Folliculitis is the infection and inflammation of one or more hair follicles. The condition may occur anywhere on the skin except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The rash may appear as pimples that come to white tips on the face, chest, back, arms, legs, buttocks, or head.

Folliculitis, single lesion

Signs and symptoms

  • rash (reddened skin area)
  • itching skin
  • pimples or pustules located around a hair or follicle; may be confused with chicken pox
  • spreading from leg to arm to body through improper treatment with antibiotics


Most carbuncles, boils, and other cases of folliculitis develop from Staphylococcus aureus.

Folliculitis starts with the introduction of a skin pathogen to a hair follicle. Hair follicles can also be damaged by friction from clothing, an insect bite,[1] blockage of the follicle, shaving, or braids that are too tight and too close to the scalp. The damaged follicles are then infected by Staphylococcus. Folliculitis can affect people of all ages.

Iron deficiency anemia is sometimes associated with chronic cases.


  • Staphylococcus aureus folliculitis.
  • Hot-tub folliculitis is caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa.[2] The folliculitis usually occurs after sitting in a hot tub that was not properly cleaned before use. Symptoms are found around the body parts that sit in the hot tub: the legs, hips, chest, buttocks, and surrounding areas. Symptoms are amplified around regions that were covered by wet clothing, such as bathing suits.
  • Sycosis vulgaris, Sycosis barbae or Barber's itch is a staphylococcus infection of the hair follicles in the bearded area of the face, usually the upper lip. Shaving aggravates the condition.
  • Gram-negative folliculitis may appear after prolonged acne treatment with antibiotics.[3]



  • Herpetic folliculitis may occur when herpes simplex virus infection spreads to nearby hair follicles - mostly around the mouth.


  • Pseudofolliculitis barbae is a disorder occurring when hair curves back into the skin and causes inflammation.
  • Eosinophilic folliculitis may appear in persons with impaired immune systems.
  • Folliculitis decalvans or tufted folliculitis usually affects the scalp. Several hairs arise from the same hair follicle. Scarring and permanent hair loss may follow. The cause is unknown.
  • Reaction to Demodex mite infestation may occasionally be misdiagnosed as folliculitis.
  • Folliculitis keloidalis scarring on the nape of the neck. Most common among males with curly hair.
  • Oil folliculitis is inflammation of hair follicles due to exposure to various oils and typically occurs on forearms or thighs. It is common in refinery workers, road workers, mechanics, and sheep shearers. Even makeup may cause it.
  • Malignancy may also be represented by recalcitrant cases.[4]


  1. Topical antiseptic treatment is adequate for most cases
  2. Topical antibiotics, such as mupirocin or Neomycin/polymyxin B/bacitracin ointment may be prescribed. Oral antibiotics may also be used.
  3. Some patients may benefit from systemic narrow-spectrum penicillinase-resistant penicillins (such as dicloxacillin in US, or flucloxacillin in UK)
  4. Fungal folliculitis can worsen with antibiotics and may require an oral antifungal such as Fluconazole. Topical antifungals such as Econazole Nitrate may also be effective.

Folliculitis may recur even after symptoms have gone away.

See also


  1. "NHS Direct".
  2. MedlinePlus Encyclopedia Hot tub folliculitis
  3. "Severe Acne: 4 types". American Academy of Dermatology. Archived from the original on February 9, 2011. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  4. Folliculitis, follicular mucinosis, and papular mucinosis as a presentation of chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. Rashid R, Hymes S. Dermatol Online J. 2009 May 15;15(5):16.
External resources
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