there is no cure. They can lie dormant, or not show up, for long periods of time.

What types of herpes exist?

There are two forms of herpes that are heard about.

HSV-1--Herpes Simplex Virus 1 is what causes cold sores or fever blisters mostly on the lips and sometimes on the nose. Should you make contact with someone by kissing and they have a cold sore, there is a chance you will get one also. These appear when a person has a cold or fever, or in high-stress situations. There are several balms and ointments that can be used to heal them, but there is no cure. Once you break out with one, they will continue to reoccur at different times throughout your life. They are not sexually transmitted infections.

HSV-2--Herpes Simplex Virus 2 is the cause of herpes in the genital area. this is a sexually transmitted infection. While the breakouts can lie dormant for many years, the possibility is still there. Unfortunately, there is no cure for either HSV 1 or HSV 2, but they can both be treated. You can still have an active sex life and not risk infection to your partner unless there is a breakout. For more information on HSV 2, it is best to contact your physician to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment for it.

Ingrown hair vs herpes

The reason that many people confuse the two of these is that of their location and how they look. Herpes does look different from an ingrown hair, to know the difference here is some tips:

  • Herpes looks like fluid-filled blisters; ingrown hairs are small, pimple-like bumps with a yellow pus in their center
  • Herpes blisters are very painful; ingrown hairs are uncomfortable but not usually painful
  • Herpes blisters are usually not accompanied by bacterial skin infections; ingrown hairs often are
  • Herpes blisters, once they break open, will crust up; ingrown hairs do not normally pop on their own
  • Herpes blisters can cause pain when urinating; ingrown hairs do not
  • Herpes blisters can also be accompanied by flu-like symptoms; ingrown hairs are not

Although it is not recommended, by pressing the bump you will feel the difference between the two. When pressing lightly on a herpes blister you will feel the watery substance that it contains. With an ingrown hair, the pus that is in it will be thicker, just like a pimple. Be sure to wash your hands before and after checking either of the bumps. If the herpes blister breaks open when touched, you risk spreading it to another part of your genital area.

Treatments for herpes

With genital herpes, medical treatment will be necessary. Physicians will prescribe anti-viral medications for use when herpes blisters surface. Most of the time the medications will be Zovirax, Famvir, and Valtrex. These medications are taken orally. When you visit your physician and are diagnosed with HSV 2, he will perform intermittent antiviral treatment for a few days. This would involve you keeping a specific medication on hand just in case you feel an outbreak coming or you have an outbreak. Should the symptoms not disappear in the time allotted, he could then move onto what is called suppressive treatment where you would be prescribed a specific medication to take every day, even without an outbreak. Much of this will depend on how often outbreaks occur. You should discuss both treatments with your physician so that they can determine the treatment that would best fit your personal needs.