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Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles. 

Every hair on the body grows from a follicle, a small pocket of modified skin. Although follicles are densest on the scalp, they occur everywhere except on the palms, soles and mucous membranes.  Each follicle is attached to a muscle which contracts when a person becomes cold or frightened, raising the hairs above the level of the skin and giving the appearance of goose bumps. Just above these muscles are sebaceous glands that produce an oil that lubricates the skin and coats each hair shaft. This oil is carried to the follicles and skin in tiny ducts.

Normally, the follicles carry out these functions with few problems. But when they're damaged, they may be invaded by viruses, bacteria or fungi, leading to infections such as folliculitis.


Symptoms may include:

  • clusters of small red bumps that develop around hair follicles
  • pus-filled blisters that break open and crust over
  • itchiness
  • tenderness
  • large swollen bump or mass
  • pain

Causes may include:

  • friction from shaving or tight clothing
  • excessive perspiration
  • inflammatory skin conditions
  • injuries to the skin
  • exposure to coal tar

Treatment may include:

  • antibiotics
  • avoid shaving or use an electric razor
  • oral or topical medication

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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton Hamilton. Phone: 609-586-7900 Physician Referral: 609-584-5900.

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