Genital Warts vs Ingrown Hair: Understanding Differences and Seeking Treatment

Aarohi Batra
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Dr. Kaushal

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genital warts vs ingrown hair

Genital Warts and ingrown hair are two dissimilar skin conditions caused by two distinct causes.

Genital Warts are common STDs caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), generally types 6 and 11. 

However, ingrown hair occurs when the hair shaft grows inside the skin, penetrating the uppermost layer instead of exiting the skin and causing inflammation.

Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment of both these conditions is crucial to resolve confusion and protect against consequences.

This comprehensive article will elaborate on Genital Warts vs ingrown hair and provide a comparative overview of their dissimilarities.

A Comparative Overview of Genital Warts vs ingrown hair

The table below differentiates between Genital Warts and ingrown hair based on their distinct characteristics.

AspectGenital WartsIngrown hair
LocationUsually appears on the genital region, such as the vagina, penis, vulva, or anusGenerally appear on shaved body parts, such as the genital area, face, abdomen, legs, and underarms
SizeSmall-sized (5 millimeters or less in diameter)It can reach up to a few millimeters and appear as very small bumps on the skin
TextureWarts are rough cauliflower-like raised bumps without open sores The bumps are raised above the skin and have a smooth texture
Growth patternWarts may appear in groups and scatter on the broader skin surfaceIt can be noticed as several ingrown hairs in the same area, but they are usually scattered or alone
ColorIt can appear skin-colored or whitish-grey bumps Darker than skin tone, purple, red, or brown. An infected ingrown hair develops a white cap, like an acne

Location

As the name suggests, Genital Warts occur in the genital area, which may include the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, and rectum.

Sometimes, a person can also acquire the virus in the mouth or throat by giving oral sex to an infected individual.

Ingrown hair is most likely to appear in the region where people usually shave or have pubic hair.

The ingrown hair may grow in the following locations on the body:

  • Chin, cheeks, and neck in men
  • Legs, armpits, and pubic area in women
  • Buttocks in men and women

As per NCBI, there was a case where a young man developed ingrown hair up to 4 cm from the anterior to the lower abdomen.

Size, texture, and growth pattern

Warts on handSource: Asia_Images_Group
Warts on hand

Genital Warts are small or large raised or flat or cauliflower-shaped bumps that grow in clusters around the infected area.

These warts, without open sores, can get rough on the touch and appear skin-colored or slightly greyish.

On the other hand, ingrown hair has a smooth texture and appears as very small bumps that look like blisters raised on the skin surface.

Further, ingrown hair can be darker than skin tone and are usually scattered or alone.

Fact:
In some cases, ingrown hair can cause infections around the hair follicle and cause Folliculitis.

Causes

couple on bedSource: Syda_productions
Sexual activity

Human Papillomavirus causes Genital Warts. There are nearly 40 HPV strains that can affect the genital area. But mostly caused by types 6 and 11.

It is transmitted through close skin contact in the following ways:

  • Vaginal sex
  • Anal sex
  • Oral sex
  • Genital contact

On the other hand, there can be many causes of ingrown hair, including the following:

  • Clogging of the follicle: Dead skin can also contribute to the development of ingrown hair by clogging the follicle and encouraging them to re-enter their follicle
  • Curly hair: This kind of hair is more likely to develop ingrown hair than most people with straight hair
  • Tight-fitting-garments: Tight garments can rub against the skin and hair and may damage hair follicle to cause ingrown hair
  • Hair removal treatments: Hair removals such as shaving, waxing, threading, or plucking can increase the risk of development of ingrown hair

Complications

Though most Genital Warts arise from low-risk HPV types 6 and 11, high-risk HPV types can also be found in people with Genital Warts.

These types, i.e., 16 and 18, can increase the risk of severe complications without treatment.

