by Kimberly Allen, RN
Each one of the individual hairs on your body are rooted in a tiny, tiny pocket. These pockets are called follicles. Folliculitis occurs when you develop an infection in one or more follicles. Folliculitis is a benign condition that is very common. Folliculitis is more common in teens and young adults though it can affect all ages ranging from babies to the elderly. Because you have hair follicles all over your body folliculitis can develop anywhere there’s hair, however, the most common areas are your scalp, face, chest and back as well as your buttocks and legs.
Folliculitis is generally caused by bacteria, however, it can be caused by a fungus like yeast. The organism most frequently responsible for folliculitis is the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. If you have hair follicles that have been damaged your chances of developing folliculitis increases. Things that can damage your hair follicles include shaving and wearing tight fitting clothes that rub your skin. If your hair follicles become blocked by oils like machine and cooking oils or sweat even makeup your chances of developing folliculitis goes up. Folliculitis can also develop if you use a hot tub, swimming pool or a whirlpool that has not been treated appropriately with chlorine. People that use antibiotic or steroid creams for prolonged periods are also more prone to folliculitis. If you a cut or scrap or a surgical wound that has become infected the organism causing the infection can spread to any hair follicles in the area.
There are many types of folliculitis, some of the more common types include steroid folliculitis which results from long term use of systemic or topically applied steroids. Cutting oil folliculitis occurs in machinists that use insoluble cutting oils to decrease the friction between the machine and metal part. Staphylococcal folliculitis which is caused by the specie Staphylococcus aureus can be resistant to many of antibiotics commonly used today so a culture should be done to ensure the antibiotic used to treat it will be effective. Another common type of folliculitis is known as “hot tub” folliculitis or “jacuzzi” folliculitis. This type generally occurs from using hot tubs and whirlpools that are poorly maintained . Razor -burn folliculitis is caused by shaving and is usually seen on women’s legs as well as the faces and necks of men. People that shave extremely close can cause small hairs to become trapped beneath the surface of the skin which increase inflammation. Pseudofolliculitis barbae also known as an ingrown hair is common in the beard and neck area of men. If you have very curly or kinky hair the condition tends to be worse, because when you cut the hair either close to or just below the surface causes the hairs to penetrate the wall of the follicle as they twist and extend during growth.
The symptoms of folliculitis can vary depending on the type, however, in most cases they appear as small red pimples that have a hair in their center. Frequently there is pus in the pimples. These pimples can itch and/or burn and can drain blood or pus, or both for that matter when they break open. If you have been in a hot tub or jacuzzi that has not been appropriately treated you could develop symptoms in approximately 72 hours after being in the hot tub. Multiple tiny pimples will appear on your stomach as well as your arms and legs.
In most cases of folliculitis treatment is not necessary, they usually resolve on their own. However, if you have Staphylococcus folliculitis your doctor may recommend antibiotics either orally or topically. For men that develop folliculitis from shaving too close using an electric razor can help. However,if you use a razor it can help to massage you beard area with a moist warm cloth to lift the hair prior to shaving making them easier to cut. It’s also better to use a shaving gel instead of cream and always shave in the same direction as hair growth.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.