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
  • Some medicines
  • Chemical exposure
  • Sun exposure
  • Missing nutrients in the diet

Folliculitis may also be caused by:

  • Contact dermatitis
  • Poison ivy
  • Acne
  • Rosacea

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of folliculitis are:

  • Exposure to bacterial infection
  • Overusing some medicines, such as:
    • Antibiotics
    • Corticosteroids put on 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



Symptoms of folliculitis may be:

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


The doctor will ask about 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 checked under a microscope
  • Biopsy—a sample of skin is taken for testing
  • Blood tests



The goal of treatment is reduce the irritation and help the underlying cause. Options may be:


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)


To reduce the risk of folliculitis:

  • Avoid chemicals, especially at work.
  • Shave in the direction that hair is growing.
  • 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.