What Causes Itchy Pubic Hair?
- Shaving and Hair Removal: Razor burn and folliculitis as common causes; use clean razors and proper techniques.
- Skin Reactions: Allergies and irritations from products like soaps and detergents; identify and avoid triggers.
- Infections: Fungal infections, pubic lice, and sexually transmitted infections can lead to itchiness; practice good hygiene and safe sex.
- Underlying Skin Conditions: General skin disorders may affect the pubic area; consult a doctor for appropriate treatment.
- Personal Care Practices: Importance of hygiene, suitable clothing, and avoiding irritants to prevent pubic hair irritation.
Hence, this article aims to uncover the possible causes of itchy pubic hair and how it can be prevented. It further sheds light on the need to speak with a healthcare provider when certain management procedures fail. Let’s delve in!
Razor burn is a common cause of itchiness around the pelvis. One study reveals that about 80% of people who groom their pubic hair, experienced itching around their genitals on at least one occasion. This is observed to occur as a result of shaving. Shaving creates tiny tears in the skin which triggers the inflammation of hair follicles.
Razor burn can be identified by the following signs and symptoms:
- Clusters of small, red bumps around hair follicles surrounded by inflamed skin
- Pain, burning, or stinging
- Itching that gets worse when the area is overheated
- Darkening of the skin if the condition is persistent
- Ingrown hairs
To reduce your risk of experiencing razor burn, ensure that you use a clean or better still, an unused razor and a lubricant like soap or shaving cream. However, do not forget to moisturize after shaving as this can prevent razor burn.
Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition triggered by direct contact with an allergen or irritant. There are two types: allergic contact dermatitis, caused by an allergic reaction to a substance, and irritant contact dermatitis, resulting from skin irritation due to a particular substance.
Contact dermatitis can be caused by:
- Fragrances: Common in perfumes, lotions, and some personal care products.
- Detergents: Found in laundry and dishwashing products.
- Soaps: Especially those with harsh chemicals or fragrances.
- Latex: Often used in medical gloves, condoms, and some clothing.
- Rubber: Common in various personal care items like panty liners.
Jock itch, also known as Tinea cruris, is a fungal infection that primarily targets the groin and buttocks area. It’s especially common among athletes and those living in hot or humid climates. Highly contagious, it spreads through direct skin contact or by sharing towels, sponges, or clothing that harbor the fungal spores.
Symptoms of jock itch include:
- Red, Raised Rash: Characterized by a scaly, well-defined border.
- Intense Itching: Often severe and uncomfortable.
- Plaque-Like Lesions: These may extend to the anus, scrotum, and labia.
- Flaking of the Skin: Leading to noticeable skin shedding.
- Skin Cracking: Caused by dryness and irritation.
- Peeling: The skin may peel away in affected areas.
- Blistering and Oozing: In severe cases, blisters that ooze fluid can form.
- Inflamed Hair Follicles: This is more common in individuals with dense hair in the affected area.
Pubic Lice (Crabs)
Pubic lice also called crabs or Pthirus pubis are tiny insects that inhabit the pubic hair. It also lives in the armpit, eyebrow, eyelashes, and chest. While pubic lice can be located in these areas, it is important to know that it is very different from head lice.
Pubic lice are typically spread through sexual contact. But you can also get them from clothes, towels as well as beddings that have been used by someone with crabs. Crabs are usually identified by intense itchy pubic hair which gets worse at night. Visible pubic lice may be seen crawling around the pubic area, with black powder on the skin caused by lice droppings.
It is advised to avoid scratching if you have crabs. This is because it can cause tiny tears or visible pubic irritation which can lead to bacteria Infection.
Yeast infections, predominantly seen in females, are caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. It’s a common condition, with about 75% of women experiencing at least one yeast infection in their lifetime.
The primary reason behind the overgrowth of Candida albicans is an imbalance in the vaginal pH levels. This imbalance can be influenced by several factors, including:
- Excessive Antibiotic Use: Antibiotics can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina.
- High Sugar Intake: Sugar can fuel the growth of yeast, leading to overgrowth.
- Weakened Immune System: A compromised immune system may not effectively regulate yeast levels.
Psoriasis, particularly inverse psoriasis, can be a significant factor behind itchy pubic hair. This autoimmune disease is characterized by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy skin cells, leading to inflammation and rapid skin cell growth. The result is the formation of red, scaly patches, which are often itchy and uncomfortable.
Inverse psoriasis specifically affects skin folds and sensitive areas like the groin, making it a likely cause of itchiness in the pubic region. The plaques associated with this type of psoriasis are typically smooth and shiny, differing from the more common plaque psoriasis that features raised, rough lesions.
Read more about: Genital Psoriasis
Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. It typically presents as a scaly, red, and intensely itchy rash. Eczema can manifest on any part of the body, including the genital area, where it may lead to itchy pubic irritation.
The condition is characterized by several symptoms in the affected area:
- Rashes with Fine Scales: These rashes are often red and inflamed.
- Intense Itchiness: This is one of the most common and distressing symptoms of eczema.
- Dry and Flaky Skin: The affected skin often becomes dry and may flake off.
- Swelling: In some cases, the skin may become swollen and irritated.
- Fluid-Secreting Bumps: Eczema can also cause small bumps on the skin that may release clear fluid.
