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Condition Basics

What is folliculitis?

Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicles. The inflammation is usually caused by an infection. Each hair on your body grows out of a tiny pouch called a follicle. You can have folliculitis on any part of your body that has hair.

What causes it?

It is usually caused by bacteria. It also can be caused by other things, such as an ingrown hair.

You may get folliculitis if you have damaged hair follicles. Shaving or wearing clothes that rub the skin can irritate the follicles. This makes them more likely to become infected.

You are more likely to get the condition if you:

  • Use a hot tub, whirlpool, or swimming pool that has untreated water.
  • Wear tight clothes.
  • Sweat a lot.
  • Shave or pluck your hair, especially if it's curly.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include pimple-like bumps. These may be reddish or have pus in them. The bumps can be tender and may itch. You can have folliculitis on any part of your body with hair. This includes the head, buttocks, and trunk. Depending on what caused the rash, you might have a mild fever and nausea.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will check your skin and ask about your health and activities. Testing a sample of the fluid in the bumps can help your doctor learn what is causing the infection.

How is folliculitis treated?

Mild folliculitis usually heals on its own in about 2 weeks. If it doesn't, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or another medicine you put on your skin. If the folliculitis is from shaving, you may need to change how you shave.

How can you prevent it?

Here are some things you can do to prevent folliculitis or to keep it from getting worse.

  • Bathe or shower after you exercise and after you're near chemicals.
  • Wear loose clothing, especially if it's hot or humid outside. Change your shirt if it gets sweaty.
  • After you use public hot tubs or spas, shower right away with soap. If you own your own hot tub, follow the manufacturer's instructions for keeping it clean.
  • Use shaving cream and shave in the direction the hair grows. Rinse your razor after each swipe, and store it in a dry area. If you have folliculitis, try to avoid shaving for at least a few weeks.
  • Don't scratch the bumps.
  • Bathe or shower daily with a mild soap.


Current as of: November 16, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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