Last modified: May 20, 2019
Richard Honaker M.D.View Full Profile
Is there a miracle cure for clearer skin? Finding the right treatment for your folliculitis could mean the difference between chronic bumps and your dream complexion.
Up to 50 million Americans have it. According to the American Association of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin ailment, with approximately 85 percent of persons aged 12-24 experiencing some form of mild acne.
Acne is often mistaken for folliculitis. This is because both skin ailments produce red or flesh colored bumps which may or may not contain pus.
Folliculitis can be itchy or painful and can be found anywhere on the body that contains hair follicles. Acne’s causes, signs and symptoms are well known, but folliculitis is still a mystery to most people. We asked Dr. Honaker to share with us his insights on the causes, treatments and whether there is a cure for folliculitis.
What is Folliculitis?
Folliculitis is a common skin condition where the hair follicle (the small cavity that surrounds the roots of your hair) becomes inflamed; causing a red or flesh colored bump which may or may not be filled with pus. Hair follicle damage can cause this inflammation. Internal changes can cause folliculitis in some rare cases.
Internal factors cause Eosinophilic Folliculitis. It is often a sign of immune deficiency. This type of folliculitis can occur in those who have HIV, certain cancers or are organ donation recipients.
Many people may have folliculitis and not know it. Many everyday tasks can cause damage to our hair follicles and leave our bodies susceptible to infection. These can include:
- Wear tight clothing
- Touching or rubbing your skin frequently
Where does Folliculitis occur?
Folliculitis can occur almost anywhere on your body. This is because you have hair follicles almost everywhere on your body. Folliculitis is most commonly found on the:
- Upper arms
Recognizing the signs of Folliculitis
Another reason that it can be so hard to distinguish between folliculitis and acne is that the two conditions often occur simultaneously.
In fact, a study done on individuals suffering from acne showed that over 25 percent also suffered from Malassezia folliculitis, which is caused by a yeast infection.
Pseudofolliculitis barbae is one of the most common types of Folliculitis. Razor bumps or razor burn are common names for pseudofolliculitis barbae .
Ingrown hair causes this type of inflammation. Ingrown hairs are very common for men with dark or curly hair. If you regularly shave any area of your body, you have likely experienced this type of folliculitis.
Treatment of Folliculitis
Many cases of mild folliculitis can clear up on their own with little intervention. There is no cure for folliculitis, but there are many ways in which you can speed up the healing process:
- Apply a warm compress to the area
- Wash with a mild antibacterial cleanser daily
- Avoid shaving the infected area
- Apply an antibacterial cream such as Bacitracin or Neosporin to help clear the infection
- If shaving is necessary, do not go over an area more than once and change your razor blade daily
Not all types of folliculitis will respond to this treatment. Pityrosporum folliculitis is when naturally occurring yeast on the body becomes overgrown and infects the hair follicle. Treatments include using an anti-fungal shampoo or cream to clear up this infection. An oral antibiotic may also be required.
Prevention of Folliculitis
Folliculitis may affect a large number of the population. While there is no cure for folliculitis, prevention can be relatively simple. All it takes is a few changes in some simple routines to protect your skin.
Hot and damp skin is much more susceptible to hair follicle damage. Keeping the skin cool, clean and able to breathe can help protect hair follicles.
In fact, one of the best ways to treat this skin ailment is to learn how to properly prevent its return with proper skin care techniques:
- Wear breathable clothing
- Wear cotton underwear
- Shower immediately after a workout or any activity where you sweat
- Use properly maintained hot tubs, spas or heated pools
- Shower immediately after using a hot tub, spa or heated pool
- Do not share personal items such as razors, towels or face cloths
- Follow our guidelines for proper shaving methods
Is There a Cure for Folliculitis?
The type of folliculitis you have will determine the treatment method needed to alleviate the symptoms. While there is no universal cure, those suffering from specific types may be able to avoid the condition if they change their behavior and lifestyle.
For example, pseudofolliculitis barbae (razor burn) is caused by ingrown hairs. An effective ‘cure’ for this type of folliculitis is to either stop shaving the area, or to use a form of permanent hair removal, such as electrolysis or laser hair removal.
While this type of solution may work for a person willing to grow out their beard of remove hair along a small area, it is not a universal cure.
Soaking or swimming in properly maintained hot tubs, pools and spas can help prevent hot tub folliculitis.
Using a mild antibacterial cleanser and showering after sweating can help prevent folliculitis, but is not a guarantee that it will never return.
Do you Have Folliculitis?
The best way to know if you have folliculitis is to speak with a medical professional. Quality healthcare is available for everyone with Your Doctors Online. Our easy to use app gives you the advice of a doctor in the palm of your hand. Connecting with our healthcare professionals is easy and best of all, free.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.