Inflamed and infected hair follicles are the defining features of a medical condition formally called folliculitis. Hair follicles become irritated when something damages them, according to MedlinePlus. Factors that can cause damaged hair follicles include shaving, having an inflammatory skin disease like acne or wearing tight clothes that rub against the skin. Once follicles are damaged, bacteria, fungi and viruses can infect them and make inflammation worse, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although mild folliculitis usually clears up without intervention and more severe cases require medical assistance, certain practices can still reduce inflammation and prevent recurrences.
Stop participating in practices or situations that cause or increase follicle damage, such as removing hair on your body by tweezing or waxing, pursuing activities that make you sweat excessively and soaking in hot water like that found in hot tubs, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Treat any underlying condition that contributes to your folliculitis. Apply appropriate topical acne products to your skin to eliminate pimples if you have acne, for example.
Press a moist, warm cloth against inflamed areas three or more times a day to reduce irritation and promote drainage if follicles contain fluid. Add white vinegar to the cloth for additional relief, if desired.
Wash inflamed areas twice a day with a clean cloth and antibacterial soap. Dry your skin afterward with a clean towel. Rub a nonprescription antibiotic product, such as a lotion or ointment, into the skin after washing for extra relief, if needed.
Apply a nonprescription product with hydrocortisone or a lotion containing oatmeal to inflamed areas to alleviate itching, if necessary.
Launder clothing, towels and washcloths after every occasion they come into contact with inflamed areas. Use hot water and detergent to clean the items properly.
Things You'll Need
Antibiotic nonprescription topical product
Hydrocortisone nonprescription topical product
If inflamed hair follicles persist and are due to hair removal, stop removing hair and do not remove hair again for approximately three months after inflammation improves. If you must continue removing hair, however, the Mayo Clinic advises shaving with an electric razor instead of a manual razor. Electric razors are a gentler option for removing hair, according to DermNet NZ, especially on the arms and legs.
Inflamed hair follicles that recur or that do not improve on their own may be due to an infection or underlying medical condition. Consult a qualified health care professional to determine the exact cause of persistent folliculitis so you can begin more appropriate treatment. For instance, eliminating folliculitis resulting from an infection may require using a prescription antibiotic.
Also seek assistance from a trained medical professional if inflamed hair follicles produce boils or carbuncles, which are larger, typically painful bumps filled with pus. Both occur when bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus infects hair follicles beneath the skin, according to the Mayo Clinic, and they may require draining to release pus, decrease pain and minimize future scarring.