Folliculitis: understand the causes, how to treat and prevent blemishes

Folliculitis is a problem that affects both men and women. Although it can occur in any part of the body, there are some regions with greater vulnerability to the appearance of these lesions, they are: scalp, thighs, buttocks, groins and armpits.

To learn more about this condition, its causes and treatments, read the following text!


What is folliculitis?

Folliculitis is an infection in the hair follicles. These structures are responsible for forming hair and are located throughout the body, except on the palms, soles, lips and mucous membranes.

Infection is usually caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria or fungi, but in some cases it can also occur due to a virus, parasites or inflammation of ingrown hair.

It causes some red spots on the skin (which may or may not contain pus), similar to a pimple. In addition, it causes itching and, in some cases, burning in the affected region.

Most cases of folliculitis are superficial, but more recurrent and severe cases deserve the attention and care of a dermatologist.

This type of complication affects men and women, of all ages, leaving the skin with a rough and irritated aspect.

For men, the beard ends up being the main affected area, while for women, the groin is one of the most common places to occur.

What are hair follicles?

Hair follicles are structures located in the dermis (intermediate layer of the skin), which form hair and hair, and extend to the surface of the skin.

There are about 5 million follicles throughout the body, with 100 thousand in the scalp alone. Hair is found on almost the entire surface of the human body. They may vary in color, length and thickness, depending on the area in which they are located.

At the base of the hair follicle we find the hair bulb, which is responsible for hair growth. This region has a large amount of blood vessels and nerve endings.

During hair growth, cells divide and grow towards the surface of the skin, a process called keratinization (junction of keratin cells).

In this process, cells lose their nucleus and intercellular fluid, becoming rigid and compact, thus generating the protein called keratin.

For the development of these cells to be healthy, it is necessary that all nutrients are correctly reaching the matrix cells.

That is, food, hormonal issues, use of medications or psychological factors can alter cell reproduction and thereby impair hair growth.

What are the types of folliculitis?

Folliculitis is an inflammatory process that can be classified into two types: superficial or deep. Some situations can favor its development, generating different subtypes of folliculitis, among which we can mention:

Staphylococcal folliculite

This is the most common type of folliculitis and occurs when the follicles are infected with the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus . It is characterized by inflammation with pus, associated with local itching, which can occur in any region of the body.

Usually, treatment is carried out with topical or oral antibiotics , always with the recommendation of a specialist doctor.

Gram-negative bacteria folliculitis

It occurs when recurrent and / or prolonged use of antibiotics is used to treat acne . These drugs alter the normal levels of the skin, helping the proliferation of gram-negative bacteria.

Usually, this type of folliculitis does not cause major problems, especially after the use of the drug is stopped. However, the condition can spread across the face and cause serious injury.

The use of topical medications, such as creams and ointments ends up being the best form of treatment in these cases.

Pseudomonas folliculitis (hot tub folliculitis)

It occurs in humid and aquatic environments , due to irregular levels of chlorine and pH, such as bathtubs, whirlpools and swimming pools. The infection can manifest between 8 hours and 5 days after exposure.

This type of infection is characterized by red rashes, which itch and may even cause pus. They are more common in areas that are wet for a longer time, or covered in swimsuits.

Generally, the treatment is given with lotions that relieve itching and / or with antibiotics (rarely used in these cases).

Beard pseudofolliculitis

Beard pseudofolliculitis affects men and occurs when the hair is shaved, which, as they grow, bend into the skin, usually causing inflammation. In some cases, it can leave scars on the face and neck.

Folliculitis or beard sycosis

Due to daily shaving, small inflammations begin to appear, due to the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus . They are commonly present on the upper lip, chin and jaw and in severe cases they can generate scars.

The indicated in these cases is to make compresses and antibiotics on the spot.

Pitirosporic folliculitis

Common in adolescents and men, this type of folliculitis develops due to the Malassezia fungus , which causes pimples and itching. The inflammation has a reddish appearance and is usually found in the neck, shoulders, arms and face.

