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Ingrown hair vs herpes. You might have noticed an inflamed bump in your genital area and it may fear you at the worst. What is it? Is it genital herpes? Or ingrown hairs? And how to tell the difference?

As many people shave the area around the genitals and other parts of the body where herpes can affect but the difference between herpes and ingrown hairs is a bit difficult to find out. 

In this article,  let us find out the difference between ingrown hairs vs herpes, and examine the causes, symptoms, and how you should treat both herpes and ingrown hairs.

What are ingrown hairs? 

Ingrown hair vs herpes

An ingrown hair grows up and out of the hair follicle.  It is the hair that is not properly exfoliated and grown back into the skin. It is a common cause of red and tender bumps in the genital area.  Moreover, they can be painful and annoying. This is formed by the hair curling into follicles causing it to grow under the skin and this can irritate the skin, causing inflammation leading to the form of red and painful blisters. 

The small bumps and blisters can also be caused by razor burns, which is a skin irritation that happens after you shave.  Shaving does not cause ingrown hairs,  but the improper removal of the hair causes it.  When you cut the hair off at the skin level,  the hair still comes through the skin. 

The ingrown hairs sometimes resemble acne and can grow much larger and be painful. Ingrown hairs are really common and are caused by all types of hair removal,  including shaving, tweezing, and waxing.  It can be treated in many ways but if they are left untreated,  they can become infected. 

Who gets ingrown hairs? 

Anyone can develop ingrown hairs,  but they are more common among two populations. 

People who shave have more chances of getting ingrown hairs.  Although it is more common in the beard area,  it can occur anywhere that you share your skin including the legs, armpits, genitals, and back area.  When the razor does not completely slice off the hair,  it can develop a sharp edge in the strand that grows back into the skin.  

Other than that,  people with curly hair can often grow hair at an acute angle earn in the growth process. But if the curls of the hair grow sharp downwards,  the end of the strand will be poked into the skin and will begin to grow inwards causing the ingrown hair.  This is common among people with coarse hair that behave the same way when they are subjected to friction from clothes or shaving. 

How it can affect you? 

Some people find it to become so infected and cause intense pain.  The bacteria from other areas of the body can sometimes get into the ingrown hairs and cause painful infections along with fever and other signs of illness.

The hair follicles that are blocked can develop into an infection and this is why some ingrown hairs develop white pus-filled bumps on the surface,  causing additional irritation and soreness. They do not grow in groups,  instead are developed as isolated bumps. 

These types of hair can be popped but popping them is not a good idea.  This is because they are under the skin and when you try to pop them it is similar to digging a hole into an active infection.  This will cause a bigger bump and spread the infection. Do not try to pop no matter how big it is, or how much it hurts. 

But you may have more than one ingrown hair at once more likely after you shave or wax the hair around the vagina or penis.  Not every ingrown hair can be visible from the outside but if you inspect them closely you may see a shadow or thin line in the center.  

Just because you don’t see this line or shadow, you cannot come to a conclusion that there are no hairs.  Most probably,  they will typically go away on their own and will clear up the sore once the hair is removed.

What is herpes? 

Herpes infection

This is a common virus you get through contact with a person who already has herpes sores. This includes kissing someone with oral herpes or having intercourse with someone with genital herpes. Herpes sores are groups of blisters on or around the rectum area or the genital.  They can be red in color and painful.

This is caused by one of the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1),  which is known as oral herpes caused by cold sores or fever blisters. The other cause is herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).  It is found that 1in 5 American adults has the herpes simplex virus type 2.

What does a single herpes bump look like? It is a white, yellow, or red sore or bumps that are filled with a clear liquid. 

This virus lives in the body and reactivates occasionally causing a painful blister that tends to break open. The ingrown hairs are not contagious but genital herpes is highly contagious.  Most people have symptoms that are mild but they can be dangerous in people with weak immune systems and the ones who are suffering from chronic illnesses. 

Sometimes pregnant women may also be at risk of transmitting an active infection to the baby during the delivery.  Some people may have Herpes but never show signs of the virus, so they will not be aware of the existence of the virus in themselves. The fact is that there are possibilities for the virus to remain in the body without producing symptoms.  Some people may experience outbreaks frequently in the first year of contracting the virus.

There is no cure for herpes and to eliminate the sores once they appear. But it can be suppressed and shorten the duration or the severity of the outbreaks.

