Ingrown Hair or Herpes

When you have an ingrown hair, you may notice that it appears like herpes lesions. Shaving your upper legs or genital region can cause red bumps to form that may appear like herpes. In reality, many instances of red bumps are actually due to skin irritation and ingrown hair. Unless you have herpes, these red bumps are not a cause for alarm. If you do have herpes, it is most likely due to a sexual relationship or other intimate activity that has spread the virus from another person.

The Difference Between Herpes and an Ingrown Hair

It is extremely common for an ingrown hair to look like genital herpes. Fortunately, an ingrown hair is much more likely than herpes, so you probably do not have a sexually transmitted disease. The only way to know for sure is to get a blood test from a medical practitioner to make sure that the sores are not caused by HSV-2. If they are, you will need to do a far different treatment than you would with an ingrown hair. Blood testing, a medical history and a culture sample can be used to diagnose herpes.


Herpes is normally caused by Herpes simplex type 1 or Herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2) viruses. These viruses are normally spread from person-to-person through sex, oral sex or other types of fluid exchange. Once you have herpes, the virus can remain in you nervous system for years without actually appearing. Since both of the HSV viruses are extremely common, it is thought that up to half of the population of the United States has herpes. While many of these individuals may never have physical symptoms, other infected individuals may develop immediate symptoms.


If you do have herpes, you may be given an oral antiviral treatment. By taking a daily dose of this medication, you can prevent yourself from spreading herpes and decrease the duration of an outbreak. To prevent herpes, you should practice safe sex using a condom or practice sexual abstinence. If you have herpes, always make sure to tell your partner before you have sex and take appropriate precautions to prevent it from spreading.


An Ingrown Hair

Almost everyone will have an ingrown hair at some point in their life. This is caused when the skin becomes inflamed and a hair grows from the affected area. Instead of breaking the surface, the hair remains under the skin and a red bump begins to form. These normally heal fairly quickly, and are more common among people with curly hair or African-Americans. Typically, an ingrown hair occurs after shaving too frequently or too closely to the skin.

When you have an ingrown hair, you should use a moisturizer before shaving. You should also shave in the direction of hair growth because this will prevent ingrown hairs from forming. Ideally, you should avoid shaving too often because this causes the skin to become irritated and increases the chances of an ingrown hair developing. You can try using laser hair removal and avoiding tight clothes to prevent the skin from becoming inflamed.

Telling the Difference

A herpes lesion and an ingrown hair will normally fade on their own without any extra medical help. Normally, a herpes lesion will return every month or two since these occur in stages. With an ingrown hair, the bump will fade away permanently once it has permanently healed. If you want to figure out if you have herpes or an ingrown hair before you go to the doctor, you can conduct a self examine. You will need a mirror, soap, water, a towel and a cotton ball.

Wash Your Hands First

Whether you have an ingrown hair or herpes, you do not want to spread any infection. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before you inspect your skin.

Inspect the Lesion

The next step is to use a mirror to examine the blister. Normally, an ingrown hair will have a dark shadow that shows where the hair is growing. Since the hair may have curled beneath the skin or grown sideways, the shadow may not be the same shape as the other hairs on your skin. If you are looking at a herpes lesion, you will not see a dark line from a hair. Be careful not to touch the blister because this can spread the infection if it is herpes or cause an infection in an ingrown hair.

Look at the Size

Normally, herpes will be smaller than an ingrown hair. It may look yellow-ish, clear or cloudy and will often be about one to two millimeters in size. A herpes lesion will normally have a dimple in the middle, and an ingrown hair will not. In comparison, an ingrown hair will appear like a pimple and will often be covered in dead skin.

Try Touching It

If you do not see a hair inside or under the lesion, you can try touching it with a cotton ball. You want to use a cotton ball to make sure that your hands do not touch the lesion if it ruptures. If the lesion does burst, notice the color of the pus. Yellow pus is from a herpes blister while white, waxy or solid pus is from an ingrown hair.

You do not want your skin to become infected after picking at your blisters. Throw away any of the cotton balls that you have used, disinfect any surfaces that you have touched and make sure to wash your hands again.


  1. I recieved oral sex from a female about three weeks ago. I vaguely remember there being a spot on my scrotum, but not on my testicles before this but since its been so long, I can’t remember. It looked exactly like the first picture you posted in this article minus the hair emerging from it. Since then, the spot has increased in size since I had been doing alot of walking around in the heat. The spot had the pus filled tip but the bottom looked like it was filled with blood. It had doubled in size when it looked like this. When it popped, the spot had yellowish-whitish pus, but most of it was a dried, waxy red substance. Right now, it looks like a healed burn. That’s really the only spot I’ve had and I was told that herpes comes in clusters. The only symptom of herpes I’ve had is this spot, nothing else. Is it possible that this is still herpes or another STD? Or is it simply a pimple or an ingrown hair?

    • It could be any of the things that you mentioned. Since you are supposed to be tested regularly anyway, you should probably make an appointment for a physical exam. At the very least, you will find out that nothing major is wrong and be able to relax. And if there is a sexually transmitted disease causing the problem, you will be able to get treatment for it and know that you should take extra precautions to avoid spreading the disease to any partners.

  2. Hello, to start off, I have had herpes once before 2 years ago. I was told it was hsv1 and most likely transferred from my boyfriend at that time bc he performed oral not knowing he had a cold sore. At that time I did think it was an ingrown hair and after shaving over it, it spread. At this time, I have two red bumps on the outer most labia. They don’t have a head or dimple from what I can see, but it’s hard to get a good look even with a mirror or picture. I have been frequently shaving and stopped from time to time bc of irritation. There is hair that grows around them, but not much bc they sit right on the line where hair stops growing as it gets closer to the inner lips. They do not hurt at all. I don’t feel them. There’s been a couple itchy feelings, but more like the itchiness I get at this stage of my pubic hair outgrowth. I honestly feel like they are ingrown hair, but it’s been over a week so I’m nervous.

