What is Folliculitis
Folliculitis is a common skin problem that happens when you get bacteria or a blockage in a tiny pocket in your skin called a hair follicle. A follicle is a small hair cavity from which hair grows. Every single hair on the human body grows from its own follicle. Folliculitis is the name given to a group of skin conditions in which there are inflamed hair follicles. The result is a tender red spot, often with a surface pustule. You can have folliculitis on any part of your body that has hair, but it is most common in the beard area, back, arms, buttocks, and legs.
The condition isn’t life-threatening but it can be itchy, sore, and embarrassing. Severe infections can cause permanent hair loss and scarring.
Types of Folliculitis
Superficial forms include:
- Bacterial folliculitis. A common type of folliculitis is characterized by pus-filled pimples that itch. This type is usually caused by a staph infection, which normally lives on the skin but enters deeper tissues through a wound or other damage to the skin.
- Pseudofolliculitis barbae. Also known as barber’s itch, this type of folliculitis is caused by ingrown hairs. It affects up to 60 percent of black men and others with curly hair. It may also affect people in the genital area.
- Pseudomonas folliculitis. More commonly known as hot tub folliculitis, this is caused by a type of bacteria (pseudomonas) that is found in pools and hot tubs where the chlorine levels and pH balance are not adequately monitored. Symptoms usually appear within 72 hours of exposure and are most prevalent on the areas of the body covered by a swimsuit or on the back of the legs. Minor symptoms can resolve without treatment within 5 days.
- Pittosporum folliculitis. A yeast infection of the skin leads to chronic lesions that are red and itchy. It most commonly affects the face and upper body and is particularly prevalent in young adults and adult men.
Forms of Deep Folliculitis include:
- Sycosis barbae. A deeper form of barber’s itch can cause scarring and permanent hair loss.
- Boils. Staph bacteria deeply infect the follicle and lead to boils (furuncles) that are swollen and filled with pus. They continue to grow larger and become very painful until they rupture and drain. Clusters of boils (known as carbuncles) cause more severe symptoms than single boils. Scarring may result from large boils or carbuncles.
- Gram-negative folliculitis. People with acne who are on long-term antibiotic therapy may experience this deep form of folliculitis, as antibiotics affect the bacterial balance in the skin. The condition usually clears up once a person has finished their antibiotic treatment.
- Eosinophilic folliculitis. People with poorly controlled HIV, late-stage AIDS, or cancer are most likely to experience this form of folliculitis.