Ingrown hair vs herpes: The key difference

The ingrown hairs and herpes are difficult to identify because they can cause painful red blisters,  skin irritations, and itching. 

Ingrown hair is commonly caused by bacterial infection of hair follicles, and they tend to occur individually and are located at the center of a hair follicle.  If you shave or wax frequently it is possible for them to occur, especially if you have curly, coarse, or thick hair in your genital area.

You can tell the difference between ingrown hairs and Herpes bumps by looking at them.  Ingrown hairs can vary in appearance, but they can be identified by the fact they are bumps under the skin. But the Herpes sores form in a group of blisters. 

The ingrown hair will show a dark shadow where the new hair is growing and the hair growing beneath the skin may come in sideways, and so will look different from the other hairs on the skin. It could be herpes sores if you do not see a shadow or dark line beneath the skin’s surface. 

What does herpes look like? The Herpes will look smaller than ingrown hair which is around 1 or 2 mm in size,  having a yellow tint.  Mostly, herpes will be as a dimple in the middle but it is not the same with ingrown hair.  It will look similar to a pimple and will be covered in dead skin. 

You can find the difference between ingrown hair vs herpes by trying to touch it. Use a cotton ball to do this and make sure you do not touch it with your hands because it can spread infections. If it burst, see the color. If it is yellow, it is a bad sign. But if it is white you are probably fine because this is from an ingrown hair.

Herpes vs ingrown hair photos

Ingrown hairs are found anywhere that the hair grows, but specifically in areas where the hair grows and remains thick or dark, especially in the mustache area, the beard, or the genitals. And herpes is most often found around the genital or rectum area. It can also be seen on the mouth or face. But the difference found in the location is hard to exactly find what it is. 

When you have an ingrown hair, the skin will be tender and this is worse than the pain that is caused by herpes, while herpes causes a burning and stinging pain that can be uncomfortable. 

The ingrown hairs are more likely to appear after shaving because they are caused by improper exfoliated hair. There might be a scar on the spot if the ingrown hair is occurring at the same spot, but you will find it to be tender when touched. 

On the other hand, Herpes outbreaks occur at any time. 

Symptoms of Herpes 

Genital herpes is caused commonly by HSV-2 and rarely by HSV-1. The outbreak of herpes includes sores or blisters that form in, on, or around the genitals, inner thighs, or anus. The Blisters can form around the mouth. 

The symptoms include,

Symptoms of ingrown hairs

Ingrown hair after shaving

As the hair grows, it can usually push through the skin. And sometimes the hair gets blocked or grows in an unusual direction, and may find it hard to get through the surface of the skin. 

The symptoms include, 

How to treat Herpes and ingrown hairs? 

Ingrown hair vs herpes difference

The ingrown hairs will get cured on their own in a few days. But you can use a warm compress on the area several times a day to make the healing faster. Wash the area gently during your shower to help the dead skin cells be removed so the hair may be able to push through the skin. If the bump does not resolve in a few days or if it gets larger, you need to see the doctor. Make sure you do not squeeze the bump or scrub the area. 

The bacteria and pus will build up around the hair and it will cause it to become inflamed. If you exfoliate them, it will remove the extra skin and help the hair to grow back normally. You can exfoliate by rubbing the washcloth in a circular motion over the bump. 

You can prevent the formation of ingrown hairs by not removing the hair from your body. Or you can follow a few steps or techniques to reduce the risk. 

If the case is severe, it is better to go to a doctor, and they may recommend retinoid cream to clear the rash faster and steroids to relieve inflammation. Oral antibiotics or antibiotic cream may be needed when ingrown hairs become severely infected. 

But herpes cannot be treated at home but should be treated by a doctor. They can prescribe medications to lessen the severity of the outbreak of herpes. This prevents the spread of herpes and reduces the duration of the outbreaks. But curing them is impossible. 

Final thoughts

The ingrown hairs vs herpes seem to be similar but have a difference. Ingrown hairs are small red bumps on the skin that can be painful and are found anywhere on the body that has hairs. It is mostly caused by improperly exfoliated hair. 

Herpes sores are groups of blisters that form on or around the genital or rectum area. They are red and painful and people who have herpes have no symptoms and will not be aware of whether they have it. But it can be contagious. 

You can find out the ingrown hair vs herpes through a doctor if you think you didn’t get it after shaving. And get the proper treatment to reduce the severity of herpes. 

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