Folliculitis and boils


What is folliculitis?

A follicle is a microscopic sock-like vase from which a hair grows out. Inflammation of the follicle is called folliculitis.  It is most commonly caused by infection. In the case of infection a follicle can also get filled with pus, forming a pus bump (pustule). When the bump gets larger and more painful people usually call it a boil (furuncle).

A man with pink bumps on his neck and chest.
Boils (furuncles) caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or commonly known as “Superbug”

How does folliculitis look like?

 Folliculitis looks like red, sometimes painful or itchy small bumps with scattered pus bumps (pustules) around hair shafts. It can occur on any hairy areas of skin, and compared to acne it does not have blackheads (comedones). If these bumps occur on areas without hairs, then it is not folliculitis.

How can I treat folliculitis and boils?

Try over-the-counter shower gel with bleach (CLn body wash or antibacterial washes (Dial shower gel, Hibiclens). However, recently triclosan, which is active ingredient in many antibacterial washes (some Dial products) has come under FDA scrutiny due to its possible negative effects on human health. In 2014 Minnesota has banned triclosan in soaps and body washes.

If you develop boils (larger and painful pus bumps) do NOT try to squeeze them out, and schedule appointment with your health care provider.  Until you see your health care provider you may apply a warm washcloth over it for 15-20 min several times a day to help it ripe and drain on its own. You should always wash your hands after touching the boil.

When should I see my health care provider?

You should go and see your health care provider if after using the above home treatments for several days did not help you, or if your folliculitis is progressively getting worse, or if the bumps are very painful and get large (i.e. if they turn into boils), or if you develop fever.

For more specific questions on folliculitis send us your question using our blog below.

Please post your question or comment.