Described as the presence of inflammatory cells within the wall and ostia of the hair follicle, folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles. Your hair grows out of tiny pouches called follicles. If the follicles become damaged, irritated or blocked, you can develop folliculitis. Bacteria and fungus can both cause folliculitis.
Folliculitis is visible as small, white-headed pimples around one or more hair follicles. Most cases of folliculitis are superficial and will heal in one to two weeks. Deep or recurring folliculitis may require medical intervention. Severe cases of folliculitis can lead to scarring and permanent hair loss.
Although your scalp has the densest area of hair follicles, you have follicles all over your body, except on the palms, soles and mucous membranes, like the lips. When follicles sustain damage, they become more susceptible to infection.
You can develop folliculitis because of:
- Abrasions, surgical wounds or other skin injuries
- Friction caused by shaving or tight clothes
- Heavy perspiration
- Skin conditions such as dermatitis and acne
- Use of plastic dressings or adhesive tape
Certain conditions, such as diabetes, chronic leukemia, and obesity, can increase your risk of developing folliculitis.
Types of Folliculitis
There are several types of folliculitis:
- Staphylococcal folliculitis
Common type of folliculitis caused by a staph infection
- Pseudomonas folliculitis (hot tub folliculitis)
Usually appears within 72 hours after exposure via a hot tub, water slide, etc.
- Tinea barbae
White, itchy bumps in the beard area of men
- Pseudofolliculitis barbae
Superficial folliculitis that also affects the beard area of men
- Pityrosporum folliculitis
Occurs when yeast invade the hair follicle and multiply, causing intense itching
- Herpetic folliculitis
Caused by scraping a cold sore during the shaving process
- Gram-negative folliculitis
Rarely seen, gram-negative folliculitis develops in people on long-term antibiotics for acne
- Eosinophilic folliculitis
A recurrent skin disorder that causes bumps and/or pimples; often seen in HIV patients
Based on the type and severity of the folliculitis, treatment may involve topical antibiotics, oral antibiotics, antifungal medicines, oral antivirals, steroids or a combination of these options.
Mild cases often resolve themselves without intervention. You can apply a warm compress to control discomfort and help the sores. Keep the affected area clean and dry. Your physician may also recommend not shaving until the folliculitis clears up.
Follow these tips to lessen the chances of developing folliculitis:
- Wear loose clothing that will not chafe
- Avoid public hot tubs
- Use care when shaving