Folliculitis is a common skin condition in which hair follicles become inflamed. It's usually caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. At first it may look like small red bumps or white-headed pimples around hair follicles â the tiny pockets from which each hair grows. The infection can spread and turn into nonhealing, crusty sores.
The condition isn't life-threatening, but it can be itchy, sore and embarrassing. Severe infections can cause permanent hair loss and scarring.
If you have a mild case, it'll likely clear in a few days with basic self-care measures. For more serious or recurring folliculitis, you may need to see a doctor for prescription medicine.
Certain types of folliculitis are known as hot tub rash, razor bumps and barber's itch.
Folliculitis signs and symptoms include:
Make an appointment with your doctor if your condition is widespread or the signs and symptoms don't go away after a few days. You may need an antibiotic or an antifungal medication to help control the condition.
The two main types of folliculitis are superficial and deep. The superficial type involves part of the follicle, and the deep type involves the entire follicle and is usually more severe.
Forms of superficial folliculitis include:
Forms of deep folliculitis include:
Folliculitis is most often caused by an infection of hair follicles with Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria. Folliculitis may also be caused by viruses, fungi and even an inflammation from ingrown hairs.
Follicles are densest on your scalp, and they occur everywhere on your body except your palms, soles, lips and mucous membranes.
Your doctor is likely to diagnose folliculitis by looking at your skin and reviewing your medical history. He or she may use a technique for microscopic examination of the skin (dermoscopy).
If initial treatments don't clear up your infection, your doctor may use a swab to take a sample of your infected skin or hair. This is sent to a laboratory to help determine what's causing the infection. Rarely, a skin biopsy may be done to rule out other conditions.
Possible complications of folliculitis include:
You can try to prevent folliculitis from coming back with these tips:
Mild cases of folliculitis often improve with home care. The following approaches may help relieve discomfort, speed healing and prevent an infection from spreading:
Anyone can develop folliculitis. But certain factors make you more susceptible to the condition, including: