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Folliculitis is a common skin condition that affects the hair follicles, often appearing after hair removal. Discover the causes, symptoms, how to treat folliculitis and when to see a doctor.

What is folliculitis?

Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicles. This is generally caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. It can occur anywhere on the body where there are hairs – common places are the chest, underarms, legs, back and jaw area. Folliculitis is usually triggered by shaving or other methods of hair removal.

Symptoms of folliculitis

  • Red spots located around hair follicles

  • Pustules

  • Tenderness or itching around the follicles

Folliculitis treatment

Bacterial folliculitis is treated with antibiotics. In mild cases, a topical antibiotic cream usually does the trick. If the folliculitis has spread over a larger area, oral antibiotics are required.

If the folliculitis is caused by a fungus, a topical or oral antifungal agent would be prescribed instead.

As well as folliculitis treatment, there are things you can do to help. The infection is commonly aggravated by hair removal, so this should be avoided while the infection is present (and for a few months afterwards if possible). If hair removal is necessary, an electric razor can be a gentler form of hair removal than waxing or blade shaving. Plenty of shaving cream or gel should be used.

When to see a GP

  • If you have symptoms of folliculitis and need antibiotic treatment

  • If the area of folliculitis is spreading despite using treatment provided by your GP

  • If you’re diabtic or have a weakened immune system

  • If you get larger boils or abscesses around hair follicles

  • If you get recurrent episodes of folliculitis

Reviewed by:

Dr Rhianna McClymont

Lead GP at Livi

Last updated: