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    Vaginal Folliculitis and Treatment Options

    Updated 03 February 2023 |
    Published 02 April 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Andrei Marhol, PhD, Flo lead medical advisor, Lithuania
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    Vaginal folliculitis, or genital folliculitis, is very common and can occur on and off throughout your lifetime. Folliculitis looks like acne in the genital region. The main difference is that acne is a clogged or infected pore, while a folliculitis bump is actually an infected hair follicle. You can spot the difference between the two by identifying a hair in the middle of a folliculitis bump.

    Although genital folliculitis may be a bit painful, you can easily prevent it and treat it at home. Without prompt attention, however, an infected follicle can develop into a genital abscess, which will need medical attention.

    What causes genital folliculitis?

    Folliculitis, even in the genital region, is generally not contagious. However, due to the proximity of hair follicles to one another in the vaginal region, the infection can spread from one to the next, eventually looking like a patch of acne. 

    Folliculitis happens when your hair follicles are damaged. When they’re damaged, it’s easy for germs to get inside the follicles and cause an infection. The infection can be caused by bacteria, usually by Staphylococcus aureus (staph), viruses, or fungi.

    Hair follicles can be damaged by:

    • Touching or rubbing your skin frequently
    • Wearing tight clothing
    • Shaving

    The initially infected follicle may occur as a result of an ingrown hair, caused by a follicle blocked by sweat and dead skin cells. Genital folliculitis is more common in areas of the body where hair is rough and often shaved, including the vaginal region. There, the hair is coarser, the skin is more sensitive, and the risk of bacterial infection from razors or other hair removal products is higher.

    The skin around the vagina and inner thighs is thinner and more sensitive than the skin on other parts of the body. Tight clothing and elastic underwear bands can cause excess friction; that, coupled with sweat from vigorous exercise or even just continuous walking creates an environment that is ideal for folliculitis to occur. Tight clothing can slough off dead skin cells, and then sweat and oils in that area become trapped in the hair follicles. Skin is especially susceptible after shaving.

    Dirty hot tubs and spas can also cause folliculitis, as bacteria thrive in inadequately chlorinated warm water. Make sure to clean in between your legs and around your vagina thoroughly after sex and after using a hot tub to reduce your chances of infected hair follicles. You may also experience higher occurrences of vulvar folliculitis during your period due to the shifts in hormone levels.

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