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What Causes Boils in the Pubic Area? Symptoms, Treatment, and Risk Factors

A boil (also called a furuncle) is a common type of infection that occurs in a hair follicle. It’s a deep form of bacterial folliculitis, which is an infection of a hair follicle. It might start out as a small red bump, but when your body detects the tiny infection, it activates your white blood cells to attack.

The small bump can quickly progress into a large abscess that contains pus. These infections can be painful, especially when boils are in the genital area. But what causes boils and how do you get rid of them? First, let’s go over what a boil looks and feels like.

Main symptoms of a boil 

Boils in the pubic area can often be mistaken for irritation from chafing or razor burn. They usually all start out looking the same, even upon closer inspection. Once a boil develops beyond the red bump stage, though, it will be obvious that you are dealing with something else.

The symptoms of boils in the pubic area include the following:

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warm to the touch
  • White or yellow head
  • Pus
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes

There is no set amount of time that it takes for boils in the pubic area to develop. For some people, they may appear as a small boil on the labia or skin fold of the groin and resolve on their own without any treatment. Others may experience a vaginal boil that goes from a small bump to a larger, pus-filled area in a matter of days.

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Pimple vs boil: what’s the difference? 

When you’re trying to identify a pimple vs a boil, remember that although they look similar, they form differently. Pimples usually first appear as a blackhead, and if they’re not removed, can develop into a pimple or whitehead. This is because when your body detects the presence of harmful bacteria, it sends white blood cells to remove them. That’s how pus forms.

Boils, on the other hand, spread beyond the small isolated area where they begin. They are the result of a bacterial infection that expands into the surrounding tissue, forming a pocket. This infection can cause additional symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes and fever.  

There are also some key differences between cysts and boils. Cysts also form under the surface of the skin, but their contents are contained within a closed sac and they grow slowly.

Vaginal boil treatment 

Many vaginal boils or other genital boils heal on their own or with minor at-home treatment. If you experience any of the above-listed symptoms in your genital area, it may be helpful to know how to get rid of a boil and when it is necessary to see your health care provider.

How to get rid of a boil 

There are several ways to get rid of a boil on your own, depending on its location. If you have a boil on your labia, skin fold, or crease of the groin or butt, you can apply warm compresses to the affected area. This will help draw the infection to the surface of the tissue, soften the skin, relieve pain, and encourage the boil to drain. 

This can be done several times per day. If the boil opens, be sure to wash the area thoroughly with mild soap and warm water. You can also apply a loose clean bandage each time you clean the area to catch any drainage and protect your clothing. Always wash your hands before and after cleaning the boil. 

If you have a boil, keep an eye out for any of the symptoms mentioned below. If they develop, you will need to contact your health care provider for further evaluation and treatment. These symptoms include:

  • A boil that continues to develop (larger than two inches) and does not drain
  • Severe pain
  • Redness that extends well beyond the area of the boil or that is streaky
  • High fever and chills
  • A boil that does not heal for several weeks
  • More than one boil in the same area

No matter what, it’s important to keep the area of a genital or vaginal boil clean. If you experience recurring boils or boils that do not heal, your health care provider can collect a sample of the drainage to see what bacteria are causing your boils. Some boils are caused by a form of bacteria that is more difficult to treat and may require a specific antibiotic.

How to pop a boil

Don’t open the boil by squeezing or popping it with a sharp object. This can cause the infection to spread even more. If a boil in your pubic area does not heal or open on its own, contact your health care provider. It may be necessary to lance (make a small cut in) the boil to allow it to drain. This should only be done by a trained medical professional.

Risk factors for developing a boil

Here are some things you can do to prevent irritation and decrease your risk of developing boils in your pubic area:

  • If you shave your bikini area, always shave in the shower or bath (never dry), shave in the direction the hair grows, and do not share razors.
  • Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Bathe daily and wash your pubic area with a mild soap.
  • Change your underwear at least once a day and after exercise.
  • Avoid highly scented and perfumed products that may cause irritation.
  • Use a water-based lubricant during sex if you experience vaginal dryness.
  • Do not use tampons or other inserted period products unless you have your period. 
  • Wash personal items such as towels, washcloths, and sheets regularly.

We hope that this information and these suggestions help you figure out what a boil is and how to prevent or treat it. For some people, recurring boils may be a symptom or side effect of other medical conditions. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, certain skin conditions, or other infectious diseases, you may be more prone to developing boils. In these cases, regular visits to your health care provider and additional treatment may be necessary.

“Boils and Carbuncles.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 11 Sept. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/boils-and-carbuncles/symptoms-causes/syc-20353770.

Oakley, Amanda. “Boil.” Boil | DermNet NZ, dermnetnz.org/topics/boil/.

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