Scabies, caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, is a key factor in causing itchy pubic hair. These tiny mites burrow into the skin to live and lay eggs, leading to intense itching and discomfort.
Key aspects of scabies contributing to itchy pubic hair include:
- Intense Itching: The primary symptom of scabies is severe and relentless itching, which tends to be more pronounced in areas like the pubic region.
- Rashes: The burrowing of the mites causes inflamed, spotty rashes in the pubic area, contributing to the discomfort.
- Burrow Tracks: Scabies can be identified by the characteristic linear or S-shaped tracks on the skin, indicating the mites’ movement.
- Increased Itching at Night: The itching often worsens at night or when the body is warm, such as during sleep, making the pubic area particularly uncomfortable.
Folliculitis is a condition where hair follicles become inflamed. It can occur on any hairy part of the body, including the pubic area. This inflammation is often triggered by irritation, such as from shaving or chafing.
Key points about folliculitis in the pubic area:
- Shaving or Chafing: These are common causes of irritation that can lead to folliculitis.
- Inflamed Hair Follicles: The condition presents as small, red, inflamed bumps around hair follicles.
- Can Occur Anywhere on the Body: While it commonly affects the pubic area, folliculitis can occur anywhere there is hair.
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the herpes simplex virus. It is known for causing painful sores or blisters, which are fluid-filled and may burst to release fluid.
Key aspects of genital herpes related to itchy pubic hair include:
- Painful Blisters: These blisters, typically filled with fluid, can cause discomfort and itching in the pubic area.
- Rupturing of Blisters: When these blisters burst, they can lead to increased irritation and itchiness.
- Periodic Flare-Ups: Genital herpes is a chronic condition with episodes of flare-ups, during which symptoms like itching can become more pronounced.
- Secondary Skin Irritation: The presence of blisters and subsequent sores can lead to additional skin irritation, contributing to itchiness.
Conditions and factors that can lead to pubic hair irritation include
- Allergic Reaction: Allergies to sanitary products, condoms, or materials used in their production can cause itchy pubic hair. Avoiding these allergens is crucial.
- Hygiene Practices: Good personal hygiene, particularly keeping the pubic area dry, is important. Moisture can exacerbate conditions like eczema, scabies, and jock itch. Remember, jock itch thrives in damp environments, common in athletes or those living in humid climates.
- Sexual Activity: Using condoms and lubricants safely involves checking their ingredients to avoid irritants or allergens.
- Clothing Consideration: Wearing breathable, cotton clothing helps reduce moisture buildup, lowering the risk of itchy pubic hair and other skin conditions. Also, changing out of wet clothes quickly is advisable.
- Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, especially during menstrual cycles, can affect skin sensitivity and lead to conditions like acne. Maintaining hygiene during these times is key.
- Cysts and Growth: Persistent itching can lead to scratching, which might cause injuries or irritation, potentially resulting in Bartholin’s cysts. Symptoms of these cysts include fever, chills, redness, drainage, and discomfort during various activities.
- Avoid allergens and irritants.
- Wear cotton underwear.
- Maintain regular hygiene.
- Choose loose-fitting clothing.
- Avoid fragrances and harsh soaps near the pubic area.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
Consult a doctor for severe, persistent itching in the pubic area, especially if home treatments aren’t effective. Immediate medical attention is advised if symptoms of Bartholin’s cyst are noticed.
- Butler SM, Smith NK, Collazo E, Caltabiano L, Herbenick D. Pubic hair preferences, reasons for removal, and associated genital symptoms: Comparisons between men and women. J Sex Med. 2015;12(1):48-58. doi:10.1111/jsm.12763
- American Academy of Dermatology. 8 reasons your groin itches and how to get relief. AAD. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/itchy-skin/itch-relief/relieve-groin-itch
- Yale K, Awosika O, Rengifo-Pardo M, Ehrlich A. Genital allergic contact dermatitis. Dermatitis. Updated November 27, 2023. doi:10.1097/DER.0000000000000371. Accessed [insert date of access here]. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1097/DER.0000000000000371
- Cummings HW. To shave or not to shave: An ob-gyn’s guide to pubic hair care. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published June 2023. Last reviewed June 2023. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/the-latest/to-shave-or-not-to-shave-an-ob-gyns-guide-to-pubic-hair-care
- NHS Inform. Pubic lice. Last updated June 1, 2023. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/sexual-and-reproductive/pubic-lice/
- Salavastru CM, Chosidow O, Janier M, Tiplica GS. European guideline for the management of pediculosis pubis. Published July 16, 2017. doi:10.1111/jdv.14420. https://doi.org/10.1111/jdv.14420
- Yale K, Awosika O, Rengifo-Pardo M, Ehrlich A. Genital allergic contact dermatitis. Updated November 27, 2023. doi:10.1097/DER.0000000000000371. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1097/DER.0000000000000371
- Ely JW, Rosenfeld S, Seabury Stone M. Diagnosis and management of tinea infections. Am Fam Physician. 2014;90(10):702-710.
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Dr. Raquel Molina Martinez is a board-certified dermatologist from Barcelona with over a decade of experience. Trained at Gothenburg’s University Hospital, she now practices at Centre Medic in Catalonia.