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Treatment for folliculitis includes self care with home remedies, over-the-counter medications and, in some cases, medical treatment. The inflamed hair follicles that characterize folliculitis may itch or sting. Treatment both helps reduce the symptoms of the condition and treats the underlying infection to clear up the irritated red bumps on the skin.
Home treatment is often effective for mild cases. Washing the area with antibacterial soap daily will help keep the infected area clean and also combat the bacteria under the skin that are responsible for the bumps. Applying warm, wet compresses to the affected area for five to ten minutes can help relieve itching and pain. Compresses made with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1-1/3 cups of water (14 ml of vinegar to 240 ml of water) are particularly effective.
Over-the-counter antibacterial creams and ointments are also effective for mild folliculitis. Applying a cream, such as bacitracin, daily to the area will help kill the bacteria that infect hair follicles. Antiseptic washes that contain povidone-iodine can also fight bacteria and prevent the infection from spreading. Shampoos that contain selenium treat folliculitis that manifests on the scalp or beard area.
Shaving areas affected by folliculitis can further irritate the hair follicles and make the condition worse. If the area must be shaved, it is important to gently massage the area with warm water and soap or shaving cream made for sensitive skin. Using a new razor blade each time when shaving areas of folliculitis helps prevent the infection from spreading or getting worse. Moisturizing areas of dry skin with a fragrance-free lotion can help soothe folliculitis and prevent recurrence.
Medical treatment for folliculitis is necessary if the infection is deep or severe, or if it does not clear up with home treatment. A doctor or dermatologist can assess the condition and its cause to determine what treatment method is most likely to clear up the infection. Patients who suffer from folliculitis due to bacterial infections may need to take oral antibiotics. Prescription-strength antibiotic creams can help clear up moderate cases. Antifungal medications are prescribed when the condition results from a fungal skin infection.
Topical or oral corticosteroids are prescribed as a treatment for folliculitis to help reduce swelling and irritation. Corticosteroid treatment is usually reserved for severe cases of folliculitis that do not respond to other medications. Patients should use these medications exactly as directed and discontinue their use as directed by their doctors, generally within ten days.