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How to Deal with an Infected Hair Follicle on Scalp

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Scalp folliculitis is a common skin condition that anyone can experience at any point in time. Folliculitis is an infection of hair follicles caused by bacteria or fungi that lead to inflammation of the follicle. It is typically not a cause of concern, as most of the times it does not pose any other health risks. But the infection may sometimes cause itching or discomfort, which can be treated at home, unless it is very severe.

For relatively severe infections, you can always consult a dermatologist who will suggest topical medicines to treat the infection. Without proper care, a severe infection can spread and turn into painful, pus-filled sores. Addressing the issues on time can save you from this unnecessary discomfort. We’ll discuss how to deal with an infected hair follicle. 

But first, let us get to know the causes and symptoms of scalp folliculitis.

Table of contents:

  • What does an infected hair follicle on the scalp look like?
  • What causes scalp folliculitis?
  • How do you treat an infected hair follicle on the scalp?
  • Apply a warm compress
  • Use apple cider vinegar
  • Use a clarifying shampoo
  • How do you calm an inflamed scalp?
  • Hair oils
  • Tea tree oil

What does an infected hair follicle on the scalp look like?

In most cases, an infected hair follicle will appear like a small red bump or a white-headed pimple on the scalp. They are not usually filled with any fluids and cause no serious discomfort. If left untreated, the red bumps can get worse and turn into bigger pus-filled blisters that could be itchy and sometimes painful.

The infection usually starts at the hairline and may spread to the rest of your scalp if it is not addressed at an early stage.

The condition is not highly contagious, but if someone shares the same personal items like the comb or razor of the person having folliculitis, the infection could spread to them.

What causes scalp folliculitis?

Infection of hair follicles on the scalp may be triggered by various factors. Certain bacteria often reside on our skin harmlessly. But if the bacteria penetrates the skin through a wound or an open pore, that is when it can infect the area.

Bacteria may enter a hair follicle in many ways. The most common causes of follicle infections include:

  • Shaving with an old razor;
  • Wearing tight headgear that results in excessive sweating;
  • Scratching or touching the scalp frequently with unclean hands;
  • Tying hair tightly, stressing the roots;
  • Product build-up on the scalp.

Having a history of medical conditions like acne or dermatitis can increase your risk of getting folliculitis too. Hair follicle infections may be more common in people, particularly men, with coarse, curly hair.

Other factors that increase the risk of folliculitis are a weak immune system and prolonged consumption of antibiotics that can make certain bacteria resistant to treatment.

Folliculitis may also be caused by ingrown hair. Ingrown hair is when a strand of hair grows back into the skin after being shaved, epilated, or plucked. It may irritate the hair follicle and cause infection resulting in inflammation of the follicle.

How do you treat an infected hair follicle on the scalp?

Infected hair follicles can be treated with some simple home remedies or over-the-counter topical medications. We would, however, recommend trying home remedies first instead of going for medicines as these are a more natural way of getting rid of the infection.

Here are a few home treatments for you to try.

Apply a warm compress

A warm compress can be very effective in treating an infected hair follicle. Warm compresses can ease the itching or pain, if any, and drain any fluid that the infection may contain.

For a warm compress, take some warm water in a large bowl and add a teaspoon of salt. If saline water causes burning or irritation in the infected area, you can use plain warm water instead. Dip a soft towel in the water, wring it out and press the warm towel onto the affected part of your scalp.

Repeat this a few times a day. It should help dry out the infection quite quickly.

Use apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is an acidic substance and is known to have antimicrobial properties that can treat skin conditions like acne. Using apple cider vinegar on infected hair follicles can also help get rid of the infection.

Raw apple cider vinegar is too harsh for the skin, so dilute one part of the vinegar with 3 parts of water. Dip a cotton ball in the diluted solution and lightly wipe the affected area with it. Let it sit for 3 to 4 minutes, and then wipe the area with a clean damp cotton ball.

Repeat this treatment twice a day.

Alternately, you can use the WOW Skin Science Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo. It is made of 100% natural Himalayan apple cider vinegar that will give you the same benefits as the diluted solution we’ve mentioned above. Wash your scalp every alternate day with this deeply purifying shampoo to rid your scalp of any products, dirt, or grime that may be clogging your follicles.

Use a clarifying shampoo

As hair follicle infection on the scalp is also caused by product build-up, it is extremely important to keep your hair and scalp clean at all times. Using chemical-laden shampoos that contain sulfates and parabens may further irritate and dehydrate your follicles, making the infection worse. Go for an organic, deep cleansing shampoo instead. Clarifying shampoos get rid of stubborn impurities from the scalp reducing your chances of infection.

Try the WOW Activated Charcoal & Keratin Shampoo. The activated charcoal helps remove dirt, oil, and impurities, while the keratin nourishes the follicles and strands to make your hair stronger.

WOW Activated Charcoal & Keratin Shampoo


How do you calm an inflamed scalp?

Hair follicle infections cause inflammation of the scalp that may result in itching and irritation. Scratching your scalp can worsen the condition. You should instead try to ease the irritation and inflammation by using some soothing hair treatments, such as:

Hair oils

Hair oils play a vital role in easing the irritation of an inflamed scalp. Certain hair oils can have a calming and cooling effect that will relieve you of any itchiness or discomfort the folliculitis may be causing.

Massaging your scalp with the WOW Skin Science Moroccan Argan Hair Oil, for instance, has numerous benefits for both hair and scalp. The 100% natural cold-pressed oil relieves itchy irritation of the scalp while reducing split ends and frizz to give you healthier hair.

Tea tree oil

tea tree, wow essential oils, wow skin science, wow hair care, wow tea tree essential oil

Many essential oils also have a soothing effect on the skin and help protect the skin from environmental stressors. Tea tree essential oil is known to have these properties and is also an effective treatment for skin conditions like acne, which is very similar to folliculitis.

Try the WOW Skin Science Tea Tree Essential Oil! The pure therapeutic essential oil has healing properties to ease the symptoms of an inflamed scalp.

If you are interested in plant-based hair and skincare products, check out our range of 100% natural and vegan self-care essentials.

Colleen Rosemond

Colleen Rosemond is a beauty and wellness writer. She has over 20 years of experience reviewing various beauty brands, sharing beauty and healthcare advice, and busting beauty myths. Colleen loves what she does and considers this her way of giving back what she has gained over the years.

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