Folliculitis: What Causes An Infected Hair Follicle?

What Is Folliculitis?

razor burn

Folliculitis refers to an infected hair follicle. This typically appears as small red, yellow or white bumps on the skin. While commonly referred to as “razor burn,” folliculitis is usually caused by damage to the hair follicle but can also be caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. The condition is very common, affecting millions in the US every year.


  • Staph infection
  • Yeast infection
  • Skin irritation
    • Shaving
    • Waxing
    • Friction from clothing
  • Insect bites
  • Certain viruses
    • Herpes
  • Impaired immune system
  • Blocked pores
  • Demodex mites
  • Certain acne treatments


Hot Tub Folliculitis

This type of folliculitis is caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, commonly found in hot tubs that are not properly cleaned.

Malassezia Folliculitis

This type of folliculitis is caused by yeast.

Gram-Negative Folliculitis

This type of folliculitis is caused by prolonged acne treatments using antibiotics.

Sycosis Vulgaris Folliculitis

This type of folliculitis is also known as “Barber’s Itch” because it occurs in the neck and beard area after men shave their faces.

Herpetic Folliculitis

This type of folliculitis occurs when the herpes virus infects the hair follicles, particularly around the mouth.

Pseudofolliculitis Barbae

Pseudofolliculitis Barbae refers to a type of folliculitis in which the hair grows backward into the skin and causes inflammation.

Eosinophilic Folliculitis

This type of folliculitis occurs when the immune system is impaired.



  • White-headed pimples
  • Itching
  • Pus-filled sores
  • Burning
  • Tender skin
  • Crusty sores
  • Red skin
  • Inflamed skin


Your primary care physician can diagnose folliculitis, but they will likely refer you to a dermatologist for treatment and further diagnostic testing. Your physician will likely order blood tests to rule out certain underlying conditions that can lead to folliculitis.


Treating folliculitis depends on the underlying cause. In cases that are caused by skin irritation (shaving, waxing, etc.), topical antiseptics can resolve the infection and inflammation. Using proper shaving cream for shaving can reduce the likelihood of razor burn reoccurring. Medications like oral antibiotics or topical antifungals may be needed for cases of folliculitis that are caused by infections.

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