Folliculitis is a common skin condition that can be both uncomfortable and unsightly. It occurs when hair follicles become inflamed and infected, leading to red bumps, irritation, and itching.
Fortunately, there are several ways to treat folliculitis and prevent it from recurring. In this article, we will discuss various treatment options for getting rid of folliculitis and provide tips for prevention.
Causes of Folliculitis
Folliculitis is typically caused by a bacterial or fungal infection of the hair follicles. In some cases, it can be caused by irritation from shaving, tight clothing, or other factors.
Certain activities can also increase the risk of developing folliculitis, such as sweating excessively or spending time in hot tubs or saunas.
The symptoms of folliculitis include red bumps that may resemble pimples or blisters. These bumps can be itchy and uncomfortable, and they may fill with pus or become crusted over.
Folliculitis can occur anywhere on the body where hair grows, but it is most commonly found on the face, neck, chest, back, arms, and legs.
Types of Folliculitis
There are many different types of folliculitis, each with its own unique causes and symptoms. Some of the most common types include:
- Staphylococcus aureus folliculitis: This is one of the most common types of folliculitis, caused by infection with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. It leads to small red or white pus-filled pimples on the skin.
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa (“hot tub”) folliculitis: This type of folliculitis is caused by a bacteria that thrives in heated, moving water, such as hot tubs and whirlpools.
- Malassezia folliculitis: This type of folliculitis is caused by a type of yeast that can normally be found on the skin. It typically occurs on the upper chest and back and is aggravated by sweat.
- Pseudofolliculitis barbae: Also known as “razor bumps,” this type of folliculitis occurs in the beard area and is caused by irritation from shaving.
- Sycosis barbae: This is a severe form of shaving-related folliculitis that can lead to scarring.
- Gram-negative folliculitis: This type of folliculitis can occur after prolonged antibiotic use to treat acne and can lead to a worsening of acne symptoms.
- Boils (furuncles) and carbuncles: These occur when the hair follicle becomes deeply infected and can be painful and leave scars.
- Eosinophilic folliculitis: This type of folliculitis is usually seen in patients who are immunosuppressed and is characterized by itchy pustules on the shoulders, upper arms, neck, and forehead.
- Acne keloidalis nuchae (keloidal folliculitis): This type of folliculitis occurs primarily in individuals with curly hair and is characterized by the development of firm, raised bumps or keloids on the back of the neck and scalp. It can cause scarring and hair loss if left untreated.
The treatment options for folliculitis depend on the type and severity of the condition. In most cases, mild cases of folliculitis can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications and self-care practices. More severe cases may require prescription medications or medical procedures.
For more severe cases of folliculitis, prescription medications may be necessary. These can include antibiotics, antifungal medications, and corticosteroids.
In some cases, a healthcare provider may need to drain the infected hair follicle to help it heal.
At Home Treatments
At-home treatments are a good first step for mild cases of folliculitis. If you catch it early, you may be able to treat it yourself before it gets worse. Some at-home treatments for folliculitis include:
Do a Soap Wash
If you have folliculitis on your scalp, you can try washing your hair and scalp with a mild soap, like baby shampoo. This can help remove excess oil and bacteria from the area, which can help reduce inflammation and prevent the condition from getting worse.
Wear Loose, Dry Clothing
If you have folliculitis on your body, wearing loose, dry clothing can help reduce friction and prevent bacteria from building up in the area. You can also try wearing breathable fabrics, like cotton, to help keep your skin dry and cool.
Use a Warm Compress
Applying a warm compress to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and soothe the skin. To do this, soak a clean washcloth in warm water and wring out the excess moisture. Then, apply the compress to the affected area for 10-15 minutes at a time, several times a day.
Try Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the skin and reduce redness and swelling. You can apply aloe vera gel directly to the affected area, or use a moisturizer or lotion that contains aloe vera.
Use Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acid is a topical treatment that has been found to be effective in treating folliculitis. In a recent study, researchers found that azelaic acid 15% foam could be used as an off-label treatment and maintenance therapy for patients with folliculitis of all body areas.
The study suggests that azelaic acid can be a useful addition to the at-home treatment options for mild cases of folliculitis.
Do a Hydrogen Peroxide Wash
Hydrogen peroxide has antibacterial properties that can help kill the bacteria that cause folliculitis. You can dilute hydrogen peroxide with water and use it to wash the affected area, or apply it directly to the affected area with a cotton ball.
Apply Antibiotic Creams
Antibiotic creams, like Neosporin, can help kill the bacteria that cause folliculitis and prevent the condition from getting worse. You can apply the cream directly to the affected area several times a day, as directed.
