Folliculitis is inflammation or infection that
can affect one or more hair follicles. Your hair follicles are the small
cavities that surround the roots of your hair.
Folliculitis can occur on your skin
wherever hair grows, including your scalp. It’s most likely to occur on your
thighs, buttocks, neck, and armpits — places where friction is common. It
usually appears as small bumps. It may look like acne or a rash. It can be
isolated to one hair follicle or affect many. It can be acute or chronic. Acute
cases occur for a short time, while chronic cases are ongoing.
Folliculitis is relatively common. People
who are obese are more likely to experience it.
What are the symptoms of folliculitis?
Folliculitis causes small
crusty bumps to form on your skin. They can be red, white, or yellow in color.
They may be accompanied by:
What causes folliculitis?
Folliculitis is usually caused by staph
bacteria or fungi. You can contract staph bacteria or fungi through body
contact with someone who has an infection. You can also contract them through
contact with contaminated personal items, such as towels, soap, or clothing
used by someone with an infection. You can pick up bacteria or fungi at unclean
pools or spas as well.
Other risk factors may increase your
chances of developing folliculitis, including:
- wearing tight
clothing that irritates your skin
- getting skin
injuries, such as those caused by shaving
- not showering
after excessive sweating
- having a weakened
How is folliculitis diagnosed?
To diagnose folliculitis, your doctor will
examine the inflamed or irritated areas of your skin. Be sure to tell your
- how long
you’ve had bumps on your skin
- what other symptoms
you’ve been experiencing
- whether you
have a history of folliculitis
Your doctor may be able to diagnose
folliculitis base on appearance alone. To identify the cause, they may remove
one of the bumps for testing.
How is folliculitis treated?
Folliculitis is usually minor and goes
away on its own without treatment. If you have skin irritation that’s accompanied
by a fever, spreading rash, or pus-filled and smelly bumps, seek medical help.
To treat acute folliculitis that’s severe
or slow to heal, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription
medications. For example, they may recommend:
- oral or
topical antibiotics or antifungal medications to treat the cause of your
- NSAIDs or
antihistamines to relieve pain or itching
Chronic folliculitis can be more difficult
to treat. Antibiotics and other medications may not clear up chronic cases. If
other treatment options fail, your doctor may recommend laser hair removal.
During treatment, you should refrain from
removing hair by plucking, waxing, or shaving. Allowing your hair to grow may help
your follicles to heal. For chronic folliculitis, your doctor may advise you to
allow your hair to grow for up to three months.
What is the outlook for folliculitis?
Most cases of folliculitis go away without
treatment. It rarely causes more severe problems. In a small number of cases,
it can cause:
- boils to form
under your skin
scarring or dark patches to develop on your skin
- damage to your
hair follicle, resulting in permanent hair loss
If you’ve had folliculitis in the past,
you’re more likely to have it again in the future.
How is folliculitis prevented?
To help prevent folliculitis:
- Shave only in the
direction that hair grows, or use an electric razor.
- Avoid tight-fitting
clothing, especially rough fabrics such as denim.
- Use lotions that don’t
clog your pores to keep your skin moisturized.
- Avoid sharing personal
care products, such as razors and towels.
- Shower after heavy
To help prevent
complications and lessen the severity of folliculitis when you have it:
- Avoid friction caused
by shaving or rubbing the infected area.
- Use a warm compress to calm
irritation and reduce pain.
- Wash your towels and
washcloths every day until all of your symptoms have subsided.
doctor for more tips on preventing folliculitis. If you experience it
regularly, they may refer you to a dermatologist to help you learn how to avoid
and manage the condition.