Itchy Pubic Hair – Causes of Itching of the Pubis, Pubes

Itching of the pubic region is a common ailment that affects both children and adults at some point or the other. For some people this itching is a constant problem and may be related to various different skin diseases and infections. In postpubertal teens and adults, it is believed that the itching arises from the pubic hair. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the hair itself that itches but the underlying skin that is the cause of itchy pubes or incorrectly referred to as itchy pubic hair.

What is pubic hair?

Pubic hair is the thicker hair that grows in the pubic region, which lies just above the external genitals. It may extend to the genitals itself and sometimes this is also referred to as groin hair. Pubic hair is terminal hair. This is the type of hair that grows after puberty due to the change in male and female hormone levels. Pubic hair replaces any finer vellus hair present in the region from birth and is therefore considered to be a secondary sexual characteristic.

Why does pubic hair itch?

As stated, itching is a sensation and does not originate from the pubic hair itself. No hair on the body can elicit the sensation of itching or pain. Hair is made up of dead cells laden with the protein known as keratin. Sensations such as itching, pain, touch and heat is felt by the skin, including the hair follicles, but not by the hair shaft. Like skin elsewhere on the body, the pubic skin is prone to itching for various reasons. However, the unique location of the pubic skin does make it more prone to itching, even when there are no skin disease or itching at the site.

Causes of Itchy Pubis

With or without hair, the region above the genitals and just below the lower abdomen is known as the pubic region or pubis. It is also broadly referred to as the groin region although this includes the genitals and sides that are continuous with the thighs (inguinal folds). Itching can be due to physiologic and pathologic causes.

Read more on itching between groin and thigh.

Heat

As the pubic region is usually covered extensively due to cultural norms across the globe, there may be a build up of heat in the area. This heat can cause irritation and lead to an itching sensation, especially among people who wear underwear made of thick garments and live in hot or humid environments. Furthermore pubic hair, like hair anywhere on the body, may increase heat retention.

Sweat

Perspiration is the body’s way of cooling itself. When the sweat evaporates, it carries away heat from the body surface. However, the sweat cannot evaporate in an enclosed area like the groin region which is covered by underwear and clothing. It accumulates on the skin surface and irritates the skin. This causes itching. It is further exacerbated by very hot climates and in people who tend to sweat excessively.

Undergarments

Apart from undergarments causing a build up of heat and sweat, the fabric and fit of the undergarments can also contribute to itching. Thicker undergarments will cause additional heat retention. The type of fabric may also play a role in irritating the skin and thereby lead to itching. Tight fitting underwear may cause irritation and chaffing. This can further lead to infections of the skin which may present with itching.

Hygiene

Personal hygiene is a major factor in skin health. Regularly washing the area ensures that dead cells, sweat, skin oils and other body secretions, and environmental or clothing dust is removed from the skin surface. All of these substances can irritate the skin and cause itching. It may also increase the risk of certain diseases and infections. Soap and water is sufficient for proper cleaning provided that it is done regularly.

Injury

Injury to the pubic region may occur for a number of different reasons. Scratching is one obvious cause of injury and itching prompts scratching, thereby exacerbating the itching over time. Removal of the pubic hair can also cause trauma, especially if it is not done with care. It may also increase the risk of ingrown hair as the pubic hair grows which can further contribute to itching in the pubic region.

Bacteria

Various species of bacteria exist on the skin and can also be introduced to the pubic region from the groin and anus. It is mainly the staphylococci and streptococci species of bacteria that are responsible for bacterial skin infections, especially where there are breaks in the skin. These bacterial skin infections tend to be acute, causing swelling, redness, pain and itching. Some of these infections may also be sexually transmitted.

Fungi

Fungi are present throughout the environment, both indoors and outdoors. Certain fungi, like the yeast Candida albicans, may also naturally occur on the skin. Normally these fungi may not pose any problem but when the exposed to skin that is broken, it may cause an infection. The pubic region is an ideal setting as it is warm and moist for fungi to thrive.

Fungal infections of the pubic region may also involve other parts of the groin and even the thigh. It is referred to as jock itch (tinea cruris). Most of these infections are caused by dermatophytes, which are also referred to as groin ringworm.  Sometimes yeasts like Candida albicans can also cause an infection of broken skin, as is the case with cutaneous candidiasis. Itching is a common symptom of fungal infections of the skin.

Infestations

Infestations are caused by tiny insects that populate the pubic region, often feeding of blood and laying eggs on the skin, hair or in small burrows on the skin surface. This includes scabies and lice. Scabies refers to a mite infestation which creates burrows in the skin thereby leading to intense itching. Pubic lice is a specific type of lice which differs from head and body lice. It is also referred to as ‘crabs’ and may be spread with sexual contact.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhea, genital herpes and trichomoniasis may also cause itching. Usually the itching involves the genitals but may extend to the surrounding area, including the pubic region. Symptoms like itching may arise within days of contracting the infection and may or may not be accompanied by skin rashes and other lesions. Pubic lice is discussed above under infestations.

Contact Dermatitis

A number of different substances can cause a reaction on the skin. These substances may be irritants to the skin although some substances can be allergens that trigger allergic reactions in hypersensitive people. This includes a range of substances such as sweat, water, soap, perfumes, talc powder, synthetic textiles, body lotion, sanitary pads and other substances that may come into contact with the skin on the pubic region.

Other Conditions

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Genital warts
  • Hives (uncommon in the pubic region)
  • Psoriasis
  • Seborrheic dermatitis

Read more on causes of itchy groin.

Please note that any information or feedback on this website is not intended to replace a consultation with a health care professional and will not constitute a medical diagnosis. By using this website and the comment service you agree to abide by the comment terms and conditions as outlined on this page

Ask a Doctor Online Now!