When bikini-area grooming goes wrong, very wrong….

Cosmo beauty editor Marta Topran thought she knew everything about ingrown hairs?until one nearly sent her to the ER.?

As I lay on the table, squirming in unimaginable pain while my doctor squeezed an inflamed baseball-size mound from my bikini line, I thought to myself, How the hell did I get here?!

Rewind to a week before, when, three days after a normal shave, I noticed a small, reddish bump on my bikini line. I knew better than to take matters into my own hands, but I was days away from a girls’ weekend with my high school bestie and crazy busy.?I had no time to see my doc. So I grabbed extra-pointy tweezers, gently scraped the top layer of skin, and gave the coiled hair a quick tug. Problem solved?so I thought.

During the next four days, though, the bump grew?first into a pealike ball, then to an almond-size bump. It wasn’t my first angry ingrown (my thick hair is ingrown-prone), so I proceeded with my plans, hopping a flight from NYC to Minneapolis. But by the second night, the bump was like a roasted almond, hot to the touch. Twenty-four hours later, it was a throbbing, golf ball?size mountain that made it impossible to sleep on my stomach (or at all).

Sunday night, at the Minneapolis airport, it hurt to sit and to stand. From hip bone to hip bone all the way up to my belly button, my skin looked sunburned, and I was so swollen?thanks to a now baseball-size bump?I looked three months’ pregnant. My jeans didn’t even fit. Adding insult to injury: a six-hour flight delay, which sent me into a Google spiral.

I started with ingrown hair, then ingrown hair bad, then ingrown hair bad photo (warning: don’t do this), and finally, Can I die from an ingrown hair?
In short: yes.

Cue an emergency next-day appointment with my general practitioner, who, when I lifted my robe, flashed a this-is-not-normal look. “It’s really bad. If you don’t get it treated today, you’ll be in the ER for an antibiotic drip tonight.” I booked it to her derm of choice: George G. Kihiczak, MD, a clinical instructor of dermatology at NYU.

With one look, he made a diagnosis. “It’s staph,” he explained?a bacterial infection of the skin. “About 30 percent of healthy people carry the bacteria staphylococcus aureus on their skin. But when it enters the skin?through a small cut, like from shaving, waxing, or a picked ingrown?it can create an abscess that grows until it’s drained. I see minor ones daily and larger ones, like yours, up to five times a week.” (He also told me that, if it isn’t drained within days, it can spread internally and cause a deadly blood infection called sepsis.)

Ingrown hair diagram before and afterHe numbed the area, made an incision, and started squeezing.

Oh. My. God! Imagine how it would feel to pop an enormous zit on the most sensitive part of your face and you’ll have a good idea of the pain. After squeezing out all the pus (gross, I know), he prescribed a 10-day course of four daily oral antibiotics, along with a topical antibiotic cream. Within a few days, the swelling and redness were gone. Only a small, purplish scar remains?my constant reminder that if you see something (no matter how unsexy it may be), say something.

DON’T Let This Happen to YOU!

1. Avoid nicks by changing blades every three shaves (Schick Hydro Silk Disposables, $10 for 3, drugstores, make it easy) and storing your razor in a dry area outside the shower.

2. Use a moisturizing shave cream (like Skintimate Skin Therapy Lotionized Skin Moisturizing Shave Gel, $2.79, drugstores) to help the razor glide across skin.

3. Never pick at an ingrown. Instead, swipe the area daily with a salicylic-acid pad to set it free.

When your skin becomes swollen, red, painful, or hot to the touch. If you start getting a fever or chills?both signs the infection is spreading?hit the ER, stat!

The major selling point of laser hair removal is that the treated hairs are destroyed, dead and gone forever. Without unwanted hair, there is no need to shave, wax or tweeze, which means there is no possibility of in-grown hairs. Learn more here.

Want more from Marta? Follow her on Twitter @MartaTopran.