Folliculitis is a commonly occurring inflammatory condition of the skin that affects the hair follicles. Hair follicles are the small openings present on your skin that holds the hair roots. Folliculitis, when it affects the scalp, is known as scalp folliculitis. The condition is usually caused by a bacterial or a fungal infection that is caused by damage to the hair follicles. Scalp folliculitis is not a contagious condition and in many cases, it can be treated at home itself. However, in some rare cases, it is possible for the infection to spread to other hair follicles of the body and cause permanent hair loss or scarring. It is now possible to manage scalp folliculitis with these effective tips.
What is Scalp Folliculitis?
Scalp folliculitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the hair follicles of the scalp.(3) Hair follicles on your scalp are the openings present on the scalp skin that hold the roots of your hair. Scalp folliculitis is typically caused by a bacterial or fungal infection.(4) It occurs when there is damage caused to the hair follicles. Certain factors that can cause damage to your scalp hair follicles include.(5)
- Shaving your head.
- Frequently scratching or rubbing your head.
- Frequently wearing caps or hats.
- Twisting or tugging at your hair.
- Wearing a sports helmet frequently.
- Wearing hairstyles that often pull your hair, for example, tight braids or ponytails.
- Using a lot of hair products that cause product buildup over a period of time.
What are the Symptoms of Scalp Folliculitis?
Scalp folliculitis causes tiny red bumps to break out on your forehead and scalp.(5) These look similar to an acne breakout and over a period of time, these may also spread to other follicles on your skin.(5) The bumps may also become larger and more inflamed as the diseases develops.(1)
Scalp folliculitis can affect any part of your scalp, but it usually starts along the hairline.
Some of the other symptoms of scalp folliculitis include:(5)
- Itching on the scalp.
- Clusters of small, red bumps on the scalp – some of the bumps may have a white tip.
- Sores on the scalp that drain pus.
- Sores that have yellowish-brown scabs.
- Pain or tenderness on the scalp.
- Stinging or burning sensation.
Factors that increase your risk of getting scalp folliculitis to include:
- If you are a male with curly or coarse hair.
- If you have dermatitis or acne.
- If you have a weak immune system due to certain medical conditions.
- If you are on certain medications for acne or other skin conditions, such as steroid creams or even antibiotics.
Ways to Manage Scalp Folliculitis
It is usually possible to manage mild cases of scalp folliculitis at home by yourself. The most important thing here is to figure out what could have caused your condition in the first place and then to immediately stop doing that. For example, if you are in the habit of shaving your head regularly, then try to stop shaving for a couple of weeks and see the result. If you find that your folliculitis gets better, then you should consider changing your shaving technique or stop shaving altogether.
Here are some other ways in which you can manage scalp folliculitis:
- Use an Antibacterial Soap: If you have scalp folliculitis along your hairline, then you should wash the skin in that area gently and twice a day with antibacterial soap. Pat dry the area with a clean towel afterward.
- Warm Compress: You can try applying a warm, damp cloth or a warm compress to the affected area on your scalp a couple of times in the day to help soothe your scalp and also help drain any pus from scalp folliculitis.
- Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: Try using an anti-dandruff shampoo to wash your scalp. Any shampoo that contains antifungal components such as ciclopirox, ketoconazole, or even tea tree oil, will prove to be helpful in managing scalp folliculitis.
- Antibiotic Ointment: Applying an antibiotic ointment on the affected area on your scalp can help target the bacterial growth in scalp folliculitis. A good example would be Neosporin, which is easily available over-the-counter at any chemist shop.
- Cortisone Cream: Using a cortisone cream can help you manage scalp folliculitis, as it helps soothe the itching and inflammation that accompanies scalp folliculitis.
- Washing: It is important that you wash any of the items that come in contact with the infected part of your scalp including your hats, beddings, combs, etc. to manage and treat scalp folliculitis.
- Lukewarm Water: You should avoid washing your scalp or hair with hot water. This will only aggravate the scalp folliculitis and irritation on your scalp. So use lukewarm water only if you are suffering from scalp folliculitis.
Once you see that there is an improvement in your scalp folliculitis, do not forget to keep practicing good scalp hygiene so that the infection does not return. This would include washing your scalp regularly so that there is no buildup of hair products on the scalp. Also, regular washing removes the oils that irritate or clog up the hair follicles on the scalp.
If you are used to shaving your head with a hand razor, then you should consider replacing that with an electric razor and make sure to use a soothing lotion every time after you shave.
Scalp Folliculitis: When Should You Consult a Doctor?
While most cases of scalp folliculitis are manageable at home, sometimes it might require you to visit your doctor. If you fail to notice any improvement in your condition after a couple of days of home treatment, or if you find that your symptoms are getting worse, then you should consider visiting a doctor.
You should also consider going to the doctor if you notice the following:
- You develop a fever of over 380 C or 100o F.
- The sores on your scalp continue worsening.
- Sores on the scalp start to spread to other parts after trying three full days of home remedies and treatment.
- Your skin has turned red or feels painful around the hair follicles.
It could be that you need a prescription oral antibiotic or an antifungal cream to treat your scalp folliculitis, especially if you have recurring folliculitis or a weakened immune system.(2)
Scalp folliculitis can be an uncomfortable condition, but it is manageable and treatable at home itself. However, if you notice that there is no improvement even after a couple of days of home treatment, or if you notice your symptoms of scalp folliculitis getting worse, then you should consult a doctor. It might be that you need a prescribed treatment for treating your scalp folliculitis.
- Wolff, H., Fischer, T.W. and Blume-Peytavi, U., 2016. The diagnosis and treatment of hair and scalp diseases. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 113(21), p.377.
- Sillani, C., Bin, Z., Ying, Z., Zeming, C., Jian, Y. and Xingqi, Z., 2010. Effective treatment of folliculitis decalvans using selected antimicrobial agents. International journal of trichology, 2(1), p.20.
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