Folliculitis is a skin condition that isn't life-threatening, but it can be itchy, sore and annoying. If left untreated, you can end up with hair loss and severe scarring. It's common and occurs when hair follicles become inflamed and infected. The bacterial or fungal infection can spread the small red or white-headed pimples and turn into crusty sores.
Folliculitis may look like acne pimples or crusty sores that don't heal. If you have sensitive skin, simple friction and rubbing can cause the folliculitis rash. Usually no treatment is needed. But recurring rashes, there are many types of treatments available, including antibiotics and home remedies for folliculitis. Learn about folliculitis causes and treatments below.
Folliculitis Signs & Symptoms
Folliculitis can affect you at any age. You may be otherwise healthy, except for the appearance of the numerous smooth little red bumps or with a small pus at the top, which can appear anywhere, but mostly on the face, scalp, chest, back buttocks, and legs. But certain health issues may predispose you to folliculitis, such as diabetes, compromised immune system, hepatitis, cancer, and systemic chemotherapy.The most common signs and symptoms of folliculitis include:
- Itchy and burning skin.
- Blisters that may be pus-filled and crust over, once they break open.
- Your skin appears red (inflamed), tender and may be painful.
- Areas of a large swollen bump.
Types of Folliculitis
There are four types of superficial folliculitis. Usually, folliculitis goes away by itself. However, if after a few days, you notice it getting worse and spreading, you should get help from your doctor for some folliculitis remedies.
- Bacterial folliculitis. Staphylococcus is a type of bacteria that lives on skin all the time. But if there is a cut, this bacteria enters the skin and causes problems. The hair follicles become infected with staphylococcus and your skin will itch, and form white, pus-filled bumps.
- Pseudomonas folliculitis (hot tub folliculitis). The culprit for this type of folliculitis is called pseudomonas bacteria. Poorly regulated hot tubs or swimming pools are places where you may be exposed to this bacterial. The rash appears as a red, itchy bumps that show up approximately one to four days after exposure. Eventually, they may change into pus-filled blisters called pustules.
- Pseudofolliculitis barbae (barber's itch). In-grown hair caused inflammation which affects mostly the face and neck. Black men who shave are more susceptible to this condition. The scars may appear dark and raised, called keloids.
Pityrosporum folliculitis.This type is common in teens and adult men. The cause is a yeast infection that shows up mostly on the back and chest, but sometimes on the neck, shoulders, upper arms and face.
Causes of Folliculitis
With folliculitis, the problem consists of inflamed hair follicles. Damaged hair follicles are at risk of resulting infection. Your body is covered all over by hair follicles. If fact, there may be over 5 million hair follicles present on your body. When a hair follicle gets damaged, organisms can invade the area causing inflammation and eventually infection. What can cause or result in damaged hair follicles includes:
- Wearing tight clothing
- Wearing rubber gloves that cause sweating
- Dermatitis or acne
- Skin injury, such as scrapes
- Frequent application of greasy ointments that clog hair follicles
- Tight Lycra workout clothing
Treatment for Folliculitis
Folliculitis usually needs no cure, and will resolve on itself. But the chronic, recurring types may need to be controlled with medication. Medications may include:
- Antibiotics in cream or oral form to control bacterial infections.
- If the cause is a fungal infection, creams, shampoos or pills to clear this type of will be recommended.
- If your have a mild form of folliculitis that results in inflammation only, your doctor may recommend an anti-inflammatory type of steroid cream.
- For more advanced forms of folliculitis that form infected large bumps, (furuncles or carbuncles), minor surgery may be needed to drain the pus.
- Light therapy called photodynamic therapy, has been shown to help improve folliculitis within a few weeks.
- Laser hair removal is a last resort and expensive. After several treatments, the density of your hair is reduced, however, not without side effects. You may end up with discolored skin or scarring.
Home Remedies for Folliculitis
Home care is the best and first step to helping your folliculitis to heal quicker. With proper care of your skin, you can also help prevent an infection from spreading:
- To relieve soreness or pain, several times a day, apply a warm, moist washcloth to the area. Mix a solution of 2 cups water with 1 teaspoon of table salt and soak the washcloth in it, before applying.
- Apply non-irritating, soothing lotions to help relieve itchy skin. Try over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
- Clean the area with a oatmeal soap, free of harsh detergents, such as sodium lauryl sulfate.
- If shaving makes you prone to ingrown hair, change to an electric razor. Apply a non-irritation moisturizer after shaving.
For more information, visit these sites:
- Mayo Clinic: Folliculitis
- National Institute of Health: Folliculitis
- University of Michigan Health Library
- Walsh SR, Johnson RP. Vaccinia Folliculitis After Primary Dryvax Vaccination. Infect Dis Clin Pract. 2007 Mar. 15(2):132-4.