How to Recognize if It’s a Herpes Infection or an Ingrown Hair

One day you wake up and realize that small bumps and blisters are in your genital area, what do you think? A red warning flag and scare may send to your mind. You obviously think about genital herpes. But don’t panic. The bumps or blisters can result from an ingrown hair that is treated easily. A big concern is how you can know it’s an ingrown hair or herpes. Keep reading this article to recognize it’s a herpes infection or an ingrown hair.

How to Recognize if It’s a Herpes Infection or an Ingrown Hair

Both herpes infection and ingrown hair are sometimes confused with each other because of similar symptoms. They are blisters or bumps appearing in the genital areas and cause discomfort. However, they’re different infections. While a herpes infection is an STD caused by herpes simplex virus, ingrown hair is only an infection where hairs grow sideways into your skin. The following information may help to recognize if it’s a herpes infection or an ingrown hair.

1. How to Recognize if It’s a Herpes Infection

Herpes is a very common virus that spreads through sexual activity or skin contact. If you get herpes in the genitals, here’re the symptoms you can recognize

  • A cluster of blisters or sores
  • Repeated recurrences of these sores
  • Sores are tender to touch
  • Yellow fluid if the sores are leaking
  • Tingling, burning feelings at the affected area
  • Painful sensation during urination and intercourse
  • Headaches, fever, and body aches for the first herpes outbreak

Commonly, many people with herpes don’t show up symptoms immediately when contracting this virus. However, some people experience frequent outbreaks in the first year after getting it.

Related: Genital Bumps: Is It a Yeast Infection, Herpes or Something Else?

Herpes is often present as a cluster of blisters or sores

Herpes is often present as a cluster of blisters or sores

2. How to Recognize if It’s an Ingrown Hair

When hair grows, it usually goes through the skin. But the hair is sometimes blocked in an unusual direction and has difficulty pushing through the skin’s surface. As a result, ingrown hair develops. Shaving, waxing, and plucking hair also increase your risk of developing ingrown hair. To distinguish with herpes, you should recognize the symptoms of an ingrown hair, including

  • Isolated bumps or single sores
  • Bumps have a pimple-like head
  • Small, red bumps that are itching
  • Tenderness around the affected area
  • Soreness
  • White pus occurs if the sore ruptures

Based on the above symptoms, you can easily recognize if it’s a herpes infection or an ingrown hair. Unlike herpes, ingrown hair doesn’t grow in groups or clusters. But it commonly develops as isolated bumps.

Ingrown hair usually develops as isolated bumps.

Ingrown hair usually develops as isolated bumps

How to Get the Right Diagnosis for Herpes and Ingrown Hair

Though both conditions have some specific symptoms, they can be difficult to self-diagnose. Thus, it’s important to see your doctor to check. The doctor will use one or more medical tests to diagnose what your infection exactly is.  

1. For Genital Herpes

A swab test is available for detecting herpes, but it’s only accurate if you present sores in the genitals. In case you don’t develop sores, but want to test for sure, blood tests can help.

2. For Ingrown Hair

If the test results for herpes are negative, your doctor will carefully examine, again. Then, possible explanations can be given, such as ingrown hair, cyst, and blocked oil glands.

Related: Do STD Tests Check for Genital Herpes

Because of similar symptoms.  you should see a doctor to check whether it's a herpes infection or an ingrown hair

Because of similar symptoms. you should see a doctor to check whether it’s a herpes infection or an ingrown hair

Can Herpes and Ingrown Hair Be Treated at Home?

An ingrown hair is treated without difficulty, but there is no cure for genital herpes. Fortunately, antiviral medications can help to alleviate herpes, and both can be treated at home.

1. Genital Herpes

Certain treatments, like Acyclovir, Valacyclovir, and topical treatments, such as Prosurx are effective in treating herpes. Although these treatments can’t completely treat herpes, they help to remove herpes symptoms and prevent herpes outbreaks. When diagnosed with herpes, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications and topical creams that you can treat the STD at home.

Additionally, some home remedies can be used at home to boost the healing process. For the first herpes outbreak, it’s typically more burning and painful. To ease the pain, you can use Epsom salt, aloe vera gel, and apply a cold compress. In case the pain is very severe, ask your doctor about acetaminophen or aspirin.

You can remove herpes and treat ingrown hair at home

You can remove herpes and treat ingrown hair at home

2. Ingrown Hair

An ingrown hair can be treated at home easily. And in most cases, ingrown hair will go away on its own without treatment. But to speed the healing process, it’s necessary to receive treatment. Several cure options at home can be helpful to keep ingrown hair at bay, such as

  • Applying warm compresses on the affected skin area
  • Use cream to relieve inflammation
  • Always gentle washing the area during having a bath to remove dead skin cells
  • Use retinoids to boost the clearing of dead skin cells.

Generally, an ingrown hair disappears within several days or weeks. If you apply cream and remove dead skin cells but the hair isn’t still push through the skin, you may need the doctor’s help. The ingrown hair can get infected which may be painful and filled with pus. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment, or antibiotic to take if the infection is severe.

Both herpes infection and ingrown hair are sometimes mistaken because of similar symptoms in the genitals. Luckily, the above information shows how to recognize if it’s a herpes infection or an ingrown hair, and treatments for each infection as well.