It can often feel that keeping a full head of healthy hair is more difficult than it needs to be, especially for men. Between genetically induced male pattern baldness and immune system malfunctions or medical issues resulting in various forms of alopecia, there seem to be many factors that work against the average man. 

Today we’re looking at the common, but thankfully, preventable matter of folliculitis in men. We want to understand the causes and best treatments in order to avoid the potential for scarring and hair loss.

What is Folliculitis?

Folliculitis results from inflamed hair follicles, which appear as small, swollen bumps in the affected area looking much like a pimple, although mild or early stages of folliculitis can appear as tender, swollen or itchy areas. These small infected areas can spread and turn into crusty and unsightly sores if left untreated. While folliculitis can affect any area of the body with hair, it is most likely to cause distress when it appears on the head and face where it can result in permanent scarring and hair loss. 

The good news is that it can be treated effectively, especially when it’s caught early, and while it can feel embarrassing and uncomfortable, it’s not life-threatening.

What Causes Folliculitis in Men?

Folliculitis is most commonly caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that is normally found on the skin but only becomes problematic when they enter the body, and can cause a range of illnesses. This bacterial folliculitis displays as raised and itchy bumps on the skin, often painful and pus-filled, and they can turn into boils or carbuncles if the infection progresses deeper. 

Other forms of folliculitis include:

  • Pseudomonas folliculitis, also known as hot tub folliculitis, results in round, itchy bumps on the skin after using unsanitary hot tubs, swimming pools, or even ponds and lakes.
  • Pseudofolliculitis barbae is also referred to as razor or shaving bumps. This can occur in sensitive areas after shaving or waxing and appears as inflamed bumps. Men with curly hair are particularly susceptible to razor bumps on the face and neck after shaving as they are prone to ingrowing hairs and the uncomfortable infections that can follow.
  • Pityrosporum folliculitis is also referred to as fungal acne, and is characterised by inflamed, itchy pustules. These commonly appear on the neck, shoulders and back, but can also affect the face and upper arms. It is caused by a proliferation of yeast that forms part of our natural skin flora, but causes issues when it infects the follicles and produces an acne-like appearance.
  • Sycosis barbae is an uncomfortable and painful condition caused by shaving, which most commonly affects men. The hair follicles become infected, leading to large, inflamed pustules on the skin, often resulting in scarring. 

Anyone can develop folliculitis, but some are more likely to suffer than others. For example, people who:

  • Are dealing with a medical issue that affects their immune system;
  • Are predisposed toward acne;
  • Cause damage to hair follicles through overly tight-fitting clothing or clothing that does not allow for adequate ventilation;
  • Shave frequently, especially men with curly hair who are more likely to suffer from ingrowing hairs;
  • Have been exposed to bacteria in poorly maintained swimming pools or hot tubs;
  • Share a razor with others.

While folliculitis is seldom caused by poor personal care, it’s good to know that it can be rectified by good hygiene and, if necessary, medicated hair care products from a trichologist.

What Treatments are Available?

As with most ailments, prevention is certainly better than cure – and of course, catching an infection early is key! 

Therefore, if you are experiencing itching, burning, or swollen areas of skin and you suspect folliculitis, it’s a good idea to book a visit with a qualified trichologist who will be able to quickly ascertain the exact cause and suggest treatment immediately to prevent any further damage to the hair follicle. 

Common treatments include:

  • Oral or topical antibiotics
  • Antifungal creams or shampoos
  • Medicated hair care products
  • Anti-bacterial soaps
  • A program of careful skin and scalp care 

It’s likely that your treatment program will include lifestyle suggestions such as wearing loose, comfortable clothing, washing the face or other affected areas regularly to maintain disinfection and keeping bed sheets, pillowcases, hats and hoods, combs, brushes and clippers clean. 

It is vital to not squeeze or pick at pustules as this can spread the infection to neighbouring follicles and injure the skin resulting in scarring.

What Next?

While some instances of folliculitis can resolve on their own with minor discomfort, others can cause permanent damage to the skin resulting in scarring and hair loss. Deep infections can result in painful abscesses and other serious conditions. We may not be able to avoid all fungal and bacterial infections in today’s polluted world, but we can be aware of how they impact our bodies and what we can do about them. 

Folliculitis in men may be common, but it doesn’t have to be a problem for you. If you’re concerned that you may be experiencing early symptoms or even have a recurring skin issue that you’re worried about, we invite you to book a consultation. Our professional, highly skilled trichologists are keenly interested in your unique needs, and you can trust them to find the best solution.

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