What is vaginal folliculitis?
Usually resembling acne, vaginal or genital folliculitis is a very common skin condition that is caused by the infection of hair follicles that get inflamed. A follicle is described as a small cavity in the skin from which your hair grows and when it gets inflamed, it appears as a small red bump with a pus-filled whitish tip.
The main difference between acne and folliculitis is that acne is a pore that gets clogged and subsequently infected, but in folliculitis, a hair follicle is what gets infected. Even though it can be uncomfortable, it is generally a harmless condition affecting people of all ages and skin types.
Types of folliculitis
Vaginal folliculitis can be of a few types which can be either superficial or deep. Even though it is more common to have superficial folliculitis, sometimes you can develop the deep kind which affects more hair follicles and shows graver symptoms.
Superficial folliculitis usually affects lesser hair follicles and can be cured more easily with home remedies or OTC products:
- Irritant folliculitis - Also referred to as razor burn, the injured follicles become infected after you shave the delicate region. It can even get aggravated from tight clothing or your genitals rubbing against that of a partner who’s recently shaved.
- Pseudomonas folliculitis (hot tub folliculitis) - A bacteria called pseudomonas sometimes develops inside unclean hot tubs or pools where the chlorine and pH levels are imbalanced. When you come in contact with this bacteria, you can contract pseudomonas folliculitis which causes a rash of small, round, red and itchy bumps on your genital area.
Pseudo folliculitis barbae (razor bumps) - Razor bumps or ‘barber’s itch’ result from ingrown hairs causing an inflammatory reaction on the skin. After shaving or waxing, as the new hair starts to grow, it can curl backwards and get trapped beneath the top layer of the skin. And as this hair follicle grows, the skin layers get irritated and cause a painful bump.
These are usually more severe and involve a larger number of infected hair follicles which usually take longer to heal:
- Boils - When staph bacteria get introduced into the hair follicles, they sometimes become swollen and become filled with pus, resulting in boils (furuncles). They keep increasing in size, becoming more painful till they rupture or are professionally drained. Sometimes, clusters of boils (carbuncles) form, which are more severe than a single boil and result in more pain and scarring.
Sycosis barbae - This is a more severe form of a razor bump and usually requires medical attention. It can also result in permanent hair loss in the area along with scarring that may or may not go.
What are the probable causes?
There can be a variety of causes for vaginal folliculitis which include:
- Shaving that results in razor burn or ingrown hair.
- Tight clothing or underwear that constantly rubs against the delicate skin.
- Menstrual products that have a synthetic top, resulting in more friction and sweat trapping, also causing pad rashes.
- Suffering from skin conditions like acne or dermatitis.
- Taking a dip in an unclean swimming pool or hot tub.
An infected cut spreading the bacteria around to the nearby hair follicles.
What are the common symptoms of genital folliculitis?
Usually, genital folliculitis starts off with a small rash-like patch with a white or yellow pus-filled head but may progress into crusty sores with time, and the signs and symptoms can include:
- Small red bumps with a white or yellow head.
- Pus-filled or crusty sores.
- Red, inflamed skin.
- Itching or burning sensation.
- Mild swelling with a painful or tender feeling.
- Mild fever in rare cases.
What are your folliculitis treatment options?
Mild cases of vaginal folliculitis can be treated at home, but severe cases may require the intervention of a professional. You can try the following treatment options and see which ones work for you:
- Warm compress - Take a clean cloth and soak it in warm water before wringing it out. Apply the cloth on the affected areas and repeat the procedure for up to 20 minutes to reduce itching, swelling and to draw the pus out.
- Sustainable menstrual products - If you feel that your conventional pads are causing irritation to the delicate area, try natural pads like the Carmesi Sensitive Sanitary Pads which are designed for sensitive skin. They have a top layer made of corn fibre that is completely rash-free and super soft to guard against friction while ensuring that it does not trap too much moisture in it. You can also try the Carmesi Tampons and Menstrual Cup to avoid any exterior contact with your period products.
- A calming bath - Heat up some water in a tub and add baking soda or oatmeal to the water to reduce itching and pain. The anti-inflammatory properties of these natural ingredients can really help calm your aggravated skin.
- Medication - You can try OTC medications or get antimicrobial pills prescribed by the doctor to kill off the bacteria and help the skin heal faster.
- Topical products - There are many creams, powders and other topical products available which can help cure your symptoms quickly and provide relief.
- Surgical lancing - If you have a boil or carbuncle, your doctor may make a small incision to drain the pus and assist in a faster recovery against the pain and discomfort.
- Laser hair removal - In laser hair removal, the hair follicles are destroyed and this can prevent inflammation or infection, thus curing you of vaginal folliculitis. However, this method can be expensive and require several sittings.