Folliculitis is inflammation of the hair follicle. It can occur anywhere on the skin or scalp. There are many types of folliculitis.
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Folliculitis has many causes. It may be infectious or noninfectious.
The infectious type is caused by:
The non-infectious type may be caused by:
- Irritation from clothing
- Certain medicines
- Chemical exposure
- Sun exposure
- Missing nutrients in the diet
may also cause folliculitis.
Things that raise the risk of folliculitis are:
- Exposure to bacterial infection
- Overusing certain medicines, such as:
- Corticosteroids applied to the skin
- Having other skin conditions—especially those that itch
- Exposure to oils and chemicals
- Having a weak immune system
- Shaving against the direction of hair growth
- Using contaminated hot tubs, pools, or lakes
Symptoms of folliculitis may be:
- Itchy, red rash
- Crusty sores that do not heal
- Pus-filled blisters around the hair follicle
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. Diagnosis can usually be made by looking at the skin. Testing may be done to determine the type and cause.
Tests may include:
- Swab of an open area—to look for infections
- Smear—a sample of an open area to be examined under a microscope
- Biopsy—a sample of skin is taken for testing
- Blood tests
The goal is to treat the irritation and underlying cause. Options may be:
Folliculitis may be treated with medicines. They may be taken by mouth or applied to the skin.
- The infectious type may be treated with:
- Antibiotics—for bacterial infections
- Antifungal medicines—for fungal infections
- Antiviral medicines—for viral infections
- Antiparasitic medicines— for parasitic infections
- The non-infectious type may be treated with:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
To reduce the risk of folliculitis:
- Avoid chemicals, especially at work.
- Shave in the direction of hair growth.
- Use proper hygiene and handwashing.
- Clean pools and hot tubs regularly.
Folliculitis. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aocd.org/?page=Folliculitis. Accessed February 17, 2021.
Folliculitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/folliculitis Accessed February 17, 2021.
Hot tub rash (Pseudomonas dermatitis/folliculitis). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/rwi/rashes.html. Accessed February 17, 2021.
Veraldi S, Desimine C, et al. Can folliculitis be caused by Staphylococcus epidermidis? G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2019;154(2):212-214.
Last reviewed January 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Mary Beth Seymour, RN
Last Updated: 2/17/2021