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Folliculitis: Care Instructions

Anatomy of the skin, including a hair follicle


Folliculitis (say "fuh-LIK-yuh-LY-tus") is an inflammation of the pouches (follicles) in the skin where hair grows. It can occur on any part of the body, but it is most common on the scalp, face, armpits, and groin. Bacteria, such as those found in a hot tub, can cause folliculitis. But folliculitis can also be caused by other organisms, such as fungi or parasites.

Folliculitis begins as a red, tender area near a strand of hair. The skin can itch or burn and may drain pus or blood. Sometimes folliculitis can lead to more serious skin infections.

Your doctor usually can treat mild folliculitis with an antibiotic cream or ointment. If you have folliculitis on your scalp, you may use a medicated shampoo. Antibiotics you take as pills can treat infections deeper in the skin. Other treatments that may be used include antifungal and antiparasitic medicines.

Folliculitis may be caused by ingrown hairs from shaving. One solution is to stop shaving. If that isn't an option, using an electric razor that doesn't shave so close may help. Laser treatment may also be an option. Laser treatment destroys the hair follicle so hair will no longer grow in the treated area.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed. If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • To help with itching or pain, put a warm, moist cloth (like a clean face cloth) on the area for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 to 6 times a day.
  • Do not share your razor, towel, or face cloth. That can spread folliculitis.
  • If folliculitis is caused by shaving, try to avoid shaving for at least a month. If that isn't an option, use an electric razor that doesn't shave so close. Or if you need a clean shave, use shaving cream or gel and always shave in the direction that the hair grows.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.