What is Folliculitis?

Affecting almost every part of the body where hair may grow except for the palms and soles of the feet, folliculitis is an inflammation of hair follicles (skin structures that produce hair). Similar in appearance to a pimple, it’s a fairly common condition that can usually be prevented or managed, oftentimes with home remedies.

What are the Symptoms of Folliculitis?

Folliculitis can be the result of a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. It may initially appear around hair follicles that have been damaged in some way. While it can appear at any time in life, it’s most common in children and younger adults, although the condition may persist into later years. Also, itching or visible redness are possible indications of folliculitis.

Symptoms include

  • Appearance of small pimples in the affected area
  • Pimples that break open and drain
  • Mild fever (often associated with so-called “hot tub folliculitis”)

Folliculitis Causes

Folliculitis can be caused by a number of issues that affect the skin. Many people develop this condition from friction that damages the skin. This damage creates inflammation and can trigger an infection. This condition can be caused by plucking hair, shaving it, getting ingrown hairs, waxing and by exposure to excessive sweat.

In some patients, this condition is caused by a fungal or viral infection. It can also be caused by a mite infection. This type of infection is caused by tiny parasites that enter the hair follicles and live in them. Those who have a weakened immune system, such as those who are HIV positive, are more likely to develop this condition. It can also be triggered by steroid creams. This condition is also caused by hirsutism, the growth of excessive hair in women. It can also be caused by a bacterial infection. The Staphylococcus aureus can infect the hair follicles and cause this damage to the skin.

How is Folliculitis Treated?

Diagnosis of folliculitis often starts with a discussion of your daily habits with your doctor to try and pinpoint a source of the condition. A sample of the fluid from a pimple may be taken to try and narrow down a cause. Mild cases are treated with home solutions such as applying warm saltwater compresses.

Treatment includes

  • Medicated shampoo
  • Prescription shampoo or topical ointment
  • Pills to internally control the infection
  • Laser hair removal (if other treatments fail)
  • Photodynamic therapy (use of light with a medicated cream)

Hair follicles can also become irritated while shaving or by sitting or swimming in un-chlorinated water, using oily products, or wearing tight-fitting clothing. Using mild soap and being mindful of scalp irritations can also help reduce infections. Some cases will require medical attention, although most outbreaks are mild and go away within 7-10 days.

Folliculitis Prevention

To avoid this skin condition, wear loose clothing. Tight clothing can cause friction against the skin that can damage it. If you wear rubber gloves, make sure they are cleaned and allowed to completely dry before you reuse them. Before entering a swimming pool or hot tub, make sure it is clean and has been treated with chlorine. Dirty water can cause irritation and spread infection.

Shaving is one of the major causes of folliculitis. If you don’t have to shave, avoid it completely in order to prevent friction and irritation to your skin. If you do shave, wash your skin with a mild cleanser beforehand. Soften the hair with a gel or cream for at least five minutes. Then, ensure your blade is sharp and clean before you begin. Using an electric razor can help to avoid some of the irritation that comes with shaving.

Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
December 22, 2017