Symptoms and Signs of Folliculitis

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 7/30/2021

Doctor's Notes on Folliculitis

Folliculitis is inflammation of the hair follicle. Folliculitis may be caused by infections from bacteria (such as Staphylococcus aureus), fungi (yeasts and dermatophytes), viruses (herpes simplex), and parasites (Demodex mites). Other non-infectious causes of folliculitis include topical irritants (for example, creams or oils), physical irritants (hair extraction), certain drugs (such as a group of new anticancer drugs called epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors), acne vulgaris, and some auto-inflammatory conditions (folliculitis decalvans). Folliculitis will not occur on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or on mucous membranes, since they have no hair follicles. 

Symptoms of folliculitis may include redness, swelling, and pustule formation limited to hair follicles. A person may notice hair surrounded by red, swollen tissue. Folliculitis may also cause local itching and mild pain or tenderness.

What is the Treatment of Folliculitis?

Treatment of folliculitis depends on the exact cause and can involve the following measures:

  • Antibiotic creams or gels
  • Oral antibiotics in cases of severe infection
  • Antifungal medications for fungal infections
  • Steroid creams to control inflammation
  • Making a small incision to drain the pus from a large boil

These home remedies can also help treat folliculitis:

  • Application of warm, moist compresses such as washcloths to the area
  • Use of soothing creams or lotion
  • Over-the-counter antibiotic or steroid creams
  • Keeping the skin clean and avoid shaving

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.