Folliculitis is an infection in the hair follicles.
Each hair on your body grows out of a tiny pouch called a follicle. You can
have folliculitis on any part of your body that has hair. But it is most common
on the face and scalp and areas rubbed by clothing, such as the thighs and
What causes folliculitis?
It usually is caused by
bacteria. It also can be caused by yeast or another
You may get folliculitis if you
have damaged hair follicles. Shaving or wearing clothes that rub the skin can
irritate the follicles, which can lead to folliculitis. They also can become
blocked or irritated by sweat, machine oils, or makeup. When the follicles are
injured, they are more likely to become infected.
You are more
likely to get folliculitis if you:
Use a hot tub, whirlpool, or swimming pool
that is not properly treated with chlorine.
Use antibiotics or steroid creams for long
Use or work with substances that can irritate or block the
follicles. Examples include makeup, cocoa butter, motor oil, tar, and
Have an infected cut, scrape, or surgical wound. The
bacteria or fungi can spread to nearby hair follicles.
disease such as
HIV that lowers your ability to fight
What are the symptoms?
Folliculitis usually looks
like red pimples with a hair in the center of each one. The pimples may have
pus in them, and they may itch or burn. When the pimples break open, they may
drain pus, blood, or both.
"Hot tub folliculitis" most often appears about 72 hours after you've been in a hot tub or spa. Many small pimples appear on your stomach and sometimes on your arms and legs. You might have a mild fever and have an upset stomach. Most of the time, this kind of folliculitis goes away on its own in 7 to 10 days.
How is folliculitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will
check your skin and ask about your health and activities. He or she may do
tests to find out what is causing your folliculitis and to make sure you don’t
have a different problem, such as
impetigo or heat rash. Testing a sample of the fluid
in the pimples or a sample of tissue can help your doctor learn what is causing
How is it treated?
Mild folliculitis usually heals
on its own in about 2 weeks. You can take care of yourself at home with:
Warm compresses made with white vinegar or Burow's solution. These may ease itching and help healing.
Medicated shampoo. It can
be used to treat folliculitis on the scalp or beard.
the infection doesn't go away, you may need an
antibiotic or antifungal cream. If your infection is
severe, your doctor will prescribe antibiotic or antifungal pills.
Call your doctor if you have folliculitis and:
It spreads or keeps coming
You have a fever over
infected area becomes red, swollen, warm, or more painful.
If the infection doesn't go away or keeps coming back,
laser hair removal may be an option. Laser treatment destroys the hair
follicles so they can't get infected.
How can you prevent folliculitis?
There are many
things you can do to prevent folliculitis or keep it from spreading.
Bathe or shower daily with a mild
soap. Also, bathe or shower after you exercise and after you work
Avoid sharing towels, washcloths, or other
personal items. If you have folliculitis, use a clean washcloth and towel each
time you bathe.
Don't scratch the bumps.
Avoid shaving the bumps. If
you must shave, change the razor blade each time. Try using depilatory creams
and lotions, which remove hair without shaving. (These products are not
recommended for use more often than once or twice a week.)
Avoid using oils on your skin. Oils can trap bacteria in the
pores of your skin and can cause folliculitis.
After you use public hot tubs or spas, shower right away
with soap. If you own your own hot tub, follow the manufacturer's
instructions for keeping it clean.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) provides information
about the care of skin. You can locate a dermatologist in your
area by using their "Find a Dermatologist" tool. Or you can read the latest news in dermatology. "SPOT Skin Cancer" is the AAD's program to reduce deaths from melanoma. There is also a link called "Skin Conditions" that has information about many common skin problems.
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