Ever Get Hairy Zits? A Derm Explains What This Means

Photo: Getty/ PeopleImages
As someone who's dealt with acne for half of my life, I've seen it manifest itself in an entertaining variety of ways. Whiteheads and blackheads are form I'm very familiar (you could even say intimate) with. I've also got a strong relationship with hormonal acne and all of the various cysts it rears its head with. And I've even seen body acne. You can't really stump me with pimples.

But then I stumbled upon a Reddit Skin-care subthread about zits with hair. Excusez-moi? "I saw something coming out of my acne—it looked like face hair. I never noticed this before, can someone advise what type of acne this is?" the user writes. Fair question.

Hair growing out of zits is apparently a thing—not to be confused with moles. The interesting thing I learned, however, is that these aren't exactly zits at all. "They're zit doppelgängers," says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Danbury, Connecticut. "It's more of a cystic, inflammatory reaction to a hair."

If you're experiencing this breed of "pimple," you'll notice it's either an ingrown hair or that it's particularly sharp, according to Dr. Gohara. "Something about these create an inflammatory response in the skin." And so that gives off the illusion that you're facing a zit that grows its own strands of hair (impressive, but no thanks).

So what can you do if you don't exactly want that on your face? The secret is to treat it with retinol (what doesn't retinol do?). "Apply a little retinol," recommends Dr. Gohara—this will increase your cell turnover so that it sheds itself of the inflammation. "Or you can let your dermatologist liberate the hair." As in: Don't pluck.

If you're breaking out, here's how to decipher the root cause of a breakout (so you can better treat it). And this is why medicine for acne is totally fine to use if nothing else works. 

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