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Get To Know More About Folliculitis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Medically reviewed by Sue Kua, MD · Dermatology

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Oct 11, 2022

Get To Know More About Folliculitis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Nobody likes a breakout, both for the discomfort as well as the unsightly appearance. But each breakout has its root cause that you need to address and treat. This article brings focus on symptoms, causes, and treatment of folliculitis. 

What Is Folliculitis?

Folliculitis refers to a common skin condition that may occur to anyone of any age. It involves an inflamed or infected hair follicle (the root of the hair). At first, it may seem to look like acne because of the inflammation. But after some time, it becomes uncomfortable and itchy for the person to handle, unlike regular acne breakouts. 

Like any other skin condition, it is usually due to a bacterial or fungal infection. Different types of folliculitis can occur at different parts of the body where hair is present. This is in particular areas where rubbing and sweating often take place, such as the following:

  • Back of the neck 
  • Face
  • Arm and/or armpits
  • Breast and chest area
  • Upper back
  • Groin
  • Thighs
  • Buttocks
  • Scalp

Your doctor would examine the infection and review your medical history to be able to diagnose folliculitis. 

How Is Folliculitis Different from Boils and Carbuncles?

All three skin conditions — folliculitis, boils, and carbuncles — involve one or more hair follicles in the infection. They may look similar at first glance but they are different from one another.  

Among the three, folliculitis is deemed as the most superficial type of follicle inflammation. It can manifest itself on the neck, back, and even the face. Next to it are the boils in which they spread to the deeper layers of the skin, forming a small pus pocket. Some people refer to this as the furuncle. Meanwhile, the carbuncle is a collection of pus-filled infected hair follicles, which is a larger and deeper version of a boil. 


Some of the telltale signs and symptoms of folliculitis include:

  • Small red bumps or pus-filled bumps that form around hair follicles (resembling a pimple or a pustule)
  • Blisters with pus inside (which have the tendency to break open and crust over)
  • Itchy, irritated skin
  • Tender, painful skin
  • Large, swollen lump or mass

When you have folliculitis, you may have the tendency to scratch it. However, it would be best not to do so as you do not want to open them up. Opening it may worsen the infection, which can cause hair loss and scarring. 

What Causes Folliculitis?

Folliculitis can occur as a result of infection, occlusion (blockage), irritation, or a variety of skin diseases.

It is quite easy for your hair follicles to damage. Once it does, germs can easily enter and cause an infection which can, later on, develop into folliculitis. 

Infections may also be due to organisms affecting people’s skin. Some of which are:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Yeasts
  •  Fungi
  • Parasites

Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria which lives on people’s skin, is a common source of such infection.

You can also harm your hair follicles through the following habits or practices:

  • Frequent touching or rubbing of skin
  • Skin to skin contact (friction)
  • Wearing tight clothing 
  • Shaving, plucking, or waxing
  • Plunging in an improperly maintained hot tub
  • Pseudofolliculitis, or razor bumps on the beard area, are common in men who shave their beards.

    Weight gain and other medication intakes can also cause the appearance of this skin condition.

    How To Treat Folliculitis

    In a general sense, mild folliculitis can heal on its own within 2 weeks’ time. You may treat it at home by applying a warm compress to the affected area. Make sure to check for the right temperature because this can cause burn if it’s too hot. This may help with itching and healing. 

    Treatment for this hair follicle inflammation may vary from person to person depending on its type and severity. Other people may reach for topical treatments to fight and control the infections. Others may opt to reduce the inflammation using any of the following:

    • Creams (antibiotic ointments)
    • Pills (antibiotic tablets)
    • Shampoos

    If the inflammation worsens or does not go away, you should consult your doctor who can suggest other interventions. Some of the common types are laser hair removal and minor surgery. 

    Things To Watch Out For:

    • Progressing symptoms especially if you have been feeling feverish, experiencing chills
    • Body pain and increasing ache and redness

    If you experience these, contact your specialist right away.

    Key Takeaways

    You may prevent the occurrence of folliculitis by maintaining the cleanliness and dryness of your skin.
    If you suspect yourself to have this particular inflammation, seek medical advice on the best treatments to try. Keep in mind that treatment is determined by the cause and severity of the infection, whether it be bacterial or fungal.

    Learn more about Other Skin Diseases here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Sue Kua, MD


    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Oct 11, 2022

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