Do I have Herpes or Ingrown Hairs?

25 Sep 2020
Herpes Ingrown Hairs

It’s ok to love your penis or vag. And your testicles. Most guys and women do. In that love, we sometimes have to worry about what’s going on between our legs. There’s bad stuff out there, and some of it can be absolutely devastating. Until you’ve had the chance to really learn, it can be easy to confuse something harmless, like an ingrown hair, with something truly dangerous to your health. We’re going to tackle this today. It won’t be entirely pleasant, but when you’re done, you’ll know how to identify the different things that can happen below the belt and how to deal with them.

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Ingrown Hairs

Let’s start this discussion by identifying ingrown hairs. They’re super common, and cutting or shaving hair makes them all the more so. Ingrown hairs can appear in a number of ways. The most common is typically referred to as razor bumps. This is when you get a bunch of little red bumps on your skin after shaving. It happens to the best of us, but distinguishing razor bumps from other, potentially more serious, skin conditions is important.

The first rule of razor bumps is that they don’t really cluster. You can certainly get plenty of them from a single shave, but they won’t be relegated to a single patch of skin. They show up pretty willy nilly. The second way to identify them is their size and shape. They are red and raised, but they don’t come very far past the surface of the skin. Compare a giant zit or blister to a razor bump, and it’s easy to spot the difference. Lastly, razor bumps can come with a mild burning or itching sensation.

Sometimes, ingrown hairs reach a more substantial state than your typical razor bump. When this happens, the affected area looks like a fully formed pimple. The red bump is more raised, very firm and often sore to the touch. If ruptured (we’ll talk more about this in a bit), ingrown hairs usually release white pus. Those are the key identifiers of ingrown hairs.

std or ingrown hair


Of all of the things you don’t want to get on your genitals, herpes is the most easily confused with ingrown hairs or pimples. Herpes lesions are usually red, raised, and sore. That sounds pretty common, but there are some distinguishing factors.

For starters, ruptured herpes blisters leak a yellow pus-like fluid. It’s gross, and you definitely don’t want to pop herpes blisters, but sometimes it happens. Herpes blisters tend to form in small clusters. This is because the virus that causes the lesions flares up in areas at a time. If you see a bit of a concentration of your red sores, there’s a better chance you’re dealing with herpes.

The biggest identifier is that herpes forms actual blisters. They fill with fluid, and this causes them to raise more noticeably above the base skin level. They’re much softer than ingrown hairs, and they often hurt more.

Lastly, herpes is an infection. When you first contract the disease, it’s common to experience flu-like symptoms. Headaches, achiness, swollen lymph nodes, fever and painful or tingling legs are common symptoms. After your first outbreak, these additional symptoms are usually softer (and sometimes go away completely), but that initial outbreak can help you identify if you have contracted herpes in the first place.


There’s a third condition that’s easily confused with these other two: pimples. Pimples are not the result of an STD, and they’re extremely similar to ingrown hairs in cause and exhibition. Technically, an ingrown hair is caused by hair that can’t break through the surface of the skin. Pimples are caused by clogged pores. That said, ingrown hairs can actually cause pimples. It’s weird.

You identify pimples the same way you do ingrown hairs. They’re not raised as far off the skin, they’re firm and they release white pus when ruptured (don’t pop your zits though). In some cases, it’s tough to tell if a bump is a pimple or an ingrown hair. Regardless, they’re both easily distinguished from herpes.

Other STDs

std or ingrown hair

We’ve covered the most common sources of red bumps, but there are a few STDs that might be confusing for the uninformed. First, let’s discuss HPV. This is a pervasive virus. A lot of people catch it, but in most cases, it doesn’t do anything at all. Sometimes, HPV can cause genital warts. These can be large, raised and red (although they come in a variety of colors). They’re hard to mistake with ingrown hairs or pimples, but you distinguish them from herpes lesions by a few things. The warts are usually painless, they’re firmer than herpes lesions, and they shouldn’t rupture. Also HPV can be a lot more dangerous for women than men, so if you see any signs, talk to a doctor before you have sex with anyone.

Crabs don’t technically cause redness or bumps, but they do cause crazy itching. The irritation to the skin can lead to redness and scratch-induced rashes. If you know what a rash looks like, you shouldn’t confuse it with the raised lesions or warts of other conditions.

Scabies is one of the more disturbing skin conditions when you stop to understand it. We’ll keep this light. It’s a bug that gets in your skin and causes a bunch of itchy red spots. It’s like mosquito bites on steroids and en masse. They look like razor bumps or a bunch of pimples, but the fiery itching will tell you it’s something else.

With syphilis, things get very serious very fast. It is treatable, but it’s important to be able to identify this STD. One of the early signs of syphilis is round, firm sores. They’re often red. They can be easy to mistake for HPV warts, so if you see something like this, it’s ok to go to a doctor and get diagnosed. Syphilis actually spreads through the sores that appear, and it’s not something that should ever be untreated.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Before you click this link, be warned: this is not for the squeamish. The pictures make it easier to tell what you might have, but they’re also nightmare fuel.

Getting Proactive

That got a little intense. There are a lot of scary things that can happen to your junk. It’s enough to make you shiver. A proactive approach is always better, and when you’re informed and looking out for yourself, the risk of the worst-case scenarios drops pretty fast. So, let’s talk about preventing these problems.

Keep it Clean

std or ingrown hair

If you’re going to identify problems with your genitals, you need to be able to see what’s happening. Male and female grooming is a great way to do that. When you clear the brush, it’s easier to spot anything that doesn’t look right. A simple trim every other week or so is plenty to keep things in check so you can stay on top of your sexual health. 

Along that idea, hygiene is vital to protecting yourself. Things like crabs and scabies tend to strike when hygiene fails. If you’re regularly washing yourself and keeping your skin healthy, some of these problems go away. That’s especially true for pimples, of all things. If you exfoliate your groin in the shower every day, you eliminate most causes of genital pimples.

Get a Treatment

If you’re not sure what’s going on downstairs, go see a doctor. There’s no sense in risking your manhood or womanhood over embarrassment or uncertainty. They’ve seen worse.

If you are sure, then you want a treatment plan. Obviously, STDs should be treated by medical professionals. Syphilis is defeated by antibiotics. Scabies and crabs have specialized treatments that kill the organisms. Herpes and HPV aren’t curable, but antiviral medications can do a lot of good. There’s also a vaccine for the worst forms of HPV. You see how this works. Visit a doctor every now and then and you’ll have less to worry about.

As for ingrown hairs, they’re a different matter. There’s no infection to worry about. Sure, shaving and waxing can increase their frequency, but sometimes they’ll appear for no reason. The best way to handle ingrown hairs is to take good care of yourself. While trimming makes it easy to see a problem, a full shaving routine can promote healthy skin that is less prone to ingrown hairs, pimples and other skin problems you don’t need. 

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