Folliculitis is a disorder that affects the skin, specifically the hair follicles. It is not a serious condition, but it does constitute an annoying problem that, when located in visible areas of the skin, also becomes an aesthetic problem.

What are hair follicles?

Hair follicles are structures that are located in the deep layer of the skin, which we know as the dermis. Their main function is to be the support to allow the growth of hair located on the body surface.

Its duct also leads to the mouth of the sebaceous glands, structures that are responsible for producing an oily substance that helps lubricate the skin.

When the follicles become inflamed and secretions accumulate inside, what is known as folliculitis occurs.

How is folliculitis recognized?

As the hair follicle becomes inflamed, it becomes enlarged, causing it to be palpated as a nodule, in which redness, pain and the presence of pus also occur. This is what is commonly known as a pimple , the main manifestation of the best-known form of folliculitis: acne.

In general, the problem begins with the obstruction of the duct of the hair follicle by fat, produced by the sebaceous glands, and the deposition of dead cells. Clogged pores look like blackheads, when bacteria colonize and infect them, folliculitis develops.

This problem can affect a single follicle or several of them.

Folliculitis is an infectious disease

This disorder occurs when there is colonization of the hair follicle, which occurs by bacteria of the skin, mainly staphylococcus. In some cases, other bacteria may intervene, causing more serious conditions. It is also possible that some fungi can cause the problem.

Bacteria reach the deep layers of the skin when they invade a clogged follicle or when it is injured by mechanical processes such as shaving, especially if proper hygiene measures are not taken or worn razor blades are used.

People with a depressed immune system, such as those who have immunodeficiency states, suffer from diseases such as diabetes or receive drug treatments for cancer, immune diseases or to prevent transplant rejection, tend to have a greater predisposition to suffer infectious problems, among them folliculitis.

Another mechanism by which this disorder occurs is when irregular hair growth occurs, commonly known as ingrown hair .

This is common in men in the beard or chest area and is related to frequent shaving of the area. Women who perform waxing in the bikini area also frequently develop this form of inflammation of the hair follicle.

Treatment of folliculitis

Because it is a condition in which there is an infectious process, it is necessary to use antimicrobials to be able to eradicate the germs that cause the problem.

These drugs may be of the antibiotic type, when the causative agent is a bacterium, which is usually the most common, or antifungal when we are in the presence of folliculitis caused by fungi.

These treatments are usually used both orally and topically, that is, applied directly to the affected skin. There are also antiseptic soapy solutions that should be used in daily skin hygiene while the lesions are active.

When the boil reaches a large size, or fills with pus forming an abscess, it may be necessary to make a puncture to drain it, thus helping to eliminate it more quickly.

Tips to prevent folliculitis

Some people have a greater tendency to develop folliculitis, so it is helpful if they put the following tips into practice:

  • Keep the skin clean, for this, neutral soaps with antibacterial effect are recommended.
  • Take care of the hygiene of towels, brushes and other personal hygiene items, wash them frequently and avoid sharing them with other people.
  • Take a shower after an activity that leads to profuse sweating.
  • When folliculitis affects the skin of the face, it is helpful to clean the skin regularly and use products such as cleansing soaps and creams for oily skin.
  • Reduce the intake of foods rich in saturated fat, as well as sugars and refined flours (the latter are converted into fat in the body).
  • Avoid reusing razors when shaving.
  • Consider practicing a laser hair removal of the affected area, this will help to eliminate the follicles and hair permanently, which will make the folliculitis disappear.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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