Doctors recommend that in these cases use topical or oral antifungals, as they are more effective for this type of folliculitis.

Eosinophilic folliculitis

It occurs mainly in people with the HIV virus , but the cause is not yet known, despite involving the same fungus responsible for pyrosporic folliculitis.

It is characterized by red spots and pus-itchy sores. Usually these wounds spread throughout the body, which ends up leaving the affected area darkened.

For this type of treatment, corticosteroids are recommended and, in more severe cases, the use of one more complementary oral medication is recommended.

Foliculitis decalvante (capillary)

Acute or chronic inflammation of the sebaceous gland present in the scalp , decalvative folliculitis is considered a chronic process. It occurs when hair follicles are blocked or damaged.

Because it is a region with high sebaceous or sweat secretion, the scalp promotes the growth of bacteria and fungi.

Usually, this folliculitis variant is more resistant, leaving permanent scars.

In its initial stage it presents only small red bumps in the region of the head, similar to pimples. The skin is considerably more sensitive, with a lot of itching, in addition to hair loss .

There are few techniques specifically aimed at the bacterial control of the scalp. However, the most suitable is the cleaning with shampoo, which ends up reducing the contamination.

What is the difference between folliculitis, furuncle and carbuncles?

Boils are developed when the follicles are deeply infected by staph bacteria It is an inflammation that can be considered an “evolution” of folliculitis, since it also affects the tissue around the structure.

It usually manifests itself in places where friction and sweat occur on the skin, creating conditions for the proliferation of bacteria.

The lesions are yellow, pus-filled and painful. This discomfort passes when the central nodule (accumulation of dead cells) bursts and releases the secretion.

In some cases, it can hurt the dermis, leaving scars.

Anthrax or anthrax, on the other hand, is a type of infection characterized by a cluster of furuncles that form at the root of the hair. Its treatment is done with drainage of accumulated pus, a procedure that must be performed by a dermatologist.

As it is an advanced infection, its cure and evolution is slower, taking about 2 weeks.

The most common areas to be affected are the shoulders, the back, the never and the thighs, and may present local pain, malaise, nausea or shortness of breath.

What causes folliculitis?

The main cause of folliculitis is due to an infection caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (staphylococcus). In addition to it, other bacteria, fungi and viruses may be involved in the appearance of these skin lesions.

However, some factors can make a person more susceptible to the situation, such as diseases that lower body immunity ( diabetes , leukemia , HIV) or skin problems, such as acne.

Understand better the most common causes of inflammation:

Staphylococcus aureus

The Staphylococcus aureus is a type of bacteria gram positive that is commonly associated with folliculitis.

Its presence in our body is normal, but when this microorganism penetrates our skin through a wound or cut, it can cause problems such as folliculitis.

Other microorganisms

Some fungi, such as Tinea barbae (which causes folliculitis in the beard), Malassezia (responsible for pitirosporic folliculitis) and bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa (present in swimming pools and bathtubs) can also be associated with folliculitis.

Razor blades

The use of razor blades causes a friction on the skin, which in some cases can end up causing an inflammation of the hair. To avoid the problem, it is recommended that you use electric shavers and, in some cases, resort to laser hair removal.

Humidity and heat

The longer our body is held hostage by moisture and heat, the greater the chance of fungal and bacterial proliferation in the area covered by clothing, causing inflammation.

This is because moisture favors the entry of fungi, since the skin becomes thinner and more fragile. In addition, excessive exposure to the sun contributes to the fall of the immune system, causing the proliferation of fungi and bacteria.

Very tight clothes

The use of very tight clothing can end up causing folliculitis, since the clothing is rubbing against the skin and hinders the growth of hair in the region.

In addition, some fabrics, such as synthetics, may favor the appearance of folliculitis, since they contribute to increased heat and humidity, impairing the skin’s perspiration.

