Do you know what ingrown scalp hair looks like? How will you know if you have it? Is it a type of skin infection? We’ll answer all those questions and more in this article, so that you will know as soon as you have ingrown scalp hair, and understand the ways to properly treat it.
What is ingrown scalp hair?
A hair trapped in a lump on the head occurs when sharp hair edges grow sideways and downwards instead of upwards. They grow back into the hair follicle in the skin. Ingrown scalp hair is fairly common and not usually a reason to be worried. If your scalp is infected, you will want to seek help from your dermatologist.
Skin care experts generally believe that scalp pimples are more commonly found in men like African Americans, who have coarse hair. Ingrown hair is normally reported as harmless, unless it results in skin discoloration or scars.
Symptoms of Ingrown Hair on the Scalp
Hair becoming trapped in scalp skin occurs mostly in males, especially in the area of the cheeks and the chin. Males usually have more scalp bumps than females, since they usually shave more in this area.
Female ingrown hair is more likely to appear on the legs, armpits and pubic area. Some symptoms are common to both males and females. They include:
- Pink or red bumps on skin (this indicates inflammation)
- Itching or pain on the scalp
- Small lumps that may appear like white head pimples
- Bumps filled with pus, if the ingrown hair becomes infected
- Center of bumps may appear like they have a dark spot – this is actually the hair that is trapped.
What causes ingrown scalp hairs?
Ingrown hair can occur in two ways. It may grow out straight and then curl back in, or it may grow underneath the skin itself. Ingrown hair can be caused by various reasons, but the main one is hair trimming or removal, by tweezing, waxing or shaving.
If you don’t use proper shaving techniques, you are more likely to get ingrown scalp hairs. If you’re not careful when you shave or cut your hair, you may develop red bumps on your scalp, and they may be painful.
Ingrown hair on the scalp may be due to clogged follicles on your head. These follicles harbor debris, oil and dead skin cells. This is one thing that causes your hair to grow back downward, instead of outward. In addition, if you have curly hair, especially if the curls are tight, this type of hair does tend to grow in a sideways direction more often than long hair does.
Chemicals and cheap hair care and beauty products can also irritate your scalp and hair, causing ingrown hair. The irritation they bring can cause clusters of itchy, red bumps on your scalp, with hairs trapped within them. In addition, the accumulation of skin products and dirt clogging your pores may cause irritation and ingrown hairs.
Some of the tendency for ingrown scalp hair is genetic, too. Your overall health can generally have some influence on whether you develop ingrown hairs or not.
What do ingrown scalp hairs look and feel like?
Ingrown scalp hair may look like raised pink or red bumps on your skin. Clusters on the scalp often indicate ingrown hair. In some instances, they may look like tiny whiteheads with black centers.
If there is any inflammation of your skin in the area where you have ingrown hair, it could appear reddish. The bumps may sometimes have pus in them. This often causes you to be uncomfortable, as the pain and itching goes on.
Ingrown hair on your scalp is not to be confused with other types of skin conditions that may appear. Heat rash, eczema, acne and dermatitis may look and even feel like ingrown hairs, while they in fact may not be related to them.
Some people with ingrown scalp hair may develop a hair cyst, which becomes trapped under the skin. This makes it nearly impossible for them to remove it with tweezers.
Occasional ingrown hair is not a reason for undue concern. If your ingrown hair occurs as the result of the growth of long hair (hirsutism), your physician or dermatologist can usually determine whether or not the condition is a hormone abnormality that is treatable, in your case. One such disorder is polycystic ovary syndrome.
Cyst in Ingrown Scalp Hair
If you have a cyst around an ingrown scalp hair, this is known as a hair follicle cyst or a trichilemmal cyst. Cysts related to ingrown hair are more often found on the scalp than on any other parts of the body. These cysts are mobile, appear smooth and are usually keratin-filled.
Trichilemmal cysts are thought to be genetic conditions, and they do tend to run in some families. If you develop a cyst around an ingrown hair, it may be inflamed and tender. If the cyst on your scalp ruptures, it can become even more painful.
Ingrown scalp hair cysts may be treated by removal through surgical means. The treatment method for ingrown hair does vary, depending on the preference of your physician. Some of them prefer to perform surgery under a local anesthetic, while others conduct the excision through more conservative means.
Your physician or dermatologist may conduct a biopsy, so that the inflamed scalp hair cysts can be tested.
Ingrown Hair on the Scalp following a Haircut
If you’re a male who uses razors to cut the hair on your cheeks, scalp and/or chin, you will be more likely to develop bumps on your head with hairs trapped within them. The treatment for these lumps includes proper shaving, avoiding the use of excessive pressure and not shaving close to your scalp.
After you have cut your hair, cleanse your scalp with a product that contains salicylic acid. This aids in the prevention of clogging of the hair follicles found on your scalp.
Folliculitis on the Scalp
If your dermatologist informs you that you have scalp folliculitis, this is simply an inflammatory problem with your scalp hair follicles. This condition will appear as itchy, small bumps on your scalp, and usually cause problems in the front of your hairline, above your forehead.
If you develop a yeast or bacterial infection of the scalp, your ingrown scalp hair will become inflamed. These are often painful, and they have pus or a yellow discharge. Treating this issue starts with a thorough washing of the infected areas with shampoo, preferably an anti-dandruff shampoo, so that the ingrown hair will be completely removed.
Treating Ingrown Scalp Hair
Ingrown hair located on the scalp may heal by itself, without any treatment. However, if your case is severe, your physician or dermatologist will be able to advise you of the safest treatment methods.
Here is one simple way to treat ingrown scalp hair:
- Wash the area affected using dandruff shampoo or antibacterial soap.
- Apply topical cream to the area that is affected. Your physician can prescribe a cream that is suitable for the condition with which you are affected. The cream helps in decreasing the buildup of dead scalp skin that could otherwise block your pores.
- Use antibiotic ointments or oral antibiotics, as prescribed by your physician. This may be needed if you also have a bacterial scalp infection.
Long infected hairs on the scalp can safely be removed with surgical procedures that will keep the hair from growing more deeply into your skin.