    • It could really be either option. Ingrown hairs are notoriously difficult to get rid of, and shaving can definitely irritate them. You can always go to your doctor to check for sure, or you may just want to lay off the shaving for a bit–if it is herpes or an ingrown hair, it will give it time to heal and stop being so irritated.

  3. i have a small bump (about the size of an eraser or smaller) on my bikini area. It was painful to put pressure on, and after a few days the pain wasn’t as bad as it was before to put pressure on it. after i popped it, pus came out. i couldn’t tell if it was yellow or a white milky color.. but after the pus, blood came out of it, and then clear color pus only came out of it. afternoon i popped it the bump became smaller. i doubt it’s herpes, and i thought it was an ingrown hair but there was no hair when i popped it. what could it be?

    • If it is now gone or just a red spot, then you have nothing to worry about. It may have simply been acne. If the bump is still there, then monitor it for changes. It is not a sexual transmitted infection. Have a great day, Aa!

  4. I have two white bumps by my anal hole n in two days another grew closer to my vaginal hole they itch patrollem jelly helps sometimes but in worry I think they feel soft .. please help me

    • That could also be some type of wart or an infection. You should go to the doctor to be diagnosed because it would be impossible to say what it is for sure without an in person check. Schedule an appointment and see what your doctor says. You should have gynecological exams every year anyway, so you may want to do that at the same time.

  5. About a year and a half ago, I got two pimples on the upper side of my virgina, they went away on it’s own and never came back since, idk if it was because around that time I was shaving constantly. But now my pubic hairs are always hurting and my skin feels irritated. Help

    • If you are shaving still, you could also have ingrown hairs and razor burn. You are supposed to have a yearly pelvic exam though, so it would be a good idea to just go in, get tested and make sure that there isn’t a problem. If you are shaving, these pimples are probably from that. You may want to shave less often, use a safe moisturizer like coconut oil afterward and switch your razor out more frequently.

      • I only got the pimple a year ago and never got them again, never came back, maybe I do have razor burn and every time I go to get checked out they tell me nothing is wrong. Thanks

        • Thank you for sharing your experiences. It is certain that your words will help someone else in the future. Have a great day, Avery!

  6. I have had ingrown hairs before. And I know what they look like. I recently had 2 and it had a pimple over it. Usually when I get the ingrown hair out it goes away. However this time it almost has a scab over it and it’s dark. There are about 3 of them currently. I am very nervous as I had unprotected sex recently with a new partner. I don’t want to assume the worse but the descriptions and pictures of herpes isn’t helping because it doesn’t look like or sound like that but this is definitely different than before.

    • You probably have ingrown hairs, but it is is possible that you have received an STI. It is impossible to determine your situation over the internet. Make an appointment with a medical professional at this time. Best of luck, Loraine!

  7. I recently felt weird bumps on my vagina. I thought it was just razor burn/ingrown hairs but now I’m not so sure. They’re kind of scattered, not clustered. There’s only a couple of them, not a lot. It hurts after I pee, because when I wipe, the toilet paper is rough. I put some Vaseline on down there and it eases it a little, but they’re still sensitive. I feel like my discharge has been extra lately too; maybe just trying to clear out toxins because I’m sick? I have a really bad cold too so maybe it was just a flare up during that? I’ve been with my partner for 2 years–I haven’t slept with anyone else and I’m sure they hasn’t either. I’m really nervous/concerned!

    • You may want to go to your doctor–without seeing the bumps, it would be possible to give a diagnosis. There are a few things that it could be, however. HPV is incredibly common, and the symptoms may have just taken some time to show up. You said that you were recently sick, so you could also have swollen lymph nodes. A more simple explanation could be an ingrown hair–if you have ever shaved this region of your body, you could have an infected hair follicle or ingrown hairs. It is also possible that these bumps are just a normal part of your vaginal skin texture. While you never noticed them before, you also probably do not look for them regularly if you are like most women. The extra vaginal discharge could be due to an infection, or it could be due to the part of the menstrual cycle that you are at. Your best bet is to go to the doctor and ask about the bumps. They may not be anything to worry about, but it would be a good idea to go to the doctor to make sure.

  8. I had a bump on my bikini line a few days after shaving. My first instinct would be to say it was an ingrown hair, but since I’ve recently taken a new partner I became wary. Initially, I tweezed the hair on top and around the bump. There was no pus and the swelling went down after I did that. I do get cold sores when I’m sick or stressed on my lip (they go away with abreva before blistering really quick thankfully) and those felt very different than the bump on my bikini line (the cold sores begin with a tingle and redness and definitely become painful when theyou blister while the bump was not painful other than at the moment I tweezed. What do you think?

  9. I’ve had round shaped sores on my vagina that are really sensitive and sting when my pee touches it when I go to the bathroom. Idk if it’s a herpes outbreak or just sores/scabs from shaving my vagina fast. There circular and itch sometimes and the one by my hole bleeds when I have sex. It even hurts when i was w soap. They’re mainly around my baking hole and ones near my clit. They’ve getting better after them being there for about 2 weeks now. Can anyone relate? Or tell when what it is?

    • You may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection. You may want to make an appointment with a doctor to determine what is happening. It is possible that you cut yourself shaving, but those cuts should heal reflectively quickly. Abstain from sex at this time until you determine your situation. Best of luck, Fatbihh!


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