Use Anti-Itching Lotion
If you have an itchy rash as a result of folliculitis, you can try using an anti-itching lotion, like calamine lotion, to help soothe the skin and reduce itching.
Try Wet Wraps
If you have a large area of folliculitis, you can try using wet wraps to help soothe the skin and reduce inflammation. To do this, soak a clean cloth in warm water and wring out the excess moisture. Then, wrap the cloth around the affected area and cover it with a dry cloth or bandage. Leave the wrap on for 10-15 minutes at a time, several times a day.
If you have folliculitis in an area where you shave, like your face, legs, or bikini area, you may need to avoid shaving until the condition clears up. Shaving can irritate the skin and make folliculitis worse.
If you have folliculitis in an area where you wax, like your legs or bikini area, you may need to stop waxing until the condition clears up. Waxing can irritate the skin and make folliculitis worse.
Try Essential Oils
Essential oils, like tea tree oil, lavender oil, and peppermint oil, have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation and kill the bacteria that cause folliculitis. You can dilute the oil with a carrier oil, like coconut oil or jojoba oil, and apply it to the affected area several times a day, as directed.
Get Laser Hair Removal
While laser hair removal is generally a safe and effective treatment option for reducing the risk of folliculitis, there are some instances where it could actually cause folliculitis. This is because the treatment involves damaging the hair follicle, which can cause inflammation and infection in some cases.
It’s important to discuss your medical history and any preexisting skin conditions with a dermatologist before undergoing laser hair removal. Additionally, it’s crucial to choose a reputable and experienced provider to ensure that the treatment is performed safely and effectively.
While treating folliculitis is important, it’s equally important to take steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place. By adopting some simple lifestyle habits, you can reduce your risk of developing this condition.
- Practice Good Hygiene: Good hygiene is essential for preventing folliculitis. Make sure to shower daily and use soap and water to wash your skin thoroughly. This can help remove bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause folliculitis. Avoid using harsh soaps or scrubbing too hard, as this can irritate the skin and make it more susceptible to infections.
- Avoid Tight Clothing: Tight clothing can trap moisture against the skin, which can lead to the growth of bacteria and fungi. Wear loose, breathable clothing whenever possible, especially if you’re doing activities that make you sweat.
- Keep Skin Dry: Moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria, so it’s important to keep your skin dry. If you sweat a lot, change your clothes frequently and dry your skin thoroughly after showering or swimming.
- Avoid Sharing Personal Items: Folliculitis can be contagious, so it’s important to avoid sharing personal items like towels, razors, and clothing. Use your own personal items and keep them clean.
- Use Antiseptic Preparations: Using antiseptic preparations on your skin can help kill off bacteria and prevent infections. Look for antiseptic sprays or wipes that you can use on your skin after activities that make you sweat or when you’re in crowded public places.
When to See a Doctor
If you experience severe pain, spreading of the infection, signs of infection like redness, swelling, or pus, or recurring infections, it’s important to see a doctor. These symptoms could indicate a more serious infection that requires prescription medication, antibiotics, or further evaluation to determine the underlying cause of your folliculitis.
However, most cases of folliculitis can be treated at home with over-the-counter remedies like antiseptic preparations, antibiotic creams, and warm compresses. Practicing good hygiene, avoiding tight clothing, and keeping your skin dry can also help prevent folliculitis from occurring.
How do you get rid of folliculitis fast?
The fastest way to get rid of folliculitis is to use topical or oral antibiotics. If you have a severe or persistent infection, your doctor may prescribe a stronger antibiotic.
What triggers folliculitis?
Folliculitis can be triggered by a number of factors, including:
- Wearing tight clothing
- Sweating excessively
- Using hot tubs or pools that are not properly maintained
- Using irritating skin care products
- Having a weakened immune system
How long does it take for folliculitis to go away?
Most cases of folliculitis will go away on their own within a few days to a week. However, more severe or persistent cases may require medical treatment.
Folliculitis can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition, but there are many treatments and preventative measures you can take to manage it. By practicing good hygiene, avoiding tight clothing
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- Lin HS, Lin PT, Tsai YS, Wang SH, Chi CC. Interventions for bacterial folliculitis and boils (furuncles and carbuncles). Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021 Feb 26;2(2):CD013099. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD013099.pub2
- Winters RD, Mitchell M. Folliculitis. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547754/
- Draelos ZD. Examining 15% Azelaic Acid Foam for the Treatment of Folliculitis: A Pilot Study. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2020 Apr;13(4):36-38. Epub 2020 Apr 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7605388/
- Schuler A, Veenstra J, Tisack A. Folliculitis Induced by Laser Hair Removal: Proposed Mechanism and Treatment. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2020 May;13(5):34-36. Epub 2020 May 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7380697/