What is Scalp Folliculitis?

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  • Written By: F. Hay
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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Scalp folliculitis is a condition caused when hair follicles on the scalp become inflamed or infected and form pimple-type pustules. These pustules are often very itchy and can become sore and crusted areas on the scalp. In the case of an intense flare-up, the pustules can leave scars on the scalp or result in hair loss if left untreated. Scalp folliculitis is sometimes referred to as “scalp acne” because it can mimic skin acne. Follicle inflammations and infections afflict both men and women.

There are an array of causes of scalp folliculitis. Bacterial or fungal infections, burrowing mites, or parasites at the root of the hair follicles can lead to follicle infection and inflammation. Certain skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, an excessively oily scalp, or being prone to ingrown hairs might bring on a follicle inflammation. Overexposure to a spa, pool, or a very humid climate can cause active flare-ups. People with medical conditions including diabetes, a compromised immune system, or those undergoing cancer treatments have been found to be more susceptible to scalp folliculitis.


Due to the intense itching and scratching which can occur, folliculitis is considered highly contagious. To help diminish the spreading of this affliction, great care should be taken in keeping hands properly sanitized. To avoid spreading or reinfecting yourself, always us a clean towel after each shampoo. Brushes and combs should never be shared with another individual. At least once weekly, combs and brushes should be soaked in soapy water and then allowed to dry naturally.

Mild cases of scalp folliculitis can generally be managed by using a gentle shampoo. Those with excessively oily scalps should select a shampoo containing zinc because this ingredient has been found to control sebum production and thereby reduce oil secretion on the scalp. Shampoos containing ketoconazole and ciclopirox, which are anti-fungal agents, might also help to control an outbreak if the follicle infection is bacterial or fungal. Severe or chronic scalp folliculitis might require the application of topical antibiotic creams or ointments or mild steroid creams. If the follicle inflammation is caused by an infection which is bacterial, fungal, or yeast in origin, more aggressive treatment including oral antibiotics or oral antihistamine drugs might be prescribed by a physician.

The severity and duration of a scalp infection or inflammation will determine whether to seek medical treatment. If the condition does not clear up in a reasonable amount of time using shampoos containing zinc or antifungal ingredients, or becomes markedly worse, it is imperative that a physician be consulted. Infections caused by bacteria or mites should be treated by a physician who can prescribe oral antibiotics. Scarring might result if a severe case of scalp folliculitis is left untreated. In order to prevent possible scarring or even hair loss, treatment should begin at the first sign of an outbreak of scalp folliculitis.


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Post 1

I had scalp inflammation for several years. Nothing really helped. Then I got an ear infection from swimming. My doctor prescribed 875 mg amoxicillin twice per day to kill the ear infection. It also completely resolved my scalp problem. So for me it was bacterial. This is a safe and easy fix to try. It will either work or not.

About 40 days later I noticed it coming back. Now I use Jason's tea tree shampoo (Walgreens) and occasionally mix tea tree oil (Walmart) in some regular shampoo and it is keeping it under control.

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