What is Folliculitis and how does it cause hair loss?

Abbas Kanani, lead pharmacist and health adviser for Chemist Click shares everything you need to know about folliculitis and hair loss

Folliculitis is a common yet widely unrecognised skin condition in which hair follicles become inflamed, which can then lead to other problems such as hair loss.

Those who have it may lose confidence or feel embarrassed, so it's essential that we understand this condition to then learn about prevention and treatment. Here, Abbas Kanani, lead pharmacist and health adviser for Chemist Click shares everything you need to know about folliculitis and hair loss.

What is folliculitis?

Folliculitis is a common skin condition which essentially occurs when hair follicles become inflamed, this inflammation is normally due to an infection which can result in pimple-like spots or pustules which become irritated and cause pain around the area.

It mainly affects the head, arms and face with many people experiencing it on their scalp. It is a fairly harmless condition, however in rare cases it could cause serious disease to those with a compromised immune system.

What causes folliculitis?

The most common cause of folliculitis is usually due to infection in damaged hair follicles. Infections caused by yeast, fungus, staphylococcus aureus and viruses can all cause folliculitis.

Other, lesser common causes may be skin irritation, topical steroids, skin disorders such as dermatitis and acne, blockage of the follicle and sometimes medications. It has also been found that improperly treated hot tubs and pools can lead to folliculitis.

What are the symptoms of folliculitis?

In the early stages, folliculitis may appear like a rash or a patch of small bumps or white tipped pimples. Patches of folliculitis may appear pink on lighter skin tones, and on darker skin tones the skin may look purple or red. It can often spread to nearby follicles and turn into crusty sores.

Other key symptoms may be itching, tenderness around the follicle, inflamed skin, puss filled sores, itching and tender bumps and sore skin.

Are there different types of folliculitis?

There are a number of different types of folliculitis, these all depend on the depth of infection. Some may only cause mild symptoms while others can lead to a deeper follicle infection.

However, the most common type is bacterial folliculitis, which often presents itself in pus filled pimples that itch, this usually occurs from infection or long term topical antibiotic use.

How is folliculitis linked to hair loss?

Scalp folliculitis is folliculitis that only appears on the scalp, it is considered the most common place folliculitis appears, due to a large amount of follicles being present on the scalp.

In the early stages of scalp folliculitis, the hair fibre may still be present and intact, but as the infection progresses it is likely that the hair will fall out.

When folliculitis becomes severe, the inflammation may become so bad that it permanently destroys the hair follicles, leaving you with little bald patches where the hair has fallen out.

What are the treatments available for folliculitis?

Unlike other hair loss conditions which can be treated using medications such as Finasteride tablets. Folliculitis is a little more complex and it depends on the type and severity of the condition.

Mild cases may only need home remedies to soothe and prevent further inflammation, however severe cases may need medication or other therapies.

Treatments include:

  • Topical antibiotic creams
  • Steroid creams
  • Oral antifungals
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Topical antifungal creams

Home remedies include:

  • Warm compress on affected area
  • Topical creams, gels and washes
  • Maintaining good hygiene
  • Having a soothing bath

How can I prevent folliculitis?

You can help prevent folliculitis by steering clear of the causes of the condition or changing your self care habits to ensure you do not have a risk of infection. These include avoiding:

  • tight clothing
  • irritating clothing
  • harsh or hasty shaving techniques
  • Blunt or unclean shaving tools
  • improperly treated hot tubs and pools
  •  spending a lot of time in sweaty clothing

If you think you may have folliculitis you should book an appointment with your GP to discuss your treatment options.

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