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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Folliculitis is a common condition, where one or several hair follicles become inflamed, presenting as painful red raised bumps that may have a white head (pustule). As you might expect, these occur in hairy areas, such as the scalp, beard, chest, back, buttocks and genital area. They can be deep or superficial.

Doctor’s advice

What causes folliculitis?

There are various causes, including bacteria, chemical irritants such as industrial oils, and materials blocking the skin's surface such as paraffin-based ointments or tight clothing. Hair removal techniques including shaving, waxing and depilatory creams can cause folliculitis and ingrowing hairs. In most cases inflammation is superficial and this is a mild condition that will clear up on its own, especially if you can identify the cause and remove it. Deeper bumps may look more like acne and may need medical treatment.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Some mild cases of folliculitis can be treated at home or with some products available from the pharmacy. Cleaning the area with warm soapy water may help to clear any blocked pores in the skin, and around the hair follicle. Always shave in the direction of hair growth, and it may sometimes be helpful to not shave for a few days in order to help the folliculitis settle down. Avoid tight clothing so your skin does not sweat excessively, and remember not to share towels, razors or washcloths if you have folliculitis.

An antimicrobial wash such as Hibiclens may also be used to clean the skin and help to prevent infection. Cleaning the skin pores and removing debris and acne-causing bacteria can often help.

Applying aloe vera gel may help to speed up recovery. Aloe vera gel has many natural healing properties for the skin, by providing hydration, soothing localized irritation, and has natural antiseptic properties. If this hasn’t worked, you may need to speak to your doctor as a prescription for antibiotics may be required.

Pharmacist recommended products

Am I fit for work?

You can go to work as usual with folliculitis.

When should I see my doctor?

You should book a routine appointment with your doctor if the red bumps are very deep and painful or if you have scarring from previous bumps. Similarly, speak to your doctor if you are concerned that medication may be the culprit.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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