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Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What is folliculitis?

Folliculitis is the term used to describe superficial skin inflammation of one or more hair follicles anywhere in the skin. The disorder is caused by damage to the follicles, by a blocked follicle, by shaving, or by friction caused by clothing, helmet straps, and the like. Hair follicles in the neck, groin, or genital area are particularly susceptible to inflammation. The damaged follicle is most frequently infected with staphylococcal bacteria when infection is present. Contaminated hot tubs are another common source of infectious folliculitis (pseudomonas folliculitis).

Folliculitis can also occur if a curly facial hair is shaved too closely and irritates the skin. This second form of folliculitis is caused by a section of the hair shaft that has been pressed or grown back into the skin. Both types of folliculitis occur mostly in men; the second form is especially prominent in African American men.

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Other types of folliculitis include pityrosporum folliculitis, herpetic folliculitis, gram-negative folliculitis, pseudomonas folliculitis, eosinophilic folliculitis, and tinea barbae.

Folliculitis is not a serious condition, but it does require prompt attention if the area becomes infected or if the infection spreads. Seek prompt medical care if, after home treatment, symptoms recur frequently, if they persist for more than two or three days, or if the infection spreads.