Folliculitis

Overview

Definition

Folliculitis is inflammation of the hair follicle. It can occur anywhere on the skin or scalp. There are many types of folliculitis.

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Causes

Folliculitis has many causes. It may be infectious or noninfectious.

The infectious type is caused by:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Viruses
  • Parasites

The non-infectious type may be caused by:

  • Shaving
  • Irritation from clothing
  • Certain medicines
  • Chemical exposure
  • Sun exposure
  • Missing nutrients in the diet

Contact dermatitis , poison ivy , acne , or rosacea may also cause folliculitis.

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of folliculitis are:

  • Exposure to bacterial infection
  • Overusing certain medicines, such as:
    • Antibiotics
    • Corticosteroids applied to the skin
  • Having other skin conditions—especially those that itch
  • Exposure to oils and chemicals
  • Having a weak immune system
  • Shaving against the direction of hair growth
  • Using contaminated hot tubs, pools, or lakes

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Symptoms of folliculitis may be:

  • Itchy, red rash
  • Crusty sores that do not heal
  • Pus-filled blisters around the hair follicle

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. Diagnosis can usually be made by looking at the skin. Testing may be done to determine the type and cause.

Tests may include:

  • Swab of an open area—to look for infections
  • Smear—a sample of an open area to be examined under a microscope
  • Biopsy—a sample of skin is taken for testing
  • Blood tests

Treatments

Treatment

The goal is to treat the irritation and underlying cause. Options may be:

Medications

Folliculitis may be treated with medicines. They may be taken by mouth or applied to the skin.

  • The infectious type may be treated with:
    • Antibiotics—for bacterial infections
    • Antifungal medicines—for fungal infections
    • Antiviral medicines—for viral infections
    • Antiparasitic medicines— for parasitic infections
  • The non-infectious type may be treated with:
    • Corticosteroids
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Prevention

To reduce the risk of folliculitis:

  • Avoid chemicals, especially at work.
  • Shave in the direction of hair growth.
  • Use proper hygiene and handwashing.
  • Clean pools and hot tubs regularly.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

RESOURCES

American Academy of Dermatology https://www.aad.org 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Dermatology Association https://dermatology.ca 

Public Health Agency of Canada https://www.canada.ca  

References

Folliculitis. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aocd.org/?page=Folliculitis. Accessed February 17, 2021.

Folliculitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/folliculitis Accessed February 17, 2021.

Hot tub rash (Pseudomonas dermatitis/folliculitis). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/rwi/rashes.html. Accessed February 17, 2021.

Veraldi S, Desimine C, et al. Can folliculitis be caused by Staphylococcus epidermidis? G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2019;154(2):212-214.