Folliculitis is a skin condition caused by inflamed or infected hair follicles. It can occur at any age but is more common in adults. Folliculitis can cause small, painful spots or pustules to form where the hair grows out of the skin. It can affect anywhere that hair grows, but is most common on the face, scalp, thighs, underarms and groin. Many hair follicles in one area may be affected. Most cases of folliculitis are not serious and may go away on their own. Deeper forms may result in scarring or permanent hair loss if the follicle is damaged, but that is rare.
Image: Folliculitis. Scattered follicular-based erythematous papules and pustules. Color Atlas & Synopsis of Pediatric Dermatology Kay Shou-Mei Kane, Jen Bissonette Ryder, Richard Allen Johnson, Howard P. Baden, Alexander Stratigos Copyright 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved.
Viral or fungal infection - such as yeasts or herpes viruses
Mite infection - caused by parasites that live in hair follicles
A weak immune system - for example, people with HIV are more susceptible
Steroid creams - may sometimes trigger a bout of folliculitis
Hirsutism - folliculitis may be a complication of excess hair growth in women
Other types of folliculitis include:
Sycosis barbae - long-term folliculitis usually seen in the beard area and upper lip in men. Skin can become crusty and painful to shave
Gram-negative folliculitis - causes many, small spots and pustules on the cheeks, chin and around the nose. It is often seen in people with acne who have been treated with long-term oral antibiotics
Fungal folliculitis - sometimes called “barber’s itch”. It is caused by a dermatophytic infection in the beard area of men. It is common among farmers and other agricultural workers
Pseudo-folliculitis - this may look similar to folliculitis, but isn’t true folliculitis. It is caused by ingrowing hairs and can sometimes cause scarring. The condition is more common in the African-Caribbean community
Folliculitis decalvens - a rare chronic condition of the scalp. Inflammation may be long-term and lead to scarring.
Folliculitis self-help treatment
Mild cases of folliculitis may go away on their own or you can try a number of self-help options such as:
Clean the area gently with antiseptic products
Don’t shave, wax or pluck the area until symptoms have cleared
Take a daily bath or shower and change towels, bedding and clothes often
Don’t scratch the affected area, and wash hands thoroughly after contact
Avoid friction from tight clothing and stay cool to avoid sweating
Medication for folliculitis
Your GP will recommend medication depending on the type of follulitis. This may include:
Topical steroids may be used when chronic inflammation has developed.
Image: Folliculitis. Scattered follicular-based erythematous papules and pustules.
Color Atlas & Synopsis of Pediatric Dermatology
Kay Shou-Mei Kane, Jen Bissonette Ryder, Richard Allen Johnson, Howard P. Baden, Alexander Stratigos
Copyright 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved.
NHS Choices: Itching - causes
NHS Choices: Hirsutism - complications
Medscape: Folliculitis Clinical Presentation
BMJ: Folliculitis: Summary
BMJ: Folliculitis: Step by step diagnostic approach
The British Association of Dermatologists: Folliculitis declavens
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