What is Folliculitis?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Folliculitis is a condition that involves an infection of the hair follicles. Essentially, the infection can be caused by an introduction of bacteria or fungus to the skin around the hair follicle. In most cases, the condition requires little to no attention, and will clear up in a short period of time. However, recurring infections could lead to scarring and the development of what is known as deep folliculitis.

Mild cases of folliculitis may be treated with soap and water.
Mild cases of folliculitis may be treated with soap and water.

In most cases, folliculitis will appear as a small pimple around the base of the hair follicle. The pimple will have a white head, as it is filled with pus. In very mild cases, the use of soap and water will cause the pimple to fade and the body’s immune system will overcome the slight infection in a matter of days. With superficial types of this condition, there will not be any type of permanent damage to the skin.

Men may experience mild folliculitis in the beard area.
Men may experience mild folliculitis in the beard area.

Deep folliculitis is another matter. Along with the infection of the follicles that can be seen from the surface, there is also infection around the root of the follicle as well. The deeper inflammation often is accompanied by some degree of pain, and will cause the sufferer to want to scratch the infected area.

Scalp folliculitis can cause hair loss.
Scalp folliculitis can cause hair loss.

When folliculitis reaches this deeper stage, treatments other than simple hygiene become necessary. The first round of treatments may involve a topical cream or ointment containing agents designed to kill the bacteria or fungi present at the site of the inflammation. More severe cases may require the use of oral antibiotics that circulate through the bloodstream and attack the condition from inside the body.

An untreated scalp fungus may produce unsightly flakes.
An untreated scalp fungus may produce unsightly flakes.

In the worst cases, laser treatments may be necessary to stop the infection from spreading. The laser treatments will effectively kill the follicle and root, while at the same time killing the bacteria and helping to minimize the chances of any further scarring. Generally, new hair follicles will not grow in the treated area, making the hair loss permanent.

While the condition can appear anywhere on the body where hair follicles are present, men and women seem to experience the condition on the scalp more often than the legs or arms. In addition, men tend to experience mild folliculitis in the beard area of the face.

Laser treatments may be used to combat folliculitus, but may cause permanent hair loss.
Laser treatments may be used to combat folliculitus, but may cause permanent hair loss.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

donasmrs

@turquoise-- There are different types of folliculitis but most are staph folliculitis. We normally carry staph bacteria on our skin and if the hair follicles are damaged, the bacteria can get in and cause an infection.

bluedolphin

@turquoise-- I don't think that folliculitis and acne are the same. Technically, an infected follicle is a boil, not a pimple.

However, I do know that people who have acne and who use acne treatments are prone to folliculitis.

My sister used antibiotics for a long time to treat acne. Soon after she developed folliculitis. Her doctor said that sometimes this happens after acne treatments.

turquoise

What percentage of pimples are usually folliculitis? Can we say that all pimples are caused by follicle infection?

I have a condition called keratosis pilaris where my skin produces too much keratin. The keratin basically limits natural exfoliation and causes dead skin cells to build up around my hair follicles.

I experience a lot of pimples and I'm suspecting that the underlying cause is folliculitis due to keratosis pilaris.

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