Folliculitis is an infection that forms in hair follicles. It’s a common skin condition in the summer, because pore-clogging bacteria thrive on sweaty skin. You can get this condition anywhere you have hair and affected areas of your skin may be itchy, tender, and painful.

Hair follicles are just about everywhere on your body except your lips, palms, and the soles of your feet. Folliculitis is also known as barber’s itch, shaving rash or razor bumps and looks like pimples which often become red and swollen. 

Staph, a kind of bacteria, is most often the cause of folliculitis. You have staph on your skin all the time, and it normally doesn’t cause any issues unless it gets inside your body through a cut from shaving or other skin injuries.

Other things can also cause folliculitis such as:

  • Blockages from skin products, such as moisturizers with oils
  • A fungus
  • Waxing and plucking hair
  • Ingrown hairs
  • Other bacteria, such as the kind you might find in a hot tub that’s not cleaned regularly
  • Some drugs, such as corticosteroids that are used to ease inflammation
  • Acne, especially if you use a steroid cream or long-term antibiotic for it
  • Wearing tight clothes, rubber gloves, or boots that don’t let sweat or heat out
  • Illnesses that affects your immune system, like diabetes, leukemia, or HIV/AIDS

Mild folliculitis might go away without any treatment, but to help yourself heal and ease symptoms, you can:

Clean the infected area: Shower as soon as you can after you sweat. Don’t rewear sweaty clothing. Be sure to use a fresh cloth and towel each time.

Gels, creams, and washes: Try using warm saltwater — 1 teaspoon table salt mixed with 2 cups of water — on a washcloth and place it on your skin. You can also try white vinegar. Over-the-counter antibiotics may help give you relief. If you’re itchy, try oatmeal lotion or hydrocortisone cream. To reduce buildup in pores, consider using a noncomedogenic sunscreen on your whole body.

Stop shaving for at least 3 months: If you can’t do that, you might want to try an electric razor temporarily. Or, Dr. Cohn recommends applying plenty of gel or a mild shaving lotion like Aveeno or Almay brands. Let it stay 5-10 minutes on your skin to fully soften your hair. Don’t use a harsh soap.  And use a new blade each time you shave so you know it’s clean and sharp; single blades are ideal.

Dr. Monique S. Cohn can usually tell if you have folliculitis by looking at your skin closely and asking questions about your medical and family history. She may also take a swab of the infected skin to test for which bacteria or fungus has caused the folliculitis. In rare cases, a skin biopsy may be required to exclude the possibility of other causes. Contact Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center by calling 330-425-7600 to make an appointment at the Twinsburg office.