Genital Herpes vs Ingrown Hair: How To Tell Them Apart? 

Rishabh Mehta
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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genital herpes vs ingrown hair

The genital area is a delicate region prone to rashes, pimples, and infections. 

Having some ingrown hair is one such common and uncomfortable issue, but what’s worse is its uncanny similarity with Genital Herpes. 

What looks like an ingrown hair normally can be Genital Herpes caused by HSV. 

According to WHO, in 2016, 3.7 billion people were infected by HSV-1, while 491.5 million were infected by HSV-2. 

Being a common infection, it is easy for everyone to get exposed to it in their lifetime. Its similarity with ingrown hair makes it easy to misinterpret and harder to treat. 

So, this article compares Genital Herpes vs ingrown hair to differentiate between the two through the symptoms and causes and then lays out the specific treatment for each. 

Genital Herpes vs Ingrown Hair: Overview

The following table presents a comparison of Genital Herpes vs ingrown hair to highlight the differences between them. 

FactorsGenital HerpesIngrown hair
AppearanceThey are blisters filled with clear liquid that cluster together and leave open painful sores that take the time of a week to healingrown hair is hair growing sideways, curving into the skin, which causes painful fluid-filled bumps that have visible hair in the center
CauseGenital Herpes is an infection caused by HSVCurled or curved hair growth under the skin causes ingrown hair. It can be due to waxing, tweezing, and shaving
SymptomsPainful ulcers, itching around genitals, discharge from urethra or vagina, painful urinationTiny bumps with clear fluid or pus, itching, burning, hair in a loop shape
ContagiousnessDirect skin-to-skin sexual contact can pass on HSV and, hence, Genital HerpesThey cannot be passed on by skin contact
TreatmentIt is treated with antiviral pills It can be treated without medications through warm compress, exfoliation, depilatory products, etc. Sometimes, treatment under medical experts is required

Ingrown hair vs Genital Herpes

Genital warts Source: AndreyPopov_from_Getty_Images
Genital warts under eyes

Both Genital Herpes and ingrown hair are common and alike. So, how to tell the difference between Genital Herpes and ingrown hair? 

The answer is that despite their similar size and fluid-filled blisters, they have certain differences. 

Genital Herpes causes blisters in clusters with a clear fluid that leaves open sores upon bursting. 

On the other hand, ingrown hair bumps are comparatively distant, single bumps with hair in the center. They have clear fluid or white pus. 

HSV infection spreads from touching the sores or fluid and can transfer to other body parts like the eyes. HSV infection in the eye can lead to pain, blurry vision, or blindness.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes vs Ingrown Hair

Herpes symptoms are more severe than ingrown hair. Some of them are:

  • Painful ulcers after blisters rupture and fluid oozes out
  • Painful urination
  • Discharge from urethra
  • Small bumps around the genitals
  • Discharge from the vagina in females
  • Scabs on healing ulcers
  • Itching around the genitals
  • Flu-like symptoms like fever, swollen lymph nodes, body aches, and headache

ingrown hair can bring along symptoms like:

  • Tiny, swollen bumps after shaving, waxing, or tweezing
  • Small blisters filled with clear fluid or pus
  • Stinging or burning sensation
  • Small bumps darker than the surrounding skin 
  • Itching
  • The tip of the hair curves growing into the skin, causing loop-shaped hair

Causes of Genital Herpes vs Ingrown Hair

The cause of Genital Herpes is the virus HSV or Herpes Simplex Virus. 

It spreads primarily through direct sexual contact. 

The cause of ingrown hair is, hair that is removed, growing backward in the skin. 

It can occur after waxing, shaving, or tweezing when the dead skin covers the hair follicle of removed hair and it curls back, forming a bump. 


Genital Herpes has no cure, but the condition can be treated with antiviral pills.

Some medicines prescribed by doctors for Herpes are: 

  • Acyclovir 
  • Famciclovir
  • Valacyclovir

They help sores to heal, prevent transmission, and reduce the chances and severity of recurrent outbreaks. 

With time, outbreaks become milder and may not need medications. 

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On the other hand, ingrown hair can mostly be managed at home through:

  • Warm compress to remove ingrown hair easily
  • Using depilatory products to dissolve the protein structure of hair
  • Avoiding shaving or using an electric shaver
  • Exfoliating the skin

Sometimes, medications are also used to treat ingrown hair. Some of these can be:

  • Antibiotic ointments or pills to treat infections
  • Retinoids or other acne medications for dead skin removal
  • Steroid creams for reducing inflammation
HSV can pass from mother to child during pregnancy, leading to infections of internal organs or delivery. If suffering from HSV, one must consult a doctor when planning to conceive. 

If required, a medical expert can:

  • Perform electrolysis with a tiny needle and electric current to destroy the hair root
  • Use laser removal to destroy cells with excessive pigment and remove hair
  • Remove the hair and pus through a sterile surgical knife and scalpel


Genital Herpes and ingrown hair are common and mistaken for each other due to their similar size and appearance. 

However, Genital Herpes blisters are in clusters, while ingrown hairs are single bumps with hair in the center. 

Genital Herpes is a contagious STI caused by HSV, whereas ingrown hair is caused by hair growing inwards and is not contagious. 

Genital Herpes has severe symptoms like painful ulcers and urination, burning or itching, vaginal and urethral discharge. 

In contrast, ingrown hair may lead to tiny bumps with pus, itching, or a burning sensation. 

Genital Herpes is treated with Antiviral medications, whereas ingrown hair can be treated at home through warm compresses, exfoliation, and depilatory products. 

Sometimes, it may require medical attention for apt medications or procedures to get rid of stubborn ingrowns. 

Both conditions can be treated and managed with good hygiene, ensuring a comfortable experience for the delicates. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it Genital Herpes or ingrown hair?

Genital Herpes and ingrown hair can look the same due to their small size and fluid-filled bumps. However, Genital Herpes appears in clusters and causes open sores. On the other hand, ingrown hair is just a single bump with visible hair in the center. 

Can ingrown pubic hair look like Herpes?

Yes, ingrown pubic hair can look like Herpes. They also appear the same size with clear fluid. However, they do not appear in clusters. An ingrown hair is a single bump with visible hair in the center. It sometimes has white pus discharge upon outbreak. 

How small is Genital Herpes compared to ingrown hair?

Genital Herpes and ingrown hair are similar in size. They are small bumps with clear fluid that look alike, which makes it hard to tell them apart. However, Genital Herpes appears in clusters and causes painful sores, while ingrown hair is a single raised bump with hair in the middle. 

How long can an ingrown hair last?

In most cases, ingrown hair goes away on its own in a few days. They require no treatment and will not cause much discomfort. However, some severe cases can take numerous weeks and will need treatment. With treatment, it may start showing results immediately or in a few days. 

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