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What is Folliculitis?

Infant scalp with folliculitis

Folliculitis is a common problem that occurs most frequently on the scalp, but may occur on the legs, buttocks, or other body areas. Basically, it is an inflammation in and around hair follicles.

What are the causes of Folliculitis?

  • Bacterial infections with staph, occasionally with pseudomonas (usually from hot tubs and swimming pools) and/or other germs.
  • Ingrown hairs, tweezing, waxing, and shaving.
  • Medications containing cortisone or iodides. Some health foods, such as kelp (seaweed), and some vitamins contain large amounts of iodides.
  • Exposure to oils, greases, tar, heavy ointments, or other irritants can cause a chemical folliculitis.
  • Rubbing, chronic (long-term) irritation, and friction can produce a mechanical folliculitis. This often occurs at waistbands or at sites covered by athletic gear.

Sometimes we cannot determine the cause of folliculitis. Folliculitis is often a chronic or recurring problem and can be difficult to treat. 

How is Folliculitis treated?

  • Bacterial cultures and treatment with antibiotics may be required. Your doctor will decide if you need this.
  • Avoid friction, rubbing, and scratching.
  • Wash your hands often to prevent spread to new sites.
  • Medicated shampoos may be of some help. Your doctor may recommend one.
  • Topical antibiotics (applied to skin) may help some patients.