Folluculitis Treatment: Medication, Ointments & Home Remedies

Medical review: Dr. Clarisse Bezerra
Family Doctor
November 2021

Folliculitis is the inflammation of a hair follicle. Affected regions will present with itchy, red bumps. It can be treated at home by cleansing the area with antibacterial soap, but the use of specific creams and ointments may be necessary, as indicated by your doctor dermatologist.

Folliculitis is usually caused by ingrown hairs, but it can also be the result of a bacterial or fungal skin infection. It can cause symptoms like redness, burning, itching and the emergence of small, acne-like, pus-filled blisters.

Folliculitis is most common in the buttocks, legs, groin, legs, arms, and beard. It especially occurs in people who wear tight clothing, shave their hair or wear makeup.

Imagem ilustrativa número 1

How it is treated

Treatment of folliculitis should be completed in its early stages to prevent inflammation from spreading. It should be completed as instructed by your doctor or dermatologist. Basic treatment involved cleansing of the affected area with antibacterial soap.

The type of treatment indicated will depend on the area affected by folliculitis. Specific treatments are as follows:

1. Face and beard

This type of folliculitis is more common in men, particularly in men who shave their beards with razors. This type of folliculitis will usually present with small red bumps (which can become infected), redness and facial itching.

Treatment: Folliculitis on the face and beard can be prevented by grooming with an electric razor instead of a blade. If folliculitis does not resolve on its own, you should see your doctor or dermatologist, as a prescription cream may be needed to treat inflammation.

Treatment usually varies according to the severity of the symptoms. Topical corticosteroids or antibiotics may be advised when the infection is more severe. To prevent folliculitis, ensure you wash your face with cold water after shaving and apply a moisturizing, soothing cream. An electric shaver can prevent frequency of folliculitis, however laser hair removal can permanently reduce reoccurrence.

2. Scalp

Although scalp folliculitis is rare, it can happen as a result of fungal or bacterial growth on the scalp. In more severe cases, it can lead to major hair loss (this is also known as dissecting folliculitis, or dissecting cellulitis of the scalp). Scalp folliculitis is characterized by the emergence of red, pus-filled bumps on the scalp that cause pain, burning and itching.

Treatment: Treatment starts with the identification of the type of folliculitis by a dermatologist. If caused by fungus, the use of an antifungal shampoo (e.g. with ketoconazole) may be recommended. If caused by bacteria, topical antibiotics like erythromycin or clindamycin may be indicated.

It is important to follow the treatment as directed by the doctor and to attend regular follow-ups to ensure treatment is effective.

3. Buttocks and groin area

Folliculitis that appears in the buttocks and groin area occurs more frequently in people who regularly soak in water (e.g. frequent swimming pool or hot tub use). This happens because the buttocks and groin area remain moist for longer, which is favorable for the growth of fungi and bacteria in the region. This may result in inflammation of the hair follicles in the affected region.

Treatment: When treating, it is recommended to keep affected regions dry at all times and to avoid shaving with razors. The doctor or dermatologist may prescribe topical ointments such as clotrimazole-betamethasone or betamethasone dipropionate.

4. Legs

Folliculitis in the legs is caused by infection of normal skin flora that can get inside small skin lesions. These skin lesions can be present from hair removal or from tight clothes or friction.

Treatment: Leg folliculitis should be treated by cleansing the skin with warm water and mild soap. The dermatologist may also recommend using topical antibiotic ointments for 7 to 10 days to eliminate a more severe infection.

5. Armpits

Armpit bumps associated with folliculitis can appear due to infection or ingrown hairs.

This can occur with more frequency in people who shave armpit hair with razors, as there is a greater risk for skin damage. Open wounds, no matter how small, can lead to the development of folliculitis.

Treatment: If armpit bumps occur frequently, you should consult your doctor or dermatologist to confirm a diagnosis of folliculitis and treat as necessary. In some cases, they may recommend anti-inflammatories to help with redness and swelling, or antibiotics if the folliculitis is caused by bacteria.

Home remedies

To help relieve symptoms associated with folliculitis, you can opt to use home remedies as a complement to the treatment indicated by your doctor. Some options include:

  • Placing a warm compress on the affected area to reduce itching;
  • Bathing with mild soap right after being in the pool, hot tub, spa, or other public places;
  • Avoiding scratching or rupturing pimples.

If symptoms of folliculitis do not improve within 2 weeks, you should follow-up with your doctor or dermatologist again to adjust the treatment.

Was this information helpful?

Edited by Tua Saude editing team in November 2021. Medical review completed by Dr. Clarisse Bezerra - Family Doctor in November 2021.

References

  • Bolognia, Jean L. et al. Dermatologia. 3 ed. Rio de Janeiro: Elsevier, 2015. p. 569-576.
Medical review:
Dr. Clarisse Bezerra
Family Doctor
Dr. Bezerra possesses a medical degree and specializes in family medicine. She is licensed to practice under CRM-CE licence #16976.