Ingrown Hair Cyst

Ingrown hair cysts may be painful and deep, especially in areas like the armpit, face, neck, thighs and bikini area. If they become infected, they can morph into boils or abscesses. In this article, we offer treatment options, removal methods and photos of infected cysts, so you’ll know how to identify them and get rid of them naturally.

article-4-pic-1Cysts may appear as big boils or lumps

What is an ingrown hair cyst?

Hair follicle cysts are sometimes confused with sebaceous cysts, due to their lack of an infection. Sebaceous cysts, though, are usually small lumps that feel as though they are trapped beneath the skin.

Ingrown hair cysts can affect the face, scalp, under-side of the chin, inner thigh, bikini area, armpit, groin and penile shaft. Conversely, the cysts that occasionally form near the anus, at the spine base or above the buttocks are usually pilonidal cysts.

Carefully consider what you can do to solve the problem of cysts. One is being careful of the way you shave. A conditioning lotion or cream will help the blade of a razor slide across the skin easily. This exposes the hair and results in a cleaner shave.

If you pull a blade across dry skin, your hair may end up growing in a fashion that is awkward. These hairs may become ingrown. If they grow under the skin for a time, they may become twisted and long. They’re still growing, even though they’re not growing in the right direction. They are instead growing in a circular way under the surface of your skin.



As time passes, the ingrown hair may develop into a mass beneath the skin. It thickens your skin and develops into a cyst. It may become red, painful and infected.

Is it an ingrown hair or a cyst? How can you tell?

So how can you tell the difference between a “normal” cyst and a cyst on an ingrown hair? They have many things in common, and are easily confused, because both develop into under-skin pockets filled with fluid.

Both ingrown hairs and cysts form lumps you may be able to see from atop the skin. They also feel like hard lumps. Here are the differences between them:

An embedded hair forms when it grows back toward the skin. It’s confused with cysts because fluid forms around ingrown hair follicles and makes it look like a blister or pimple.

Other cysts, though, may not be related to hair growing downward toward the skin. According to WiseGeek health, these may be caused by infections, tumors or inflammation.

Ingrown hair cysts are usually smaller, compared to larger cysts that sometimes develop in skin.

Now you know how to tell the difference. But what causes ingrown hair cysts? Here are various possible causes of follicle cysts on your face, armpits or pubic area.

Ingrown hair cyst photo

To aid in your understanding of what these cysts look like, we have posted below a photo of an ingrown hair cyst. Other images in this article will also help you in identifying the symptoms.

article-4-pic-2Photo of cyst at ingrown hair

What causes ingrown hair cysts on the face, neck, scalp, bikini area and thighs?

90% of these cysts develop on top of the scalp. The other 10% usually form on the neck, face, under the arms and in the pubic area. These areas are more affected because the follicle concentration here is greater.

Here are known causes of cysts in hair follicles on the face, scalp and the bikini area:

  1. Cystic acne

How does cystic acne cause ingrown hair cysts on the face? If you’ve seen large facial bumps, generally deep within the skin, these are bumps from cystic acne. When a hair follicle becomes inflamed, it will form a tough, pink skin that completely covers it. This keeps it from being able to drain, and it forms a cystic hair follicle.

Ingrown hair cysts occurring on the face and the neck are largely associated with typical cystic acne, especially if a person is prone to acne. Large cysts are not abnormal, and treating them with traditional acne methods may aggravate them, causing them to become infected, and even larger.

article-4-pic-3Cystic acne may cause cysts and lumps around ingrown hair

  1. Shaving & waxing poorly

A major cause of this type of cyst is shaving improperly. When razor burn appears on the skin, it is often followed by razor bumps, and then embedded hairs. Cysts on those hairs may develop or not, depending on how you care for your skin.

If you lather fully before you shave, you’ll be preventing some ingrown hair follicles, on the face, the thighs and the bikini area.

Exfoliating the skin before you shave will aid in the removal of any debris that could otherwise cause bumps and eventual ingrown hairs.

Shave only in the direction that your hair grows, rather than against it. If you shave against the growth, the skin becomes aggravated, causing bruises and burns.

  1. Clogged pores lead to hair follicle cysts

If the skin surface is covered in debris, with clogged hair follicles and pores, this makes it more likely that a hair follicle cyst will form beneath it. These cysts can actually form even if there are not any horizontally growing or embedded shafts.

Epidermoid cysts, which are usually synonymous with hair follicle cysts, may occur as smaller bumps underneath the skin, but atop the hair follicle site. It is sometimes difficult to see the difference between normal cysts and ingrown hair cysts.

