What Is Folliculitis?
Folliculitis is when hair follicles, tiny pockets in skin where hair grows from, become inflamed, usually due to a bacterial or fungal infection. This can appear as small red bumps or white-headed pimples, but the infection may spread and become sores that don't heal. If you have an infected hair follicle, you may experience itchiness and soreness. While mild cases can usually be treated with home remedies, serious or recurring folliculitis should be treated by a Boardman dermatologist as it can result in severe infections, permanent hair loss, and scarring.
What Causes Folliculitis?
Folliculitis is most often caused by a Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacterial infection of hair follicles. However, it can also be caused by viruses, fungi, and inflammation from ingrown hairs. While the cause for folliculitis may not always be known, certain factors can put you at a higher risk of developing folliculitis.
- Shaving Or Waxing Often
- Being Overweight Or Obese
- Having Acne Or Dermatitis
- Having A Medical Condition That Reduces Your Resistance To Infection, Such As Diabetes Or HIV/AIDS
- Wearing Tight Clothing
- Spending Time In An Unclean Hot Tub Or Sauna
- Long Use Of An Oral Antibiotic
- Regularly Performing Activities That Result In Sweat & Not Cleaning Off Fully Afterward
Treating folliculitis depends on its severity and type. Mild cases can often be treated at home with over-the-counter medications, such as antibacterial cleaners for the affected area, anti-itch cream to treat symptoms, increased personal hygiene, and applying warm towels to the skin to ease discomfort. Pseudomonas folliculitis (hot tub folliculitis) usually fades on its own after a few days without treatment, but your healthcare provider should be contacted if symptoms last longer than a few days.
More severe cases of folliculitis will need to be treated by your healthcare provider with oral antibiotics. Left untreated, boils and carbuncles may develop and will need to be drained by your doctor before they can begin to heal. Severe cases may also result in scarring and permanent hair loss.
Types Of Folliculitis
Folliculitis has many causes, symptoms, and locations they may appear on the body. Our dermatologists in Boardman, Ohio, at Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center can diagnose your folliculitis to determine what type you might have and the best treatment method.
Malassezia Folliculitis & Pityrosporum Folliculitis
Naturally occurring yeast on the skin can cause infections in the follicle that appear similar to acne breakouts, and usually occur on the upper chest, back, shoulders, upper arms, neck, and face, and is made worse by sweat. Washing the affected area daily with anti-dandruff shampoo often improves the condition.
Pseudomonas Aeruginosa ("Hot Tub") Folliculitis
Caused by bacteria that thrive in hot, moving water, pseudomonas aeruginosa folliculitis causes a rash that looks similar to folliculitis caused by staphylococcal bacteria. Symptoms often appear one to two days after exposure to contaminated water and usually clear up without treatment within a few days.
This type of Folliculitis is caused by prolonged antibiotic acne treatment. As the bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics, acne flare-ups can actually become worse and lead to follicle infections.
Staphylococcus Aureus Folliculitis
One of the most common types of folliculitis, this infection appears as small red or white pimples. It usually gets better on its own, but persistent flare-ups or the appearance of boils should be treated by a dermatologist.
Pseudofolliculitis Barbae & Sycosis Barbae
Pseudofolliculitis barbae and sycosis barbae folliculitis are caused by shaving and can appear as razor bumps or as large red pustules when the infection becomes more severe. People with curly hair, particularly Black men, are more likely to develop this type of folliculitis. Shaving should be stopped and if the problem persists, seek treatment from a dermatologist. Left untreated, severe cases can lead to scarring.
Usually seen in patients who have immune system conditions or in babies who do not have developed immune systems, this condition appears as itchy pustules located most often on the shoulders, upper arms, neck, and forehead.
How To Prevent Folliculitis
While the development of folliculitis cannot always be controlled, you can take preventative steps to help keep your skin resistant to these types of infections.
- Avoid tight clothes. Loose-fitting clothing can help your skin stay cool and dry, as well as avoid friction that can cause follicle agitation.
- Avoid or shave less frequently. When you have to shave, avoid shaving close to the skin and ensure the hair and skin are conditioned and hydrated to avoid aggravation. Use a sharp blade, rinse the blade after each stroke, and shave in the opposite direction of hair growth.
- Moisturize after shaving. Use a moisturizer developed specifically for use after shaving to help protect hair follicles.
- Only use clean hot tubs or saunas. The hotter the water, the faster antibacterial chemicals are burned off. If you own a hot tub or heated pool, ensure you are adding the right amount of chlorine regularly.
- Consider hair removal. Laser hair removal can help you avoid shaving altogether.
- Speak with your dermatologist. If your antibiotic acne treatment is not working, speak with your doctor about alternatives to avoid antibiotic-resistant bacteria from developing.