Is Folliculitis a STD?

Is Folliculitis a STD?


Got razor bumps? We look closer at whether the itchy red bumps in your bikini area could be an STD

The unexpected pop up of red, itchy bumps are an unwelcome sight on any part of your body. But the appearance of these pesky skin protrusions in certain private areas can leave you wondering if your latest sexual encounter may have left you with a nasty parting gift.

Could you have an STD or is the answer much more innocent?

We asked one of our resident experts, Dr. Honaker to give us the insider information on folliculitis.  To finally clear up this burning question once and for all.  

What is folliculitis?

If you have ever shaved your face, body or head then you have likely experienced a bout of folliculitis. Those painful red bumps that often show up after a particularly close shave are typically called razor burn, but they are actually a type of folliculitis called pseudofolliculitis barbae.

Folliculitis is the inflammation of your hair follicles. This inflammation may be secondary to infection.  This is usually caused when the hair follicle becomes damaged and is then susceptible to infection from bacteria, fungi and viruses.

In addition to a close shave, hair follicles can be damaged by restrictive clothing, friction, wearing tight hair styles and scratching the scalp. This type of activity leaves your skin vulnerable and can increase your chances of those little red or flesh colored bumps making an appearance.

Who is at Risk?

Sadly folliculitis can affect almost anyone at any time. There are even rarer types of folliculitis that can affect babies. This type is called eosinophilic folliculitis and unlike more common types of folliculitis, it is not caused by external damage but rather internal changes to the body. This type is often associated with persons with compromised immune systems due to HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and some cancers.

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While folliculitis can strike just about anyone, there are some factors that can put you at a higher risk:

  • Having dark or coarse, curly hair
  • Having acne or dermatitis
  • Regularly soaking in hot tubs, spas or heated pools that are not well maintained
  • Using improper shaving techniques
  • Being on long-term antibiotic care for acne

Hot Tub Folliculitis

Hot tub folliculitis is a skin condition where a bacteria which thrives in warm wet conditions infects the lower part of the hair follicle. This type of bacteria can survive in chlorinated water and while it prefers wooden tubs, can be present in almost any body of warm water that is not properly treated.

This type of folliculitis causes small red pinprick type bumps, often residing on the skin that was covered by your bathing suit (where bacteria can get trapped.)

Learn more about hot tub folliculitis

How is Folliculitis Transmitted?

While folliculitis is not contagious, the infectious agent that caused the folliculitis may be transmitted. In simple terms, if you acquired folliculitis through a virus, bacteria or fungus, you may be able to transfer that to another body.

If you have folliculitis it is important not to share:

  • Razors
  • Towels
  • Face cloths

It is also important to wash these items between each use as to not reinfect yourself. The infectious agent can also be transmitted through close skin to skin contact. While this is not limited to sexual contact, is does not exclude it. While most folliculitis is around the genital area is caused by ingrown hairs, this does not always include folliculitis found on the buttocks.

Is it Folliculitis or Herpes?

While any bumps popping up in your genital or anal area will likely get your heart pumping, there is a chance that your condition is not an STD, but rather a case of inflamed hair follicles.

Herpes and folliculitis can be similar in appearance and easily confused.

What is Herpes?

Herpes is a common STD that is transmitted through direct sexual contract of an infected person. It is more common among women and many infected people are unaware they are carriers of the virus as it is known as the ‘silent disease’ because of its lack of signs and symptoms.

Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). There are two different strains of this virus. 

HSV 1– This type of virus affects the lips and eats away at the lip tissue. It usually begins with a tingling sensation and then develops into painful blisters and sores around the mouth.

HSV 2-This type of virus affects the reproductive area and forms single or groups of blisters filled with fluid that once erupted, are highly contagious. Exposure to this virus may also cause oral herpes.

While both folliculitis and herpes can cause fluid filled bumps, there are ways to tell the two conditions apart.

SymptomHerpes (HSV 2)Folliculitis
appearanceBlisters filled with fluidPimples filled with pus
Where is it located? In the genital areaAll over the body
How does it feel? PainfulMore likely to be itchy
DischargeClear or yellow fluidPus
Scarring? Not usually Often leaves scars

A Better Way to Know for Sure

While tackling your skin ailment may feel embarrassing, there is an easy way to do it right now. You don’t need to make an appointment to see one of our doctors. In fact, at Your Doctors Online you can connect with one of our medical doctors simply by downloading our app.

There is no need to make an appointment and sweat it out in the waiting room. Get your skin queries answered as pain-free as possible and connect with one of our knowledgeable MDs.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to banish that itch and address those bumps. Get the power of better health care in the palm of your hands with Your Doctors Online. Try us for free today.

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FAQs About Folliculitis Answered by Your Doctors Online

Can folliculitis be transmitted sexually?

Folliculitis isn‘t a sexually transmitted infection. Although in some cases, it may be transferred via close skin contact.

Can you have sex with folliculitis?

Folliculitis is usually not contagious. Folliculitis occurs when hair follicles are damaged. The irritated hair follicles result in an infection. The infection can be caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (staph).

What STD looks like folliculitis?

Folliculitis can sometimes be confused with herpes. The red bumps/pimple can appear as clusters that are sometimes pus-filled and painful.

Can syphilis cause folliculitis?

There have been unusual presentations of papular rash that classify as cases of syphilitic folliculitis.

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