Common Causes And Risk Factors Of Folliculitis

October 25, 2023

If an individual has been dealing with irritated skin recently, with symptoms such as red or white bumps, they're likely experiencing folliculitis, an unpleasant condition involving inflamed hair follicles. Not limited to the scalp, folliculitis can occur in multiple regions of the body, including the back. If individuals have hair on a body part, they're at risk for developing folliculitis there. The length of folliculitis cases depends on severity. Some cases can be extended to the point of causing lasting scars. Everyone should be aware of folliculitis and how it occurs. These are some of the common causes and risk factors of folliculitis.

Infectious Organisms

Though not as severe as something like meningitis or ebola, folliculitis is rooted in infection. Infectious organisms such as bacteria will affect hair follicles. In one type, known as hot tub folliculitis, bacteria from improperly treated hot tubs will spread. Exposure to staph bacteria can also cause problems if it's transferred via an injury, such as slicing a finger open and making contact with staph bacteria. To help avoid folliculitis, individuals should be aware of what they expose their body to. They should be especially mindful of cleaning and covering injuries as soon as possible. Individuals should also avoid any environments they believe could be infectious.

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Irritating Chemical Substances

Just because something is advertised as a skincare product doesn't mean it can't cause irritation. Products, such as moisturizers, can contain irritating chemical substances, leading to folliculitis. Before starting any new moisturizer or other skincare product, individuals should be sure to check for testimonials and avoid products with a reputation for irritation. If someone starts experiencing symptoms of folliculitis after starting treatment with a new product, they should stop using it immediately. There are medications, including ones applied topically, which can help with folliculitis. Individuals just need to stay away from ones that will cause or exacerbate folliculitis.

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Occlusive Clothing

By occlusive clothing, we mean any clothing that restricts airflow. Occlusive clothing can lead to folliculitis by causing friction on our skin. As our skin is irritated and starts to break out in rashes, our hair follicles are impacted. Thus, everyone should keep the tightness of their clothing in mind to avoid folliculitis and keep their skin comfortable.

Individuals should be able to move comfortably. Even if their clothing doesn't cause folliculitis, they should still properly launder any clothing items they have worn while dealing with folliculitis. It is important patients don't share their wardrobe with anyone else while going through folliculitis, as bacteria can find its way to others this way.

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Ingrown Hairs

Ingrown hairs can lead to folliculitis. Individuals who have curly hair are more typically susceptible to ingrown hairs, which are usually a result of hairs emerging from the skin and then retracting into it again. These hairs can usually be identified based on the surrounding region being visibly disturbed. Knowing how to shave properly can really help with prevention. If an individual is dealing with them, they should exercise their best self-control and refrain from picking at or otherwise messing around with sores. Should folliculitis from these hairs be causing extreme distress and discomfort, patients should make an appointment with a dermatologist.

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Shaving is considered an essential part of a good grooming routine, but it can also increase an individual's risk for folliculitis. Part of it has to do with technique. If individuals shave in a motion opposite to how their hair grows, they could end up with folliculitis. Individuals also need to be aware of the quality of their equipment and should invest in an electric razor if they haven't already. Finally, refraining from shaving entirely could help individuals avoid folliculitis. They should not shave too frequently and should always make sure their blades are fresh. Individuals must also stay vigilant of any irritation that occurs in any place they shave.

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Acne Or Dermatitis

Having acne or dermatitis can increase an individual's risk of developing folliculitis. Many forms of folliculitis may look like pimples at first. Acne occurs when the skin's pores become clogged, while dermatitis refers to any kind of skin inflammation. Both dermatitis and acne have many different forms and potential causes. When a portion of skin is affected by acne, it may become red, swollen, pus-filled, or tender. Dermatitis often causes an itchy rash and reddening and swelling of the skin. Typically, dermatitis occurs because of an allergic reaction or an infection of the skin. Eczema and rashes caused by substance contact are both types of dermatitis.

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Chronic Leukemia

Chronic leukemia can increase an individual's risk of developing folliculitis because the condition reduces their infection resistance. Leukemia occurs when cancer develops in the blood-forming tissues of the body. These tissues include the lymphatic system and the bone marrow. There are many types of leukemia. Some most commonly affect children, while others are most commonly seen in adults. The majority of cases involve white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections like folliculitis. Patients with leukemia have elevated white blood cell counts, but the cancerous white blood cells aren't able to function properly. This compromises overall immune functioning and can make it very difficult to fight off infections.

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Diabetes is another illness that can impair the immune system's ability to function. Individuals with diabetes may be more susceptible to folliculitis. The body needs to convert sugar in the blood into energy the cells can use. Insulin is responsible for moving sugar out of the blood and into the cells. Diabetes patients either don't have enough insulin to function, or their bodies improperly manufacture insulin. Without treatment, this causes blood sugar levels to become dangerously high. Not only can this cause damage to multiple organ systems, but it weakens a patient's overall immune system. In addition to impaired immune function, individuals with diabetes have an increased risk of surgical site infections, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and foot infections caused by nerve damage.

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Sitting In An Improperly Maintained Hot Tub

It's common to develop folliculitis after sitting in an improperly maintained hot tub. In fact, this scenario is so common that there's a type of folliculitis named for it. Hot tub folliculitis, otherwise called pseudomonas folliculitis, occurs when an individual is exposed to a certain kind of bacteria. The pseudomonas bacteria can be found in multiple places, including heated pools and hot tubs without well-regulated pH and chlorine levels. In a well-maintained hot tub or pool, the chlorine levels are high enough to kill any potentially harmful bacteria. Hot tub folliculitis causes itchy, round, red bumps. They typically crop up twenty-four to forty-eight hours following bacteria exposure.

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Waxing and shaving too close to the skin both have the potential to cause folliculitis. Waxing is far more likely to cause folliculitis than shaving, though. When individuals forcefully remove hair from the follicle, they cause stress to both the follicle and the skin surrounding it. It's common for individuals to develop inflammation and small bumps after waxing. These cases of folliculitis can be uncomfortable, but they usually subside within a few days. If the bumps are fluid-filled or white, they may be related to a mild infection rather than standard inflammation. Most cases of infection can be treated from home. More serious infections may need treatment with a course of antibiotics.

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