Two days ago, you enjoyed a luxurious soak in a hotel’s hot tub. Unfortunately, you find that you have developed a red, itchy, bumpy rash right on your bottom. To top this off, you also have noticed small pustules on one of your legs where you quickly shaved to get ready for this indulgence. While these rashes are caused by different activities, they both may be forms of folliculitis.
Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicle, the pouch that surrounds the hair, from various types of bacteria or fungus. A hair follicle can become damaged from shaving or become irritated if rubbed against clothing.
Hot tub folliculitis can occur if chlorine levels are not high enough to kill bacteria, usually pseudomonas, in the water. The bacteria laden water can become trapped between your bathing suit and your skin causing an outbreak of folliculitis. Razor burn folliculitis can occur from shaving one’s legs. Staphylococcus bacteria on our skin can infect the minute cuts from the shave.
Men can suffer from a different form of facial shaving irritation called pseudofolliculitis barbae or barber’s itch that causes facial hairs to become ingrown. Though this form of follicuilitis is not caused by bacteria, the hair follicle can still become irritated and inflamed.
Other causes of folliculitis are from use of creams or make up that block the follicle, long standing use of topical steroids or antibiotic cream or having a decreased ability to fight infection due to other illnesses such as diabetes or cancer.
Folliculitis should heal in on its own in about two weeks and doesn’t necessarily need to be seen by a doctor unless it continues or progresses. Warm compresses with diluted vinegar may ease itching and soothe the rash. Washing the skin with an antibacterial wash such as Phisohex twice a day may help. If the folliculitis doesn’t resolve, a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or anti-fungal cream if the rash is mild or oral antibiotics if it is more severe.
Shaving is a big culprit in the development of folliculitis.