What is Folliculitis?
Folliculitis is a common and usually harmless skin condition involving inflammation or infection of the hair follicles. Most cases are mild and resolve with simple self-care measures. Individuals with a more severe form and recurring folliculitis, however, may require medical help.
What Causes Folliculitis?
The condition is most often caused by a bacterial infection of hair follicles; bacterium Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for most cases of folliculitis. The inflammation, however, can also be caused by fungal and viral infection, while hair follicles can also get inflamed from ingrown hair.
Types of Folliculitis
Based on the extent of inflammation (the amount of hair follicle that is affected), folliculitis can be divided into superficial and deep with both being further divided.
Types of superficial folliculitis are:
Bacterial folliculitis. Like its name suggest, this type of folliculitis is caused by a bacterial infection, most often by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. The condition is characterised by red, pus-filled pimples.
Pityrosporum. This form of folliculities is very common in adult men and teenagers. Characterised by red and itchy pimples/pustules affecting the back and chest, and occasionally the neck, face and shoulders, pityrosporum folliculitis is caused by fungal infection.
Pseudomonas folliculitis. Also known as hot tub folliculitis, this skin condition is manifested as an itchy red rash with small bumps that eventually get pus-filled. It is caused by bacteria from the genus Pseudomonas that thrive in moist and wet conditions. The infection is most often contracted in pools and hot tubs.
Barber’s itch. Almost exclusively observed in black men who shave, red itchy bumps that sometimes develop into pustules are caused by inflammation of hair follicles due to ingrown hairs. Barber’s itch can also develop after bikini waxing.
Types of deep folliculitis include:
Furuncles and carbuncles. Commonly known as boils, furuncles are large, painful, pus-filled bumps that are caused by infection of the hair follicle by bacteria, typically Staphylococcus aureus. Sometimes a cluster of furuncles can develop. Known as carbuncles, these are also caused by the same bacteria that cause furuncles but the infection is deeper than in a single boil.
Gram-negative folliculitis. Resembling acne vulgaris, gram-negative folliculitis is a skin condition that is caused by an infection with Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Klebsiella and others. It is most common in people on long-term antibiotic treatment for acne.
Most cases of folliculitis are mild and can easily be managed with self-care measures such as applying warm compress on the affected areas to sooth the irritation/discomfort, keeping the affected skin clean and applying a soothing cream/lotion. More severe cases may require antibiotic or antifungal treatment.