Health Q&A Focus: Folliculitis

The beard trend shows no signs of coming to an end, but it has meant an increase in an unwelcome skin problem among younger guys. Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, tells us all about folliculitis.

Health Q&A Focus: Folliculitis

What is folliculitis?
It's a group of skin disorders in which the hair follicles become either inflamed or infected. It usually occurs on hair-bearing sites such as the scalp, beard area, arms, back, buttocks and legs, and results in mildly itchy or painful spots that may contain pus. It can be caused by infection, blockage or occlusion of the hair follicles with greasy ointments, irritation by shaving or sweat, various skin diseases and medications.

Is it a common problem in young men?
It is when hairs start to regrow after shaving, waxing or plucking. This can be a particular problem in the beard area and occurs more frequently in those with curly hair. The risk can be reduced by shaving in the direction of hair growth rather than against it, and leaving the hairs slightly longer rather than aiming for a close shave.

When should you see a doctor?
It is worth seeing your GP if you get recurrent bouts of folliculitis causing symptoms such as pain or itching.

How can it be treated?
It depends on the severity of the condition. In some cases an antibacterial soap or cleanser may be all that is required. If the problem is recurrent and/or severe, a course of antibiotics may be appropriate. It is also advisable to reduce the frequency of shaving, if possible, to prevent further irritation. If the problem is due to overgrowth of yeast on the skin, then antifungal creams and shampoos may help, although the problem is likely to recur.

Any other tips?
Avoid wearing tight clothing that can cause occlusion or irritation. Careful hygiene, with regular exfoliation to prevent ingrown hairs, is important. Use shaving foam to lubricate the blade and prevent nicks and cuts which allow entry for infection into the hair follicles. Avoid hot tubs too!

For further help and information on skin health, see the resources at

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