It can lead to the following complications:

  • Cancers: HPV is associated with cancers of the cervix, penis, vulva, anus, mouth, and throat
  • Pregnancy complications: Warts in the genital region may become larger and complicate childbirth
Recommended Article
Read Understanding the Prevalence and Complexity of HPV and Cancer to get a complete insight into the complexities of untreated HPV.

As per the Mayo Clinic, ingrown hair without clearing up can give rise to the following complications:

  • Bacterial infections: Ingrown hair can get infected with bacterial infections on consistent touching. It can lead to cyst formation filled with fluid
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: In some cases, it can cause hyperpigmentation or form dark patches on the skin
  • Scars: Scratching it without removing the hair can lead to scarring. Further, scarring can form Keloids, which are raised scars darker than skin tone

Treatment options

fibroid after menopauseSource: kupicoo_from_Getty_Images
Surgical removal

There is no permanent solution for the virus. It may reappear in the same place and can lead to recurrent infection.

Warning:
Untreated Genital Warts and ingrown hair can complicate the condition and lead to severe health problems, such as vaginal yeast infections, bladder problems, etc. Consult a healthcare practitioner on suspecting symptoms and seek prompt medical treatment.

However, a healthcare practitioner may prescribe the following medications for treating Genital Warts:

  • Salicylic acid: This medication is slowly absorbed into the skin and results in the removal of the virus-containing skin layer
  • Imiquimod: It can help boost the immune system
  • Podofilox: It helps in burning warts
  • Trichloroacetic acid: It can burn warts in the genital region

Some surgical ways to remove warts may include:

  • Cryotherapy (freezing warts with liquid Nitrogen)
  • Laser surgery (burning warts with an electric current)
  • Electrocautery
  • Surgical removal of warts

On the other hand, ingrown hair can be treated in the following ways:

  • Allowing hair to grow for longer before shaving them
  • Instead of shaving, use clippers than a razor
  • Permanently remove hair with electrolysis, laser or topical creams, or liquids

Conclusion

Genital Warts is an STD caused by HPV. In contrast, ingrown hair is a skin condition caused when the hair shaft penetrates inside the skin rather than exiting the surface.

Warts in the genital region are small, flat, or raised cauliflower-shaped bumps which may appear in clusters in the vagina, penis, vulva, or anus.

On the other hand, ingrown hair generally appears on the shaved body parts, such as the face, legs, and genital area.

A person can acquire Genital Warts through vaginal, oral, or anal sex, whereas tight-fitting garments, waxing, and shaving may cause ingrown hair.

Untreated Genital Warts can lead to cancers and pregnancy complications, whereas ingrown hair leads to less severe complications, such as hyperpigmentation and scarring.

Fortunately, with early diagnosis and proper consultation, both conditions can be treated with medications, surgery, and switching to reliable techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you tell the difference between ingrown hair and Genital Warts?

Genital Warts are small, flat, or raised cauliflower-like bumps that grow in clusters in the genital area. The warts can be rough without open sores and appear skin-colored. On the other hand, ingrown hair is smooth and raised bumps with a dark-colored appearance.

Can ingrown hair cause infections?

Yes, ingrown hair can lead to bacterial infection in some cases without treatment. It usually happens when you touch the raised bumps with your hands. Further, it can lead to cyst formation filled with fluid. Therefore, it is crucial to seek early medical treatment to avoid severe skin problems.

Is there any difference between Genital Warts and ingrown hair?

Yes, Genital Warts is an STD caused by Human Papillomavirus. However, ingrown hair is caused when the hair shaft grows inside the skin and causes inflammation. Genital Warts infect the genital region or mouth, while ingrown hair can appear on shaved body parts, such as genitals, face, underarms, and legs.

How do you treat Genital Warts and ingrown hair?

Genital Warts can be treated with Imiquimod, Podofilox, Trichloroacetic acid, and Salicylic acid. Further, some surgical methods can also treat this STD, such as cryotherapy and laser surgery. Ingrown hair can be managed by using clippers instead of a razor, and topical liquids are creams.

Citations:
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