What is Sycosis?

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  • Written By: Archana Khambekar
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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Sycosis is an inflammation of the hair follicles. The condition often affects the mustache and beard growth areas, although sometimes sycosis may manifest around the scalp. The symptoms include an occurrence of skin eruptions and bumps filled with pus. The disorder is more prevalent in men, and is usually treated with antibiotics.

Typically, sycosis starts off with skin eruptions, small and reddish in color, that appear around the hair follicles. Men may also experience irritation in the affected region. The condition usually progresses gradually, and the eruptions may look as if they are grouped together. Pustules, which are basically pus-filled pimples, may develop, and the area may become encrusted.

The condition can cause weakening of the hair follicles. The duration of flare-up varies, and the problem may show up again after some months. A severe form of sycosis may cause scarring, and considerable damage to the follicles that can result in hair loss.

Sycosis barbae, or barber's itch as it is commonly referred to, is usually seen on the upper lip, the chin and around the jaw. It is typically caused by the staphylococcus bacteria. The infection could originate from the bacteria residing inside a person’s nose, or from an unhygienic shaving device. Often, the bacteria that trigger inflammation at the hair follicles are spread through shaving.


Some people with curly hair have a tendency to develop redness and eruptions in the beard area. Although the symptoms appear similar to those seen in sycosis barbae, the inflammation could be due to ingrown hair. This typically happens when hair in the shaved part regrows inwards into the skin and causes irritation. Preventive measures suggested for this problem include shaving in the direction of beard growth and not shaving very close to the skin.

Generally, a doctor can diagnose sycosis from the distribution, location, and the type of skin eruptions, and the extent of inflammation. The most frequently prescribed treatment is the topical application of an antibiotic cream that works on bacterial skin conditions. In addition, a course of oral antibiotics may be prescribed. In some cases, a cortisone preparation may be recommended. Warm salt water compresses may be used to help relieve pus-filled eruptions.

People with this condition are advised to avoid further irritation to the inflamed areas of the skin. Several precautions can help prevent recurrence. These include keeping one’s shaving devices thoroughly clean and germ-free, and washing the shaved area properly.


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Post 5

My husband works with a demolition crew, and he often gets flare-ups of sycosis. I have heard that it is common in people who work in dirty or dusty areas, like miners and construction workers. It also doesn’t help that my husband has a naturally oily complexion.

Though his dermatologist recommended he get out of the dusty environment that agitates his sycosis, he does not want to change jobs. So, the doctor recommended that he always shave in one direction, avoid strong soaps, use only sharp razor blades, and don’t shave too close to the skin.

To treat his existing sycosis, the dermatologist gave him a topical antibiotic ointment. It is the generic form of Neosporin. He has to apply it three times a day when his face is clean, so he applies it in the morning before he goes to work, after his shower when he gets home, and once more before bed.

Post 4

@StarJo - I feel your pain. I, too, am a woman inflicted with stray coarse facial hairs, and I, too, pluck them out.

I find what works best for me is applying alcohol to the area I tweeze after I pluck out the hairs. This usually will keep sycosis from developing, but if it does, I have a couple of remedies.

If the bump is just red without a head of pus, I will apply hydrocortisone to the area. It seems to make the swelling and redness go down.

If the bump has come to a head, I will pop it and get the pus out. Then, I apply Neosporin, which helps the open wound I just made heal quickly.

Post 3

I am glad that sycosis can cause the hair to stop growing, personally. This is because I often find long, coarse hairs growing along my jawline, and I pluck them out with tweezers.

Being a woman, stray hairs like these can be embarrassing in intimate situations. That's why I always try to eliminate all of them as soon as I feel them or see them.

However, I often develop sycosis after I pull these hairs out. Before reading this, I thought tweezing was causing pimples, but now I know what it really is. Hopefully, the hairs will stop growing back.

Post 2

If you suspect you have a case of sycosis how long does it take for it to be treated?

I have noticed some bumps around my scalp, which almost appear to be acne, but it has spread down onto the beard area as well. I haven't had acne since I was a teenager so I am not sure if this is a possible breakout or something more serious.

Right now I am taking care to clean my face carefully and am using fresh razor blades every time I shave.

Do you think that if it doesn't go away after a week I should head to the doctor? I really don't know where I could have gotten sycosis.

Post 1

Fear of things like sycosis is a good reason to make sure that your shaving tools are clean and well looked after. If you go for a professional shave, this is doubly true, as their tools are used on so many people that the need to be properly cared for.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure you use a fresh blade after every three to four shaves, and if you drop your razor it is a good idea to throw the blade out and get a new one. Bathrooms have all sorts of nasty germs hanging out and you don't want to risk picking up anything off the floor.

If you are not sure about your barber, the blade, if reusable, should be kept in a special solution that acts as a disinfectant.

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