Folliculitis – Symptoms, Cause and Treatment


Hair follicles are present everywhere in your body except the palms, lips, mucous membranes, and soles of  feet . Blockage to these follicles by bacteria can result in red swollen boils on the scalp or white-headed pimples, eventually turning into non-healing itchy sores.

What is folliculitis?

Folliculitis, a relatively common skin disorder, is caused by fungal  or bacterial infection of the hair follicles. It results in the inflammation of the hair follicles on your skin. This skin problem is commonly observed around the thighs, armpits, buttocks, and the neck. For mild cases, the condition is likely to get cured within a few days, but you may need medical attention for severe conditions.

Different types of folliculitis have other common names that includehot tub rash, barber’s itch, shaving rash, and razor bumps.


The Staphylococcus aureus bacterium  is  a common cause for  hair follicle infection. Your scalp contains the most number of follicles, and hence folliculitis on the scalp is very common.

The main symptom include a papule or pustule with a central hair. papule is a small red bump with usually less than 5 millimeters (about 1/5 of an inch) in diameter. Papules do not have yellow or white center of pus and, when papule does accumulate pus, it becomes a pustule

Other commonly observed symptoms include –

  • Itchy and burning skin
  • Painful and tender skin

You are more likely to develop these symptoms if you have damaged follicles due to skin injuries, tight clothing and sticky bandages.


The complications vary based on type of folliculitis you have and the severity of such infection. The possible complications include –

  • Boils on the scalp
  • Boils under the skin are referred to as ‘furunculosis’
  • Permanent damage to the skin such as dark spots or scarring
  • Permanent hair loss or damage to the hair follicles
  • Spreading or recurring infection

Risk Factors

While anyone may develop folliculitis, certain factors may contribute to such a skin condition. This includes –

  • Causing damage to hair follicles through waxing or shaving
  • Men who have curly hair and shave may be more prone to this condition
  • Wearing tight-fitting clothes that trap sweat and heat including high boots and rubber gloves
  • Having dermatitis or acne
  • Taking medications like long-term antibiotic therapy for acne, and steroid creams
  • Suffering from a medical ailment reduces the body’s immunity to fight infection, like chronic leukemia, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes

Add title5 Ways You Can Deal With and Get Rid of Folliculitis

Hair follicles are present everywhere in your body except the palms, lips, mucous membranes, and soles of  feet . Blockage to these follicles by bacteria can result in red swollen boils on the scalp or white-headed pimples, eventually turning into non-healing itchy sores.


Mild folliculitis on the scalp may not need any medical intervention and can be cured using simple at-home remedies. This includes –

Cleaning  the infected area

Apply warm and moist washcloths to the infected area or wash the area with antibacterial soap and warm water. Make sure to clean the cloth every time you use it.

Mix one tablespoon of table salt with two cups of water. Moisten a cloth with the solution and apply it to your skin. You can also substitute the water with white vinegar. 

Stop shaving

Most cases of hair follicle infection get cured within a few weeks. So, stop shaving and protect your skin until the infection gets cured.

Use creams, gels, and washes

You can use over-the-counter medicines to use on your skin, such as creams, washes, and gels. If the infection cannot be cured using home remedies, you may need to consult a professional healthcare practitioner for treatment. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as –

Prescription creams, shampoos, or pills

For recurrent or severe folliculitis, the doctor may prescribe you to use antibiotic cream, gel, lotion, or even oral antibiotics. The doctor may prescribe antifungals for fungal infections.

Your doctor will prescribe a steroid cream for eosinophilic folliculitis to stop the itching. If you are suffering from HIV/AIDS, the folliculitis symptoms will improve after antiretroviral therapy.

Minor Surgery / Laser Removal treatment

If you get a carbuncle or a sizable boil, the doctor may drain the pus by making an incision to relieve pain and then use sterile gauze to protect the area from infection.

If all other treatments are unsuccessful, undergoing laser therapy for long-term hair removal may cure the infection. However, this method is costly and requires multiple sittings to permanently remove the hair follicles.


You can take certain preventive measures to minimize your chances of getting folliculitis.

  • Avoid wearing tight clothing to reduce the friction between your skin and the cloth.
  • If you wear rubber gloves daily, after each use, wash it with soap and water by turning them inside out and drying thoroughly.
  • If you have razor bumps, grow your beard and avoid shaving as much as possible.
  • Limit the use of greasy skin products and skin oils as they can trap bacteria and cause blockages.
  • If you are required to shave frequently, follow proper hygiene measures to minimize damaging your skin follicles.
  • Consider using hair removal products or other hair removal methods only after medical consultation.
  • Use only clean heated pools and hot tubs. If you own one, add chlorine as recommended.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):

How long does folliculitis take to go away?

Mild folliculitis usually takes about two weeks to heal on its own. However, if you are on antibiotics for your infection, it may be cured within 2 to 3 days.

How do you know if folliculitis is bacterial or fungal?

Your doctor may diagnose folliculitis by looking at your skin and reviewing your past medical condition. He or she may use a dermoscopy for medical examination of the skin or advice for a swab test of your infected hair or skin. The laboratory test will help to determine if the folliculitis is bacterial or fungal.

Should I pop folliculitis bumps?

It is advised not to poke, squeeze, or cut the sores on your own to spread the infection. Also, refrain from scratching the affected area as it can delay the healing process.

Which virus causes folliculitis?

The herpes simplex virus is responsible for the development of folliculitis. The infection tends to get cured within ten days without any treatment. However, in case of severe recurring attacks, acyclovir and other antiviral agents may be administered.