What is folliculitis?
Reference Folliculitis Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window 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 groin.
What causes folliculitis?
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.
- Wear tight clothes.
- Use antibiotics or steroid creams for long periods.
- Use or work with substances that can irritate or block the follicles. Examples include makeup, cocoa butter, motor oil, tar, and creosote.
- Have an infected cut, scrape, or surgical wound. The bacteria or fungi can spread to nearby hair follicles.
- Have a disease such as diabetes or HIV that lowers your ability to fight infection.
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 Reference impetigo Opens New Window 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 the infection.
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 Reference Burow's solution Opens New Window. These may ease itching and help healing.
- Medicated shampoo. It can be used to treat folliculitis on the scalp or beard.
If the infection doesn't go away, you may need an Reference antibiotic Opens New Window 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 back.
- You have a fever over 101°F (38°C).
- The 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 around chemicals.
- 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.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference January 31, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology