Folliculitis is an infection or irritation in the hair follicles. Follicles are tiny openings or pockets in the skin where each hair grows from. This common skin condition is usually caused by a bacterial or fungal infection.
Most cases of folliculitis are mild. It usually goes away on its own within a few days. In some cases, you might need medical treatment, such as antibiotics. Folliculitis isn’t contagious, but it can spread from one part of the skin to another area on your body.
Home remedies can help soothe and treat symptoms of mild folliculitis.
Folliculitis can happen anywhere on the body, including the scalp. The hair follicle may get inflamed and appear red and bumpy. It may look like a small pink or red rash on the skin. Mild folliculitis may cause signs and symptoms like:
- soreness or tenderness
- burning or stinging
- rough, dry or flaking skin
There are different kinds of folliculitis, including:
Try home remedies to help relieve itching or soreness from folliculitis. You may still need medical attention in serious cases.
1. Do a soap wash
Clean the area with warm water and soap twice a day. Dry off with a clean towel and avoid sharing your towel with anyone. Also, use hot water and detergent to wash any clothing or towels that have touched the folliculitis.
2. Wear loose, dry clothing
Folliculitis can sometimes happen from wearing clothing that irritates the skin or when skin rubs against skin. Avoid wearing clothing like yoga pants, tights, leggings, and other tight clothing.
Also, avoid wearing outfits that allow your thighs to rub against each other. Wear shorts under a dress or skirt. Wear longer sleeve T-shirts and dresses to cover the skin under your arms.
Wet skin is also more likely to get an infection. Wear loose and breathable or moisture-wicking fabrics. Dry off and change right away if you’re sweaty or wearing wet clothing.
3. Use a warm compress
A warm, moist compress can help soothe soreness, swelling, and pain. Use a new or sterilized washcloth. Boil a soft cotton cloth or launder it in warm water and soap to make sure it’s clean.
- Boil 2 to 3 cups of water.
- Let the water cool until it’s warm or at room temperature.
- Add 1 teaspoon of table salt and stir.
- Soak the compress in the salt solution.
- Squeeze out extra water.
- Gently press the washcloth onto your skin.
- Repeat several times a day, using a clean washcloth each time.
4. Try aloe vera
Aloe vera gel may help heal the skin faster. It’s also cooling, which may help soothe itching, redness, and swelling. Research shows that aloe vera gel may also help stop some kinds of infection-causing bacteria.
Look for pure aloe vera gel with no added perfumes and other chemicals. Apply aloe vera gel on the skin after cleaning the area with soap and water.
5. Do a hydrogen peroxide wash
You can find hydrogen peroxide in the first aid aisle of your local pharmacy. Hydrogen peroxide can help get rid of some bacteria and fungi that cause folliculitis.
- Dilute the hydrogen peroxide with clean, sterile water or use it directly.
- Apply it onto your skin with a cotton swab. You can use a small spray bottle for larger areas.
- Let the area dry and reapply as needed.
Avoid using hydrogen peroxide on areas of healthy skin — you don’t want to kill “good” bacteria on the skin. Some bacteria help get rid of germs that cause infections like folliculitis.
6. Apply antibiotic creams
Over-the-counter antibiotic creams, gels, and ointments may help clear up a small patch of folliculitis. Look for antibiotic creams that are put on cuts and scrapes. Apply the cream with a new, clean cotton swab.
Avoid using too much antibiotic cream and use it only where needed. It may wipe out “friendly” bacteria that are good for your skin and body.
7. Use anti-itching lotion
Over-the-counter anti-itching lotions and creams can help soothe folliculitis symptoms. They contain hydrocortisone, a kind of steroid medication that helps bring down itching, swelling, and redness.
Apply the steroid cream or lotion thinly over the skin area. Wash your hands after using it. Hydrocortisone cream is a medication, so use it only as directed.
8. Try wet wraps
Wet wrap therapy is a way to help ease skin itching and irritation. Dermatologists recommend this at-home therapy for people who have eczema and other skin rashes. It can also be used to help reduce folliculitis symptoms like itchiness.
Not scratching itchy skin can help speed up healing. It may also help prevent folliculitis from getting worse or spreading to other body areas. You can use antibiotic ointment or anti-itching lotion first.
- Wash the area and your hands with warm soapy water.
- Cut a clean cotton cloth into strips or use gauze bandages — the type used to dress cuts.
- Pour sterile water (or boiled water that has been cooled) into a bowl.
- Soak a cotton or gauze strip in the water.
- Squeeze out the water and lay over your area.
- Repeat until the entire area of folliculitis is covered.
- Cover the wet bandages with dry ones.
- Leave on for up to 8 hours.
- Remove the bandages and use fresh cloth or gauze if you want to reapply the wet wrap.
9. Avoid shaving
Some kinds of folliculitis, like barber’s itch, happen after shaving the skin. This can happen when shaving the face, head, or body. Shaving may irritate the skin and open up the hair follicles. This raises the risk of infection.
Avoid shaving until the folliculitis has cleared up. When you do shave, use clean, sharp blades each time. Clean the area with warm, soapy water before and after shaving.
10. Stop waxing
Some kinds of hair removal like waxing can open up the hair follicle too much. This can lead to ingrown hair and skin infections like folliculitis.
Avoid waxing the area where you have folliculitis. Try other kinds of hair removal methods like depilatory creams instead.
11. Try essential oils
Medical studies show that some essential oils have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Some essential oils may work against bacteria and fungi that cause folliculitis.
Essential oils shouldn’t go directly on your skin. Dilute the essential oil by adding a few drops to a carrier oil or a moisturizing cream. Essential oils are powerful, so using them directly or too much can irritate your skin.
Essential oils that may help treat skin infections like folliculitis include:
Avoid essential oils if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. They may not be safe for babies.
While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
12. Get laser hair removal
While not quite a home remedy, reducing body hair permanently may help you shave or wax less often. This can help prevent folliculitis. Try laser hair removal as a long-term option.
Some laser therapies aren’t suitable if you have darker or tanned skin. Talk to your dermatologist about the right laser hair removal for you.
Folliculitis can sometimes be serious. You may need medical treatment like prescription antibiotics, steroid medication, and in rare cases, even surgery.
See your doctor right away if you have any signs and symptoms of severe folliculitis, such as:
- whitehead pimples around the hair follicles
- pus or oozing from the skin
- crusty sores on the skin
- a large bump or mass
- hair loss
See your doctor or dermatologist if you’ve used hydrocortisone cream for 2 weeks or longer and still have skin itching.
Folliculitis is a common skin irritation. It often happens after shaving, like when you have razor burn. Folliculitis usually goes away by itself without treatment.
Home remedies can help soothe symptoms like itching, tenderness, and redness. They can also help prevent folliculitis from happening or getting worse.
Some kinds of folliculitis are more serious. They cause a severe skin infection that leads to hair loss or scarring. See your doctor if you have any signs of a serious infection.
Home remedies can treat mild folliculitis only. You will need medical treatment for more severe folliculitis.