Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicle. It can occur anywhere on your skin or scalp. There are many types of folliculitis.
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Folliculitis has many causes. It may be infectious or noninfectious.
Infectious folliculitis is caused by: BacteriaFungiVirusesParasites
Non-infectious folliculitis may be caused by: ShavingIrritation from clothingCertain medicationsChemical exposureSun exposureMissing nutrients in your diet
Contact dermatitis, poison ivy, acne, or rosacea may also cause folliculitis.
Factors that may increase your chance of folliculitis include: A suppressed immune systemExposure to bacterial infectionHaving other skin conditions, especially those that cause a lot of itchingShaving against the direction of hair growthUse of contaminated hot tubs, poorly maintained swimming pools, or contaminated lakesExposure to oils and chemicalsOveruse of medications applied to the skin
Folliculitis may cause: Itchy, red rashAppearance of crusty sores that don’t healPus-filled blisters around the hair follicle
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis may be made by looking at your skin. Testing will help your doctor determine the type and cause of the folliculitis. Other tests may be done to rule out specific skin or health conditions.
Tests may include: Culture—a swab of an open area to look for infectionsSmear—a sample an open area is smeared onto a glass slide to be looked at under a microscopeAnalysis of affected hairBiopsy of affected skinBlood tests
In most cases, folliculitis is treated with medication. The type of medication depends on the cause of the folliculitis. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment option for you.
Infectious folliculitis may be treated with: Topical or oral antibiotics for bacterial infectionsTopical or oral antifungal medications for fungal infectionsOral antiviral medications for viral infectionsTopical or oral antiparasitic medications for parasitic infections
Non-infectious folliculitis may be treated with: Topical corticosteroidsNon-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
To help reduce your chance of folliculitis: Be aware of, and avoid exposure to chemicals, especially at work.Avoid shaving against direction of hair growth.Use proper hygiene and handwashing techniques.Clean and maintain pools and hot tubs on a regular basis.
Folliculitis. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at:
http://www.aocd.org/?page=Folliculitis. Accessed September 25, 2014.
Hot tub rash (Pseudomonas
dermatitis/folliculitis). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/rwi/illnesses/hot-tub-rash.html. Updated April 15, 2014. Accessed September 25, 2014.
Luelmo-Aguilar J, Satandreu MS. Folliculitis: recognition and management. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2004;5(5):301-310.
Last reviewed September 2015 by James Cornell, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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