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Health Information Center


  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:




Folliculitis is inflammation of the hair follicle. It can happen anywhere on the skin or scalp. There are many types of folliculitis.


nucleus fact sheet imagehttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=49344934si55550428.jpgsi55550428.jpgNULLjpgInflammed hair follicleNULL\\filer01a\Intellect\images\si55550428.jpgNULL16NULL2003-04-162543904934_874034279Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Folliculitis has many causes. It may be infectious or noninfectious.

The infectious type is caused by:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Viruses
  • Parasites

The non-infectious type may be caused by:

  • Shaving
  • Irritation from clothing
  • Some medicines
  • Chemical exposure
  • Sun exposure
  • Missing nutrients in the diet

Folliculitis may also be caused by:

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of folliculitis are:

  • Exposure to bacterial infection
  • Overusing some medicines, such as:
    • Antibiotics
    • Corticosteroids put on the skin
  • Having other skin conditions—especially those that itch
  • Exposure to oils and chemicals
  • Having a weak immune system
  • Shaving against the direction of hair growth
  • Using contaminated hot tubs, pools, or lakes


Symptoms of folliculitis may be:

  • Itchy, red rash
  • Crusty sores that do not heal
  • Pus-filled blisters around the hair follicle


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. Diagnosis can usually be made by looking at the skin. Testing may be done to determine the type and cause.

Tests may include:

  • Swab of an open area—to look for infections
  • Smear—a sample of an open area to be checked under a microscope
  • Biopsy—a sample of skin is taken for testing
  • Blood tests


The goal of treatment is reduce the irritation and help the underlying cause. Options may be:


To reduce the risk of folliculitis:

  • Avoid chemicals, especially at work.
  • Shave in the direction that hair is growing.
  • Use proper hygiene and handwashing.
  • Clean pools and hot tubs regularly.


Folliculitis may be treated with medicines. They may be taken by mouth or applied to the skin.

  • The infectious type may be treated with:
    • Antibiotics—for bacterial infections
    • Antifungal medicines—for fungal infections
    • Antiviral medicines—for viral infections
    • Antiparasitic medicines— for parasitic infections
  • The non-infectious type may be treated with:
    • Corticosteroids
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)




  • Folliculitis. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aocd.org/?page=Folliculitis.
  • Folliculitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/folliculitis.
  • Hot tub rash (Pseudomonas dermatitis/folliculitis). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/rwi/rashes.html.
  • Veraldi, S., Desimine, C., et al. Can folliculitis be caused by Staphylococcus epidermidis? Giornale Italiano di Dermatologia e Venereologia, 2019; 154 (2): 212-214.


  • Mary-Beth Seymour, RN
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.