Folliculitis is caused by the infection of a hair follicle. Every hair that appears on the body grows out of a tiny pouch called a follicle. Therefore, any part of the body that has hair can have folliculitis. The most common place to develop this infection is on the face, scalp, thighs, groin or any other area that may be rubbed by clothing.

Symptoms of Folliculitis

In mild/superficial folliculitis (shown below), the inflamationbegins as a red tender area at or near the base of one or more strands of hair. It then turns into a raised area of skin that may itch or burn and is filled with pus (called a pustule). When the sore breaks open, it may drain pus and/or blood.

With deep folliculitis (shown below), the pustules that develop are generally larger in size and more painful than the sores in mild folliculitis. Deep folliculitis can also lead to other skin infections.

One form of folliculitis is called "Hot tub folliculitis." It generally appears 3 days after you have been in a hot tub or a spa. Many pustules may develop on the arms legs and the torso. This type of folliculitis goes away, without medication, within 7 to 10 days.

Some people get razor bumps, which are not folliculitis. Razor bumps develop when a person shaves, then the strands of hair curl back on themselves, grow into the skin and cause irritation.

* Other skin conditions that cause similar symptoms to folliculitis are heat rash, poison ivy, and acne.

What causes folliculitis?

Folliculitis is usually caused by staph (Staphylococcus), which is a type of bacterium. It may also be caused by yeast and other types of fungus. Folliculitis caused by fungus is most often found in individuals who have an impaired immune system that has trouble fighting off infection. The hair follicle may also become blocked or irritated by certain oils, makeup or sweat.

Treatment of Folliculitis

Mild cases: Minimal cases normally heal on their own. If the folliculitis returns or gets worse, such cases see your doctor for a proper treatment.

Bacterial Folliculitis

Mild: For mild cases, doctors recommend an antibiotic cream or ointment such as polymyxin B sulfates (Polysporin), bacitracin, clindamycin, erythromycin, or Bactroban. Antiseptic cleansers such as providone-iodine or chlorhexidine can also be used.

Deep: More severe folliculitis requires antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.

Folliculitis Caused by Fungus

Your doctor will have to prescribe an antifungal pill along with a corticosteroid to reduce any inflammation.

Folliculitis on the Scalp/Beard area

When people have folliculitis on the scalp or beard area, relief may be obtained by using a shampoo containing selenium sulfide 2.5%, selenium 1%, or 50% propylene glycol should be used.

Other Treatment Options

For recurrent cases of folliculitis, laser treatment is an option. Laser treatment is expensive, but it both reduces scarring and kills the hair follicle.