Dear Dr Nina: Is waxing to blame for my painful lump?

Q I have been getting my bikini line waxed for a number of years, usually every two months during summer and less in winter. I’ve never had any problems but now I’ve developed a lump in my pubic area. It’s quite large – over an inch or so – and it’s painful to touch. It’s a solid lump and it’s not like a spot. I’ve tried a warm compress but it hasn’t seemed to work. Do I need to see a doctor, or is it something I can sort out myself? Also, should I give up getting waxed, and could this be a symptom of something more serious?

Dr Nina replies: Hair removal, whether done by waxing or shaving, can irritate the skin. It is important to make sure you are using appropriate products and taking good care of your skin. This is especially important in the sensitive pubic are. It is possible that you have developed an infection related to inflammation in your hair follicles.

Folliculitis (infection of the hair follicles in skin) is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection, though rarely a fungus may also be the cause. It is usually caused when skin is irritated or broken and bacteria that normally live on the skin can enter deeper tissue, causing inflammation, redness, irritation and soreness.

This can cause itchy lumps, which may be filled with pus and appear as yellow pimples resembling acne. If infection lies deeper large thick red lumps, which may be painful, may appear. This may be what you have developed. You don’t mention where the lump is. If it is in the area you normally wax, then an infected hair follicle is most likely the cause. An ingrown hair may also be the culprit.

Simple folliculitis may improve using antibiotic creams or ointments. More pronounced infection might require antibiotic tablets. It is important to treat this as, if untreated, scarring can occur and it may be permanent. In chronic infection, steroid creams may also be used to help reduce inflammation. Reducing the frequency of waxing can help the skin recover. If you choose to shave, use fresh, clean blades each time.

If the red lump is located at the side of your groin where your leg joins your body, then what you might be feeling is an inflamed lymph gland. Infected glands are painful. The gland could be swollen due to infection from the bikini area tracking there, or it could also be due to infection or inflammation originating anywhere from your toes to the top of your leg. Infected insect bites or fungal feet infections are a common enough cause.

If you have a swollen, tender gland, you should see your GP as they can examine you and decide what has caused this lump. If no obvious cause is found, they will likely arrange bloods and a scan of the gland to try and figure out a cause.

If the lump is more central and along the labia (skin folds below the pubic area around the vagina) it may be an infected Bartholin’s gland. These glands normally provide lubrication to the vaginal area, but they can become inflamed and infected.

Lumps may vary from the size of a bean to much larger. They do reoccur in some cases. Antibiotic tablets and occasional surgery are required to treat these. Swelling of this nature should be reviewed by a GP.

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