Folliculitis is the infection of hair follicles. Folliculitis can affect both women and men. It can also occur at any age. It can develop on any part of the body. But it is most likely to occur on the scalp, face, or parts of the arms, armpits, or legs which is not usually covered by clothing. Folliculitis usually appears as small, white-headed pimples around one or more hair follicles the tiny pockets from which each hair grows.
It is usually caused by bacteria, especially the type called staph (Staphylococcus). It can also be caused by yeast and another type of fungus. Folliculitis caused by a fungus is most often seen in people who have trouble fighting infections because they have an impaired immune system. Exposure of the skin to certain chemicals, especially oils and tars, can trigger an outbreak. People with depressed immune systems, diabetes, or obesity have a greater risk of contracting folliculitis than the general population.
Other ways hair follicles can be damaged are:
- Excess perspiration
- Use of plastic dressings or adhesive tape
- Exposure to coal tar, pitch or creosote
Folliculitis begins as a red, tender area at or near the base of one or more strands of hair. It turns into a small, raised area of skin that contains pus (pustule) and often itches or burns. When these pustules break open, they may drain pus and/or blood.
The appearance may vary from person to person but generally the symptoms include:
- a reddened rash.
- raised, red, often pus filled lesions around hair follicles (pimples).
- pimples will eventually crust over and occur in areas of a high concentration of hair follicles such as the face (especially in the area of men's beards and moustaches), under the arms, the scalp, and in the groin.
- itching at the site of the rash and pimples.
Sometimes folliculitis goes away on its own in two or three days, but persistent or recurring cases are likely to require treatment. The therapy your doctor recommends will depend on the type and severity of your infection.Treatment may not be needed, as the mild form of the disease usually clears on its own. Oral or topical anti-pruritics (anti-itch medications) may be used.
If you have folliculitis, avoid shaving the infected area. If you must shave, change the razor blade each time. Try using depilatory creams and lotions, which remove hair without shaving. These products are not recommended for use more often than once or twice a week.
Daily doses of 30-50 mg zinc and 1,000-5,000 mg Vitamin C (taken in equal amounts at several times during the day), and 300-2,000 mg bioflavinoids can also strengthen the body's infection-fighting ability.