Folliculitis is a comparatively ordinary skin disorder caused by inflammation and infection in the hair follicles. Types of folliculitis include razor bumps, hot tub rash, and barber’s itch.

A follicle is a small skin cavity from which hair grows. Every single hair on the human body grows from its own follicle. While folliculitis may appear on any area of the body it most usually affects the arms, legs, buttocks, genitals, chest, back, head, and face. The situation presents as small red bumps which may have a white, pus-filled tip. Although uncomfortable, folliculitis is a relatively harmless condition that can affect people of all ages.

Causes and risk factors

Folliculitis is normally caused by a bacterial infection, commonly Staphylococcus aureus, or staph. However, fungal infections, viruses, and physical trauma to the follicle can all contribute to folliculitis.

Folliculitis is linked to:

  • injuries to the skin, including cuts or insect bites
  • using an unclean hot tub or swimming pool
  • an infected cut or wound
  • shaving
  • tight hair braids
  • tight clothing
  • ingrown hairs
  • clothing that rubs the skin
  • sweat or personal products that irritate the follicle
  • skin-clogging substances, such as tar and motor oil
  • covering the skin with non-breathable items, such as tape or plastic
  • skin situation, such as acne or dermatitis

Symptoms and complications

In the initial stages, folliculitis may look like a rash, a patch of small red bumps, or yellow- or white-tipped pimples. Over time, this can spread to nearby hair follicles and progress to crusty sores.

The situation can affect one or many follicles and may last a short time (acute case) or persist long-term (chronic case).

Signs and symptoms include:

  • burning
  • tenderness
  • pain
  • swelling
  • small red bumps
  • white-headed pimples
  • pus-filled sores
  • crusty sores
  • red skin
  • inflamed skin
  • itching


Although folliculitis is not life-threatening, some complications may arise. These include:

  • furunculosis – boils under the skin
  • scars or dark patches
  • permanent hair loss due to follicle injure
  • recurrent follicle infections
  • infections that spread to other areas
  • cellulitis – infection of the skin