Facts on Folliculitis

by Contributor ; Updated July 18, 2017

A woman shaves her armpit.

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Barber's Itch is No Laughing Matter

Barber's Itch, or folliculitis, may have a funny name but it isn't so funny when it affects your skin. Folliculitis occurs when the hair follicles, or small areas that surround each hair, becomes inflamed and infected and cause the growth of pimple-like pustule with a white head. The small pustules are basically ingrown hairs caused by follicular inflammation which often occur in large patches or over the same part of the body over and over again.

Finding the Cause of Folliculitis

Irritation from shaving is the most common cause of folliculitis, known as razor burn; however, excessive sweating, friction from tight clothing, skin conditions or injuries as well as exposure to tar, pitch or other heavy oils can all lead to folliculitis. Hot tub water can also cause folliculitis if not cleaned properly and regularly. Once the follicle becomes damaged and inflamed, it traps bacteria or fungus inside, causing an infection.

Fighting Folliculitis at Home

Minor cases of folliculitiis can often be cleared up at home without prescription medications. Avoid shaving until the pustules heal and keep the area clean and dry. Apply warm compresses 2 or 3 times a day for about 15 minutes until the pustules rupture on their own. Never try to squeeze or pop the pustules, as you can spread the infection, further irritate the follicles or cause scarring. Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to the area twice daily to help fight infection.

When Folliculitis is Out of Control

A severe case of folliculitis may require medical attention. If your symptoms occur frequently, they last longer than 3 days or the infection begins to spread, it is best to see a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will examen the area and may take laboratory tests to determine whether the infection is caused by a fungus or a bacteria. Treatment will include topical ointments for the infection and may even include prescription antibiotics if necessary.

Keeping Barber's Itch at Bay

If you experience folliculitis regularly due to shaving or hair removal sensitivity, a few tips can help. Always wash the skin with warm water and mild soap before removing hair to help clear away bacteria and open the hair follicles. If using a razor, replace the blade each time you shave, as bacteria can grow on the blade, and dull blades irritate the skin. Additionally, use a single blade razor instead of multiple blades to prevent excess damage to the hair follicles.

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