Skin conditions

Some skin types may be more conducive to the development of folliculitis, such as skin with acne and dermatitis. These conditions are more likely to obstruct hair follicles, causing the ideal environment for the development of folliculitis.

Medical conditions

Diseases that lower immunity, such as diabetes, leukemia and HIV can be risk factors for the development of folliculitis. This is because, when our immunity is low, the chance of microorganisms invading our body and contracting infections is greater.

Is folliculitis contagious?

No . The infection occurs inside the hair follicle, being restricted to those who have the inflammation. However, an important factor is not to squeeze or puncture the affected area, as this can spread and aggravate the infection for the person himself.

Risk factors

Anyone can develop folliculitis, however, there are some factors that can make you more susceptible to this disease. Among the risk factors we can mention:

  • The recurrent use of razor blades;
  • Use of very tight clothes;
  • Excessive heat;
  • Excessive sweat;
  • Some skin conditions, such as dermatitis and acne;
  • Exposure to hot water (bathtubs, swimming pools);
  • Dressings applied for a long time on the skin;
  • Low disease-related immunity;
  • Obesity;
  • Frequent and prolonged use of antibiotics (especially for acne).

Symptoms: what causes folliculitis?

The infection presents itself in the form of small reddish spots, similar to pimples. Depending on the extent of the inflammatory process, it can manifest in two ways: superficial or deep.

Superficial folliculitis

In the first case, the follicle forms a kind of reddish lump, which may or may not contain pus. It causes skin irritation, itching, increasing sensitivity and in some cases can cause pain and local burning.

The chances of complications in these cases are much lower.

Deep folliculitis

In deeper lesions, it is possible to notice the formation of boils. In this case, the inflammation extends throughout the hair follicle, reaches the root and results in a red lesion that has a hardened nodule with pus in the center.

The chances of destruction of the hair follicle are very high and with this there is the possibility of scarring.

If you have any of the symptoms mentioned, contact a healthcare professional, in this case a general practitioner or dermatologist.

Folliculitis in the groin

The groin area has very thin and sensitive skin. When in contact with the razor – at the time of epilation – or very tight clothing, inflammations tend to appear.

That’s because the hairs can’t get past the dermis, bending inward and penetrating the skin again.

A good option to reduce these inflammations is to look for alternative methods of hair removal, such as laser. In addition, exfoliating and moisturizing the skin are easy practices that help in the process of treating folliculitis.

Folliculitis on the buttocks

Folliculitis is also very common on the buttocks, since we sit for a long time or in tight clothes, factors that favor the onset of inflammation.

The ideal in these cases is to use products and / or medicines that have keratin, to thin the skin and reduce the tendency of obstruction. If the inflammation is severe, it is important to consult a doctor who can recommend anti-inflammatory drugs.

Folliculitis on the beard

This type of folliculitis occurs when the beard hairs become inflamed. When they are scraped, they end up bending and go back into the skin. This process leads to inflammation and in some cases can leave scars.

The condition affects men not only on the face, but also on the neck.

How is the diagnosis made?

It is recommended that, at the first moment that the symptoms are noticed, the patient turns to a specialist doctor (dermatologist) to examine the affected area of ​​the skin.

In more severe or difficult to treat cases, it may be necessary to collect the material from the lesion for analysis, in order to identify the agent responsible for the infection and establish a specific and assertive treatment.

Does folliculitis have a cure?

Yes.  Usually, the inflammation of the hair ends up healing itself, but it is good to be aware, because in some more serious and recurrent cases it is possible to permanently lose the hair and be scarred.

How is the treatment done?

The treatments can be varied depending on the type, cause and severity of the infection. In simpler cases, the lesion responds well to home-made measures, such as applying warm compresses several times a day.

During the treatment process, it is recommended to use products with bactericidal and healing actives. In addition, it is important to avoid friction with clothing and use moisturizing products and sunscreens.