Is it Herpes or ingrown hairs?

Could an ingrown hair be mistaken as herpes? Genital herpes lesions are sometimes mistaken for embedded hairs when they occur near the genitals or on the bikini line. If hair follicle cysts are found near the anus, scrotum or penis, they are often believed to be genital herpes, even if they are ingrown hairs.

Herpes lesions are caused by the virus, while ingrown hair cysts are usually brought about as a result of poor shaving or hair removal. Herpes cold sores are present in 50-80% of Americans, according to an American Social Health Association study. It isn’t unusual that many people confuse these lesions with embedded hair cysts from shaving.

If you have any of these types of symptoms, call your physician for diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of Ingrown hair Cysts

Symptoms of these cysts include tender skin, bumps, itchiness and sometimes bruising around each cyst. The main symptom is a sac filled with fluid, which appears white or yellow. If the fluid looks green, that means that it has become infected, and needs proper treatment.

article-4-pic-4Ingrown hair cyst – yellow

Dermoid cysts may be early signs of ingrown hair follicles. You may experience a disgorge if the cysts burst. This discharge may be yellow or clear. If you scratch the cyst or try to pop it, you may have blood coming out. Ingrown cysts that bleed can become infected easily if they are not promptly treated.

Folliculitis & Infected Ingrown Hair Cysts

Ingrown hairs that become infected may be painful and possess a yellowish discharge. When they are found in the pubic area or in armpits, they are even more painful. Here are the common symptoms of folliculitis, another term for ingrown hair follicle cysts. They can occur on the face, scalp, underarms and inside the nose.

  • Tender bumps, warmth and redness – This comes from the bacterial activity that is irritating your skin.
  • Pus discharge around the follicle, caused by bacteria – This may be any type of discharge, and it can be yellow or green. Don’t try to pop any cyst with this symptom – you could cause infection.
  • Inflammation & itchiness – This is especially true if the cyst has formed on a body part that experiences friction, like the inner upper thighs, armpits or bikini area. It will become more painful if friction irritates it.
  • Deep, ingrown cysts that will not heal – These may pose a cancer risk, if they won’t go away. If your cysts are recurrent, there is the small chance that it could be cancer. Call your physician if you have worries.

How can you get rid of an ingrown hair cyst?

Deep cysts under your arms or in other tender places may be hard to squeeze or remove yourself. Examine hard, deep cysts on ingrown hair with a wiggle test. This will tell you whether they are lumps under skin or sebaceous cysts.

Your physician may order a biopsy, to determine what the lump is and whether it is cancerous. Hair follicle cysts and cysts in the armpit are very rarely signs of cancer.

Most of the ways you can use to get rid of hair follicle cysts are like treatments for embedded hairs without cysts. Cures include anti-inflammatory medicines.

Here are a few ways to rid yourself of ingrown hair cysts:

  • Tea tree oil

This is a natural treatment, which helps in healing hair follicle cysts. It is effective because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, according to TheHealthSite. Here are ways you can use tea tree oil to heal cysts:

  • Add several drops of tea tree oil to a bit of water.
  • Use this solution to thoroughly clean the affected area.
  • Leave the solution on for several minutes and then rinse with warm, clean water.
  • The antibacterial and antiseptic properties will help get rid of this infection.

Ingrown Hair Cyst Medical Treatments

Your doctor may prescribe you medications to manage cysts and their pain:

  • Antibiotic creams and pills help in clearing up any infection.
  • If cystic acne is involved, use acne treatments with salicylic acid, which helps the body to rid itself of cysts.
  • Topical steroid creams help in reducing inflammation, irritation and swelling on the portion of the skin affected by the cyst.

Other treatments include anti-bacterial injections and retinoids.

Surgical Cyst Removal

The last resort when other treatments fail is surgical removal. It is a good option when you have bumps that won’t resolve themselves or go away. Larger hair follicle cysts can be a source of embarrassment as well as discomfort, and can be removed with surgery. Laser surgery can be used to destroy the cyst.

How can cysts on ingrown hairs be removed?

This is a procedure best performed by a dermatologist. If your cyst isn’t infected and it’s not too deep under your skin, you can remove it yourself. Here’s how:

  • Cleanse and disinfect the area well.
  • Exfoliate the area to remove any dead skin cells.
  • Use a pin or tweezers to prick the head. This will allow you to access the ingrown hair that is surrounded by that cyst.
  • Drain the fluid (if any) and swab the cyst with a cotton ball.
  • Grab the ingrown hair using tweezers and pull it out from beneath your skin.
  • Disinfect the area well and allow it to dry.

This video is helpful for learning the procedure.

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