Folliculitis is a skin condition in which hair follicles become inflamed, usually from a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Symptoms include a cluster of whitehead pimples or small red bumps; itchy, burning skin; pus-filled blisters that may open, ooze, and crust over; painful, tender skin; and a large swollen mass or lump. Although uncomfortable and perhaps embarrassing, this condition is not dangerous or life-threatening. With self-care at home, mild cases generally clear within a few days.
The two main categories for folliculitis are superficial (involve part of the hair follicle) and deep (involve the entire hair follicle). Superficial types include: razor bumps which form due to irritation from ingrown hairs and affect mainly men with curly hair that shave too close; bacterial folliculitis caused by staph bacteria; hot tub folliculitis from the pseudomonas bacteria in hot tubs and heated pools where the PH levels are not correct; and pityrosporum folliculitis that causes itchy red pimples on the upper body from a yeast infection. Forms of deep folliculitis which tend to be more severe are: sycosis barbae where large red pustules form due to shaving and can potentially cause scarring or permanent hair loss in the beard area; gram-negative folliculitis which occurs after long term antibiotic treatment for acne; boils or clusters of boils (carbuncles) from staph infection; and eosinophilic folliculitis that occurs primarily in those with HIV/AIDS and can result in darkening of the skin in the affected area.
Potential complications of folliculitis are a recurring or spreading infection, boils that form under the skin, destruction of the hair follicle leading to permanent hair loss, and damage in the form of scarring or discoloration of the skin. Depending on the type of condition, treatment options may include creams or pills to decrease inflammation or to fight off infection or antifungal creams to combat a yeast infection. For those who have no relief after exhausting typical treatments, laser hair removal may also be considered.