You may have folliculitis and not even know it. This common skin ailment is often misdiagnosed and therefore mistreated. Look at our guide to causes, treatments, and whether or not it is contagious.
Folliculitis is often mistaken for acne and then improperly treated. While acne occurs when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and oil, folliculitis occurs when the hair follicle becomes damaged and inflamed.
Both ailments can produce similar red, painful bumps that may become filled with white pus. It’s no wonder many try acne medications on their folliculitis and then wonder why they do not see any results.
Who can get folliculitis?
Folliculitis occurs when the hair follicle becomes damaged. This can happen in several ways. One of the most common follicle damage occurs during shaving. This is known as ‘pseudofolliculitis barbae’ or, more commonly, ‘razor burn.’
Why do hairs become ingrown?
Most people have experienced the painful red bumps that can appear after shaving. Most commonly referred to as ‘razor burn,’ these small bumps result from hair that has failed to grow properly and become stuck under the skin’s surface. This is called ‘ingrown hair’ and can lead to a skin follicle infection.
Ingrown hairs are common in curly hair because the curl can cause the hair to grow into the skin rather than out. Clogged hair follicles can also make it difficult for hair to grow out of the skin and forces hair to grow sideways. Shaving too close to the skin can also cause hairs to become ingrown.
Do you want smoother skin after shaving? Check out 11 Ways to Prevent Razor Burn
What triggers folliculitis?
Ingrown hairs aren’t the only way that shaving can cause folliculitis. Any cut in the skin can leave hair follicles susceptible to bacterial folliculitis. Itchy, red, pus-filled bumps characterize this type of folliculitis. This occurs when staph bacteria on the skin can cause infection through a break in the skin.
Hot Tub Folliculitis
While many types of folliculitis occur due to damage to the hair follicle, others spread by improper hygienic conditions such as ‘hot tub folliculitis or pseudomonas folliculitis.
This type of folliculitis occurs due to the pseudomonas bacteria, which live in hot tubs that lack regular maintenance. When exposure to this bacteria occurs, the body can produce a rash of small red round spots in the area where you wore the bathing suit about 24-48 hours after exposure.
Avoiding hot tubs and pools where the pH and chlorine levels are not optimum and showering immediately after a hot tub can help prevent this type of folliculitis.
If you find red bumps on your back, chest, or arms, you may have pityrosporum folliculitis. This type of folliculitis occurs when yeast bacteria get under your skin and into the hair follicle. This can easily mistake for acne and appear alongside acne as oily areas in the skin feed this type of bacteria.
Is Folliculitis Contagious?
While not all types of folliculitis are contagious, some can be. Infectious agents cause some forms of folliculitis and, therefore, can transmit through skin-to-skin contact. These agents can also transmit by sharing personal items such as razors, towels, and facecloths. Swimming in poorly maintained hot tubs, whirlpools, and heated pools can also spread folliculitis.
Is folliculitis contagious to others?
Some types of folliculitis can spread from one person to another, but not all folliculitis is contagious to others. Folliculitis, which occurs due to infectious agents, can apply by sharing personal stuff like razors, towels, or hot tubs. If you’re not careful, it can also spread from one part of the body to another.
How to Prevent Folliculitis
Folliculitis can be a by-product of our vanity. Shaving, wearing tight clothes, or using makeup can all cause this irritating and often embarrassing skin condition. Luckily, there are ways to help prevent these little red bumps from appearing and reappearing on your skin:
- Only use hot tubs and whirlpools with regular maintenance and have good chlorine and pH levels.
- Shower immediately after using a whirlpool, hot tub, or heated swimming pool
- Wear clothing in breathable material
- Wear cotton underwear
- Bathe and shower with a mild soap daily
- Shower after exercise and after using chemicals
- Avoid sharing towels, facecloths, or other personal items.
- Avoid putting oils on your skin which can trap bacteria in your pores
- Follow our tips for preventing razor burn
How to Treat Folliculitis
The method for treating folliculitis will depend on your follicular type. Luckily mild folliculitis will usually heal itself at home within two weeks. Some ways to encourage this healing can be:
- Avoid scratching any bumps
- Avoid shaving any bumps
- Apply a warm compress to the area to soothe the inflammation.
- Consider using a medicated shampoo if the affected area is on the scalp, around your beard, or in the hairline.
- Your folliculitis may require a prescription from your doctor. If your inflammation does not improve or worsens, contact your healthcare professional.
- In some extreme cases, laser hair removal is an option as it destroys the hair follicle.
When to Consult a doctor for folliculitis
Many skin conditions are hard to self-diagnose as they can all appear to have very similar symptoms. While making an appointment to see a dermatologist means lots of time, money, and suffering in silence, there is a better way.
Your Online Doctors give you access to a medical doctor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Download our free app to automatically connect to one of our doctors at the touch of a button.
Make taking care of your most prized possession-your health- easy by downloading our app today. Put the power of excellent healthcare in your own hands.