Discover some of the most effective treatments:

Laser waxing

It is considered one of the most effective alternatives when it comes to hair removal. The laser eliminates most of the hair, reducing the thickness of the hair and preventing future inflammatory problems.

However, it is always necessary to make an assessment before a professional can confirm that the skin is in condition to undergo the treatment.

In this procedure, a concentrated light is directed at a certain frequency, destroying the hair bulb and removing the hair.

In the first sessions, it is possible to notice an improvement in the inflammatory processes and in the period of time between hair growth.

It is worth mentioning that after applying the laser it is always important to use sunscreen. In addition, it is not recommended to use other hair removal methods during the break between sessions.

Read more: Laser hair removal: how it works, devices, price, FAQ, does it hurt?

Pulsed light

Pulsed light is a modern technique that can be used on all skin types. In this method, pain is minimal and is considered safe, as it works with a lower temperature, but it is effective, reducing the risk of hyper or hypopigmentation (changes in skin tone due to melanin).

It is recommended that the treatment be done in colder times, such as winter. One of the effects that can be caused due to sun exposure is freckles (melanosis). They are superficial and caused by sunlight.

The more radiation your face is exposed to, the more cells will produce melanin. This excessive production of pigment can leave some darker spots on the skin, that is, spots.


Treatments are usually effective, but there is a risk of folliculitis coming back. In such cases, antibiotics are recommended, since there is no improvement in the condition.

They must be indicated by dermatologists and used in the form of an ointment or cream (antibiotic and / or antifungal).

Surgical drainage

In severe cases, it may be necessary to perform a surgical intervention to drain the pus, relieving pain and facilitating the recovery process.

This process consists of collecting the purulent material (pus) and washing the cavity to remove the dead tissue. It should always be done by a doctor, in this case a dermatologist.

In some cases, after the procedure, it may be necessary to perform a laboratory evaluation of the material (pus) in order to determine the source of the trauma.

Medications: how to treat folliculite?

The medications indicated for folliculitis depend on the type and severity of your condition. Generally, doctors prescribe the use of creams, ointments or gels, some with antibiotics in the formula.

The use of oral pills is not highly recommended, but depending on the infection and the severity, your doctor may prescribe them.


Ointments are part of topical treatments and are usually effective in most cases. Commonly indicated options include:

  • Mupirocina ( Bacrocin , Bactroneo , Supirocin , Bactroban , Bactocin , Dermoban );
  • Fusidic Acid ( Veruf, Verutex H , Verutex , Fusidic Acid );
  • Ciclopirox Olamina ( Celamina Ultra , Celamina zinco , Derm prox , Fungirox , Micolamina , Mupirox , Celamina).

What is the best ointment for folliculitis?

Folliculitis can be related to different causes and intensity, so the best ointment will depend on medical evaluation. Among the active ingredients that can be prescribed are Mupirocin , Clarithromycin , Polymyxin B Sulfate + Prednisolone + Benzocaine + Clioquinol , Ketoconazole , Ciclopirox Olamine .

However, some other conditions may need systemic medication, for oral use, for example. Therefore, the ideal is to always consult specialists.

How to remove folliculitis spots on the buttocks and other regions?

Inflammation caused by folliculitis can alter the pigmentation of the dermis, causing the spots to appear. In such cases, there are some treatments that can be directed to remove or clear them.

There are some options of creams or gels on the market, but they should always be guided by dermatologists, as soon as those who have folliculitis may have more sensitive skin and, therefore, need some special care. In addition, these topical products may not be as effective for darker or larger stains.

In this way, manipulated or over-the-counter creams can be a more effective option to smooth out pigmentation changes.

In addition, peeling and laser treatments, which generate faster results, but a medical evaluation is needed to guide the best aesthetic procedure.

Antiseptics for folliculitis

Antiseptics can be used to treat folliculitis, but with some care. Sanitizing the affected skin with antiseptic serums, using compresses, can be a good option for most conditions.

