What Is Folliculitis?

folliculitis on skin

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  • Folliculitis refers to the infection of hair follicles in a specific area of the body. This is characterized by individual or numerous inflamed bumps, which may have the same appearance as acne
  • Folliculitis is commonly seen in areas that are often shaved or waxed, including men’s cheeks and women’s legs. They may also develop in the vulva, groin and buttocks

Folliculitis refers to the infection of hair follicles in a specific area of the body. This is characterized by individual or numerous inflamed bumps, which may have the same appearance as acne. Folliculitis is more common in men with curly hair, but can also affect women with coarse hair.1 The bumps usually develop one to two days after coming into contact with the bacteria or virus that causes the initial inflammation.

What Does Folliculitis Look Like?

Folliculitis may look different, depending on the severity of the symptoms or the kind of infection. In some cases, folliculitis may look like a rash, boil or a clump of acne in a certain area of the body.2 Individually, folliculitis pustules look like small red bumps on the skin. These pustules are surrounded by red or pinkish skin, with some pustules having a white head where the opening of the hair follicle is.

Because of the proximity of infected follicles to other follicles, there is a high chance that the infection may spread. This usually causes a sizeable patch of skin to become red and inflamed.  In some cases, the widespread infection can develop into more severe cases, two of which are:3

Furuncles. Better known as a boil, a furuncle is the infection of both the hair follicle and the sebaceous gland. It may start small, with a diameter not exceeding 1 inch, and slowly increase in size. In most cases, furuncles usually heal on their own after a few days.4

Carbuncles. If the infection is not addressed, there is a chance that other hair follicles might become infected as well, forming a carbuncle. A carbuncle usually spreads to the deeper parts of the skin, penetrating the subcutaneous layer. Carbuncles look the same as furuncles, but have one or more heads.

In some cases, carbuncles may drain on their own and heal in a day, but there are instances where the carbuncle is so deep-rooted that it requires surgical drainage.5

If you're currently afflicted with folliculitis, you should take extra care when it comes to dealing with the infection. Maintaining good hygiene may significantly lower your risk of making the condition worse.

Where Do Folliculitis Bumps Usually Develop?

Folliculitis can develop in any area of the skin where hair grows. This means that you can develop folliculitis on any part of your body, except for the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. Folliculitis is commonly seen in areas that are often shaved or waxed, including men's cheeks and women's legs. They may also develop on the vulva, groin and buttocks.

There are rare cases where folliculitis bumps may develop inside the ear canal or the nasal cavity. Ear canal folliculitis is one of the leading causes of ear pain in adults, and is often caused by poor hygiene and bacterial and dead skin buildup inside the ears.6 Nasal folliculitis, on the other hand, is caused by an abundance of staphylococcus bacteria inside the nasal canal. These bacteria can then push their way into the hair follicles inside the nose, causing an infection.7

MORE ABOUT FOLLICULITIS

Folliculitis: Introduction

What Is Folliculitis?

Folliculitis Symptoms

Folliculitis Causes

Folliculitis Types

Folliculitis Treatment

Folliculitis Prevention

Folliculitis Diet

Folliculitis FAQ

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