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Curious to know more about scalp folliculitis? Better understand this unpleasant skin condition by reviewing these informative frequently asked questions, which cover everything from common causes to daily treatments.

Scalp folliculitis is often described as a condition that’s similar to a severe case of acne that occurs on the scalp and along the hairline. Accompanied by a rash, itchiness and irritation, this is an unpleasant skin disorder that may or may not clear up on its own and can lead to more serious complications including scarring and hair loss if left untreated. Review the following frequently asked questions to learn more.

What are the symptoms of scalp folliculitis?

The infection usually appears as small, white pimples along the scalp and hairline with a similar size and resemblance to goose bumps. Most cases occur on the very top layer of skin and may be accompanied by itchiness or pain. The pimples may contain pus or blood.

What are the causes of scalp folliculitis?

Folliculitis is caused by an infection of the hair follicles by bacteria, yeast or fungi. The most common trigger is Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Hot tubs, tight clothing, skin infections or wounds, ongoing use of antibiotics or steroids, shaving and unsanitary living conditions can increase your chances for contracting this condition. If you have other skin disorders like eczema or dermatitis, or suffer from diabetes you’re also at a higher risk for developing scalp folliculitis.

Can scalp folliculitis occur on other parts of the body?

Hair follicles are the most numerous on your scalp, so folliculitis often affects this area. However, it can occur anywhere on the body where hair follicles occur, including the arms, legs and groin area.

Is scalp folliculitis the same as scalp acne?

According to Discovery Health, acne and scalp folliculitis are two different conditions, even though the latter is often referred to as “scalp acne.” Scalp folliculitis can be more severe than typical acne and specifically affects hair follicles. If you're not sure if the red bumps on your scalp are acne or folliculitis, you may want to consult a doctor.

Is scalp folliculitis contagious?

Yes, scalp folliculitis is highly contagious, so it’s important to determine the cause. Avoid spreading or re-infecting yourself by using clean, fresh linens and towels daily. It’s also a good idea to disinfect all hair tools and accessories, and never share these items with others.

How can I treat scalp folliculitis at home?

There are several ways to treat and prevent scalp folliculitis.

  • Scalp: Switch to a shampoo and conditioner that’s formulated with salicylic acid to reduce oil and bacteria, or try formulas that treat dandruff.
  • Skin: To soothe discomfort, apply a warm towel or compress to the area a few times each day. Also, apply a topical ointment that contains oatmeal or hydrocortisone to relieve itch.Cleanse with a formula that’s antibacterial; look for salicylic acid or tea tree oil on the label. Remember to use a fresh, clean towel with every shower or bath, and try to avoid shaving the affected area.

Who is most often affected by scalp folliculitis?

According to Medicine Net, even though folliculitis most often affects teenagers and young adults, those of any age can experience this condition.

Can I use my acne facial cleanser to treat scalp folliculitis?

Although some acne facial cleaners might be effective in treating scalp folliculitis, make sure that it doesn’t contain benzyl peroxide, which can bleach your hair. Look for oil controlling cleansers that include tea tree oil or salicylic acid to treat this condition.

When should I see a doctor about scalp folliculitis?

Mild cases of folliculitis often clear up without any treatment. But if the infection doesn't improve within a few weeks of treatment, occurs repeatedly or if it spreads to other areas of the body, make an appointment to see your doctor or dermatologist. Also see a doctor if you develop a fever, or if the affected area becomes swollen, hot to the touch or especially painful. He or she may want to treat the condition with a prescription that targets the specific cause of your condition.

How will a doctor diagnose scalp folliculitis?

Often, with a simple visual examination of your skin, your doctor can easily diagnose scalp folliculitis. If you’re struggling to find an effective treatment, your doctor may test a small sample of a pustule, fluid or tissue in the affected area to determine the specific cause so that he or she can create a more focused and effective treatment regimen.

I develop small bumps on my skin after I shave. Is this folliculitis?

Folliculitis can be triggered by shaving and commonly occurs on the legs of women and the faces and necks of men (called pseudofolliculitis barbae). It develops when bacteria or other microbes enter incredibly small cuts caused by the razor on the surface of skin. To treat, simply avoid shaving for a few days after noticing the rash. Electric razors or hair removal lotions like Nair may also help prevent the occurrence of folliculitis.

What other skin conditions can scalp folliculitis be confused with?

Other skin conditions that cause symptoms similar to folliculitis include poison ivy, acne and heat rash. To know which you have, it’s important to understand the causes of each. If you’re not sure, contact your doctor.

Can scalp folliculitis lead to other conditions?

If left untreated, scalp folliculitis can eventually turn into cellulitis, a serious infection that can spread throughout the body. It can also lead to furunculous, a condition that’s characterized by numerous, painful boils that develop beneath the surface of skin and contain pus. Lastly, scalp folliculitis can lead to scars, pigmentation of skin and hair loss.

While scalp folliculitis can be a confusing condition to treat, once you figure out the cause and adopt a preventative daily routine that includes the right shampoo and cleansers, it’s possible to control this skin disorder. For more detailed information about scalp folliculitis, talk with your doctor.

See also:

Scalp Folliculitis: The Basics

Scalp Folliculitis: Emergency Products and Daily Maintenance

When Acne-Like Spots Strike the Scalp


Phyto Phytosylic Exfoliating Shampoo Phytosylic is a twice-a-week shampoo for all types of hair to effectively eliminate flaking and treat dandruff problems. Its gentle formulation combines the benefits of essential oils with Willow Bark Extract enriched with Salicylic Acid. Phytosylic clear shampoo has a pleasant odor (tea tree) and will not dehydrate or tangle hair."
Neova Purifying Facial Cleanser by ProCyte Neova Purifying Facial Cleanser is an extra strength oil-dissolving cleanser with purifying Tea Tree, Sage, Thyme and Eucalyptus that keeps pores clean down deep where problems begin. The unique moisture protecting formula leaves skin feeling fresh and helps control blemishes before they become a problem."

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