This is a concern I’ve had brought to me many times and is something I’ve battled wit myself since I was a teenager. Folliculitis is a microbial infection of the hair follicle, normally on the body, that shows up as small red bumps that may or may not have yellow heads. It’s very common on the back of the arms and top of the legs. It’s cause is often follicles that have been damaged by friction of clothing or from shaving / waxing.
Firstly it’s important to say that this advice is for folliculitis that has been diagnosed as such, as in some cases this can be a symptom of something underlying, particularly it’s a known symptom of the HIV virus. If you’ve not had it looked at, then please do get it examined, but more often than not, it’s just infected follicles so don’t panic, but I have to mention it.
Even though it can look like a symptom of Acne, the bacteria in this case isn’t p.Acne, but in fact Staphylococcus (Staph for short). Surface infection is presented by follicle inflammation with dry heads. Deeper infection is often presented by larger pustules and elevated bumps.
The worst possible thing you can do to it is scrub it harshly. Gentle infrequent exfoliation with a hand mitt may help to increase skin cell turnover, but be careful not to rupture the papules (spots) as this will lead to the spreading of the infection as well as scarring and later hyperpigmentation.
Medical VS. Homeopathy
I have tried many different strategies recommend by both doctors and colleagues and none have ever cleared the problem effectively but I’ve managed to take different elements of their advice as well as a great deal of research through online journals and I’ve come up with something I’ve personally found effective.
I’m sure I’ll get a whole load of comments of natural remedies that I should be recommending and how chemicals are bad etc, and in all honesty, each to their own. However even though I think it’s a wonderful experience and there are a huge number of effective homeopathic and natural treatments, in many cases a more medical approach is needed.
I am reminded of a Billy Connolly Sketch (YouTube) that sort of sums up my attitude towards the ultimate effectiveness of holistic treatments and aromatherapy in skincare.
Use a gentle cleanser that is soap free and although I’m an advocate of its use, without SLS. I’ve been using Lipikar Syndet Body Cream / Gel Cleanser from La Roche-Posay, containing 10% Glycerine, shea butter and Niacinamide helping to restore the skin barrier and effectively remove surface dirt. When you’ve washed, leave the skin to dry for 15-20 minutes before moving onto the next step.
There are a few treatments that are readily available from your GP or skin specialist but in all honest I would recommend Benzoyl Peroxide, actually listed by the World Health Organisation as an essential medicine and available over the counter at the discretion of your pharmacist in the form of a 10% BP gel. It’s a peeling agent and antimicobial that will kill bacteria on contact and increase skin cell turnover. These actions are essential in the treatment of your concern. Make sure as mentioned that you wait at least 15-20 minutes after showering to make certain that your skin is completely dry.
Normally only use the gel once a day, and actually start off by using it every other day. Make sure that before starting the treatment that you test the gel on a small patch of skin to ensure that you don’t react and if you do find abnormal redness, itching or swelling, contact your local GP or at least return to your pharmacist. You will find an increase in skin sensitivity, particularly to the sun and is therefore why you should only apply the product at night.
Finally, we’ve cleansed and treated but barrier function still needs to be repaired. The skin’s natural barrier is a mix of oils and waters that help protect your cells and is an important part of healthy skin function. Using thick lotions containing lots of oils will more often than not exacerbate the concern, possibly causing the inflammation to become pustulous. Therefore, the use of a calming gel will answer this problem. I’ve found here in Spain a product called Aloe Repair, that contains a 99% concentration of pure aloe vera as well as Vitamin A and the powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E. It’s completely oil free and will sink in easily, calming and relaxing the skin as BP can often lead to slight skin irritation.
I would also recommend the use of an oil-free SPF with a titanium or zinc oxide as the feature ingredient, offering at least an SPF 15 for daily UK use, but wait a couple of days before adding that as it may cause a reaction and you don’t want to overwhelm the skin with to many new treatments at once.
This treatment really is worth trying just use caution and common sense. If you’re unsure as to the cause the symptoms, please go to your local GP for a clinical diagnosis. Also make sure at every step to try the recommended products on small patches of skin first, as using products that don’t full agree with your skin may worsen your skin concern. Good luck.