However, overuse of antiseptic soaps can further weaken the skin as soon as they remove the protective barrier from the dermis. Therefore, it is worth following the dermatological guidelines, so that the proper use of these products is made.

Living together

This subject bothers a lot of people and sometimes ends up making the person not comfortable with his own body. However, several spots that appear with folliculitis can disappear without any treatment depending on the degree of injury.

With some care, it is possible to relieve folliculitis and also the spots. Check out the tips:

Make hot compresses

Hot compresses help to reduce swelling, as well as relieve itching and burning.

Use a towel wet with warm water and antiseptic soap. Wring out the excess water and apply to the affected area for a few minutes.

Invest in exfoliation

Having the habit of exfoliating, in order to remove dead skin cells, can help in the process of living with folliculitis. Ideally, this procedure should be done once a week.

However, be sure to talk to your dermatologist to find out which are the best products and what is the ideal treatment for your skin type.

Always keep your skin clean and dry

Cleaning the area with antiseptic soaps is an excellent option to prevent inflammation. In addition to sanitizing the region, you will be preventing the proliferation of bacteria and fungi.

Moisture is one of the factors that contribute to the appearance of folliculitis. So whenever you can, wear fresh, airy clothes, especially if you are under treatment.

Avoid any type of substance that can clog your pores

The ideal is to avoid heavy creams and oils after epilation, since they tend to “clog” the pores, which ends up making it difficult for the hair to escape and increasing the chances of ingrown hairs.

Avoid squeezing pimples or rubbing your skin

Folliculitis lesions should not be handled, especially if you have not hand sanitized properly. This can aggravate the condition, spread the infection to other regions, or even leave dark spots on the affected region.

Avoid using blades on the affected area

The ideal is to avoid the use of blades in areas affected by folliculitis. This is because the friction caused by the blades can further irritate the affected area.

So try to try using electric shavers / epilators. If this option doesn’t work for you, here are some tips to improve the shaving or shaving process:

  • Wash your skin with warm water and antibacterial soaps before you start;
  • Apply a good amount of shaving creams / lotions;
  • Use a new razor each time you shave or shave, so you know it is clean and sharp;
  • Shave the hair in the direction in which it grows;
  • Rinse with warm water and use a moisturizing lotion after the procedure.


Lighter inflammatory conditions can develop favorably with basic hygiene care. The most serious ones can lead to permanent hair loss and permanent scarring. However, there are some precautions that can reduce local pain and discomfort.


There are rare cases of folliculitis that cause complications, among which we can mention the destruction of hair follicles or permanent hair loss. However, in more severe cases, it is possible that:

Post-inflammatory hyperchromia

Also known as HPI, post-inflammatory hyperchromia is a sequel resulting from the inflammatory disorder. It can arise in response to increased melanin production, which ends up resulting in a dark spot on the areas that are most exposed to the sun.

Skin rashes (furuncle)

It is an inflammation that can be considered an “evolution” of folliculitis, since it destroys hair follicles. They are yellowish lesions, full of pus, and painful.

In some cases it can hurt the dermis, leaving scars.

Prevention: how to prevent folliculitis?

By incorporating some simple habits into your routine, you are already preventing folliculitis. Below are some examples:

  • Wash your hands well, frequently;
  • Make use of antiseptic soaps before and after hair removal;
  • Pay attention to the sanitary conditions of swimming pools and bathtubs you use;
  • Do not keep wet clothes on your body for a long time;
  • Double your care when shaving. For this, use lukewarm water, with cream and / or specific gel for shaving, which reduces the friction between the skin and the razor. After that, apply moisturizing lotion to keep your skin healthy;
  • Do not wear clothes that are too tight to cause friction on the skin;
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid very fatty foods.

Folliculitis is a medical condition that can be prevented with small everyday attitudes, such as avoiding wearing tight clothing or using razor blades. In addition, choosing foods rich in nutrients helps to achieve healthy skin.

Now that you know some tips, take the time to share with your friends!