This Might Be TMI But...Is This Bikini Bump an Ingrown Hair or a STD?

Introducing “TMI,” our monthly advice column in which find answers to your most embarrassing beauty and wellness questions.

For our inaugural column, we had a question from a reader concerned about a suspicious bump along her bikini line.

Dear TMI,

I’ve had an extremely large and inflamed bump here for several days now and it doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. I think it’s an ingrown hair. At least, I hope it is! I’m beginning to worry that it’s something more serious like an STD given where it’s located. How can I tell the difference and when should I get it checked out?

I'm spiraling

Dear I’m spiraling,

Who among us hasn’t questioned a bump or two (or five) at some point? We understand why you’re worried, so to help you ID this bad boy, we reached out to Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, who is a board-certified dermatologist based in San Diego.

Here’s what she has to say: “Generally, for ingrown hairs, you can actually see the hair underneath the skin’s surface.” We’ll pause here for a moment so you can take a closer look. Spot a hair in the center of the bump? You’ve got yourself an ingrown hair.

“Ingrowns happen when your hair grows back into your skin instead growing out of the skin,” Shirazi explains. “People with coarser, more textured hair are most at risk for ingrowns, as curly hair tends to bend back under the skin, especially if it’s shaved too close to the surface. If the ingrown becomes infected, then it gets red and can be painful.”

So, to sum: The biggest tell you’re dealing with an ingrown vs herpes (or another kind of bump) is if you can see the hair coming out of the skin—or trying to—with redness surrounding the bump itself. Ingrown or otherwise, if the bump isn’t going away, Shirazi advises consulting with a physician, as it may require a topical antibiotic or other prescribed treatment.

In the case that it is, in fact, an ingrown hair, we won’t just leave you hanging here. We’ve got some tips for treating and preventing them in the future, ahead.

Here’s to your smooth recovery!

For treating existing bumps, regular exfoliation is key.

Shirazi recommends using a concentrated spray or wipes that have a combination of both glycolic and salicylic acid in them to keep dead skins from building up on the surface. “In some cases, professional extractions may be necessary, depending on the degree of skin build up over the ingrown hairs,” she adds.

For preventing future bumps, regular exfoliation is key here as well.

Again, you want to use a glycolic and/or salicylic acid-based product a few times a week, unless the bumps are in the bikini or underarm area, as the skin is thinner and more delicate here. Scale back to exfoliating these spots no more than one to two times a week, so you don’t cause further irritation.

“If you shave, make sure you’re shaving in the direction that your hair grows and avoid waxing altogether. The closer the hair is to the surface, the more likely for it to re-enter the skin instead of rising out of it,” cautions Shirazi. “And if you have dense, curly or coarse hair, you may want to consider laser hair removal as a longer-term solution.”

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...