During the summer, a high school football player will spend a lot of time outside in a mesh jersey. Similarly, a cheerleader will wear a tight-fitting outfit in the same conditions. As these athletes get hot and sweaty, and their clothes cling to their skin, it’s common for them to develop little red bumps that are mistaken for acne.
In many cases, these red bumps are actually folliculitis, an infection or inflammation of the hair follicle. Folliculitis is often caused by yeast that lives on the skin. It becomes more common with heavy sweating when wearing these types of clothes on hot summer days.
The Effects of Leaving Folliculitis Untreated
If folliculitis is left untreated or treated improperly, it can become very itchy and sensitive. These little red bumps can quickly spread all over your shoulders and back. Not only is folliculitis extremely uncomfortable, but it can make kids feel self-conscious.
Are There Different Types of Folliculitis?
1. Bacterial Folliculitis
These itchy, sore, pussy bumps appear on the back of the neck or at the base of the scalp.
Their appearance can be triggered by a few different factors, such as getting the back of the neck shaved, sweating while wearing a hat, or even feeling stressed. Athletes who wear a helmet as part of their uniform often notice the problem where their helmets rub against the skin.
2. Pityrosporum Folliculitis
Caused by yeast, these infected hair follicles look more like acne than an infection. Little red bumps (some with whiteheads) appear all over the chest and back.
Often, they’re caused by wearing warm, sweaty clothes for long periods of time. Maybe you’re playing a ball game, or you’ve spent the day fishing outdoors. No matter the reason, leaving sweaty clothes on the skin brings out the yeast from the hair follicle and causes the infection.
How To Treat Folliculitis
How to treat Bacterial Folliculitis
If you want to get rid of folliculitis, treat it at its source. Since bacteria are the culprit, you need an antibacterial product like benzoyl peroxide. Regularly use a 10% benzoyl peroxide wash in the shower. Just rub it in and leave it on for 10 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly. When you dry off, use a white towel – benzoyl peroxide bleaches fabrics. With regular use of a medicated wash, the condition should stay manageable.
How to treat Pityrosporum Folliculitis
The treatment for yeast folliculitis is identical to the bacterial treatment. Apply a 10% benzoyl peroxide wash to the affected areas like a lotion, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then rinse it off in the shower.
Some people assume that decreasing yeast intake helps too, but it doesn’t. Yeast is natural in the body, and eliminating yeast products from your diet won’t fix the problem.
Buying the Right Folliculitis Treatment Product
You can buy an over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide wash almost anywhere, but read the labels carefully. Products aren’t advertised as “Infected Hair Follicle Treatments”, so make sure you check medications for the right ingredients.
Look for benzoyl peroxide as the active ingredient. Because it’s antibacterial, it fights infection at the source. Salicylic acid is not a substitute. It isn’t anti-bacterial so it won’t be as effective in calming the infection. Instead, read labels of PanOxyl, Proactiv, or Neutrogena products to find a medication with a 10% benzoyl peroxide concentration.
Is Folliculitis Contagious?
Rest assured, folliculitis isn’t often contagious. Only in rare circumstances can you pass it to someone else, usually by sharing a razor. However, if you’re using your own razor and keeping good hygiene, it’s not something you’ll pass on or get from someone else. The causes are usually connected to your own circumstances.
If your son or daughter comes home from practice with itchy red bumps, don’t assume this is acne. Come to our office for benzoyl peroxide wash or look for it at your local pharmacy. Proper treatment of folliculitis will help your kids get relief from an uncomfortable and often embarrassing condition.
Dr. R. Todd Plott is a board-certified dermatologist in Coppell, Keller, and Saginaw, TX. His specialization and professional interests include treating patients suffering with acne, identifying and solving complex skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and identifying and treating all types of skin cancers. In his spare time, Dr. Plott enjoys cycling, traveling with his wife, and spending time with his children and new grandson.
Learn more about Dr. Plott.