What Types of Creams are Useful for Dealing with Scalp Folliculitis?

Have you ever experienced having red bumps on your scalp that feel like an acne breakout? If yes, it could be the root of a common skin condition referred to as scalp folliculitis. It is an inflammatory disorder of the hair follicles on the scalp. It commonly occurs on the frontal hairline. Scalp folliculitis is among the most common infection in the world, and it affects people of all ages. 

Scalp folliculitis is usually caused by some bacteria on the skin called Staphylococcus. It first appears as a rash and a small red or white-headed pimple. If it is not treated, it might spread and become crusty, itchy, and painful. This condition may also go away naturally. However, if you are suffering from it and the condition does not improve, using some powerful treatments like creams may also help. 

If you are wondering about the types of creams that you can use for this condition, we are here to help you. In this post, we are going to give you more information about scalp folliculitis, its symptoms, causes, and the types of creams that are useful for dealing with it.

What is Scalp Folliculitis?

Scalp folliculitis is an inflammatory disorder affecting the hair follicles in the scalp. This condition makes them inflamed or irritated. It is characterized by small and itchy pustules on the scalp. It usually looks like clusters of small red bumps and can be mistaken for an acne breakout. They may vary in size and severity from one person to another. Some of the possible contributing factors to this scalp condition include bacteria, ingrown hair, and yeast infection.[1]

If the condition is left untreated, it may spread to other hair glands, and the bumps may get more inflamed. Sometimes, the blisters also break open, turn crusty, and ooze pus. Scalp folliculitis is not a life-threatening condition, but it can be painful, itchy, and sometimes embarrassing. But with timely treatment, you will be able to get rid of scalp folliculitis easily.[1]

Symptoms of Scalp Folliculitis

Scalp folliculitis causes small, red bumps, at first, that appear similar to an acne breakout. But over time, these bumps may get larger and more inflamed and may also spread to other follicles. While it can affect any part of the scalp, it usually starts along the hairline. Below are the signs and symptoms of scalp folliculitis:[2] 

  • Clusters of small, red bumps on the scalp that may have a white tip
  • Wounds with yellowish-brown scabs
  • Sores that drain fluid
  • Itching
  • Burning or stinging sensation
  • Tenderness or pain

Causes of Folliculitis on the Scalp

Scalp folliculitis is caused by damage to the hair follicles, leaving them vulnerable to bacteria and fungi that cause infection. There are a lot of things that may damage the hair follicles on the scalp. Below are some of them:[1][2]

  • Rubbing or scratching your head often
  • Twisting or tugging on your hair
  • Wearing hairstyles that pull the hair, like tight braids and ponytails
  • Wearing hats frequently
  • Shaving the head
  • Wearing sports helmets
  • Using lots of hair products that build up on the scalp over time
  • Weak immune system
  • Bacterial infection
  • Long-term use of topical antibiotics
  • Frequent use of unchlorinated water in a hot tub
  • Consumption of a few medicines like corticosteroids

Types of Scalp Folliculitis

a man with scalp folliculitis

There are also different types of scalp folliculitis. The condition is broadly categorized as superficial and deep. Superficial scalp folliculitis is mild and can be treated easily. However, deep scalp folliculitis, on the other hand, enters deeper into the hair follicle, making it more challenging to treat. Below is more information about the types of scalp folliculitis:

Types of Scalp Folliculitis

Superficial Folliculitis

  • Bacterial Folliculitis: This is a common infection of the follicles that is caused by the bacteria that live on the skin. They enter the follicles through a wound or a cut. Often, it is staphylococcus aureus that attacks the follicles. This type of folliculitis is characterized by itchy, pus-filled bumps.
  • Pseudofolliculitis Barbae: This is also known as razor bump or barber’s itch. Based on reports, it affects around 60% of African American males and those who have curly hair.[1] This condition is caused by ingrown hair.
  • Pseudomonas Folliculitis: This condition is known as hot tub folliculitis. It usually occurs when a person often uses unclean pools or hot tubs. When exposed to this, symptoms usually appear after 72 hours.
  • Pityrosporum Folliculitis: This is a yeast infection of the skin that may lead to itchiness and redness. It is more prevalent in young adults.[1

Deep Folliculitis

  • Boils & Carbuncles: This is a bacterial infection that occurs deep inside the follicles. The condition may lead to painful, pus-filled boils. They may grow in size until they rupture and drain. It happens when several boils appear on the same spot, and scarring may also develop as an aftereffect.[1
  • Sycosis Barbae: This type of scalp folliculitis is similar to a razor bump but deeper. It can cause serious scarring on the scalp.
  • Eosinophilic Folliculitis: This is an intense and repetitive occurrence of scalp folliculitis. It usually leads to dark patches of skin. People with weak immune systems are more prone to develop this type of folliculitis on the scalp.
  • Gram-Negative Folliculitis: When people are on antibiotics for a long period, they may be at risk of developing gram-negative folliculitis. It’s because long-acting antibiotics may disrupt the normal bacterial balance of the skin, leading to infections like folliculitis.[1

Scalp Folliculitis Treatments

Scalp Folliculitis Treatments

Scalp folliculitis may heal within 7 to 10 days without any treatment. However, there are some severe cases that may cause permanent hair loss or scarring. Generally, the condition can be treated easily by doctors or dermatologists. There are also different ways in which it is treated. Below are some of them:

Topical Antibiotics

To limit the spread of folliculitis, cleaning the affected area using an antibacterial cleanser may help. To reduce the itch, the topical application of antibiotics can also help.[1] Later on, we will further discuss the common topical antibiotics and creams that work for scalp folliculitis.

Steroid Lotions, Soaps, and Creams

If the infection is mild, doctors may prescribe steroid lotions, soaps, and creams. There are some doctors that prescribe medicated shampoos to treat the condition.[1]

Oral Medications

For routine treatments, oral medications are not necessarily prescribed by doctors. But for severe cases, or if your scalp folliculitis is recurring, doctors might prescribe you oral antibiotics.[1]

Home Remedies

There are also different home remedies that you can try in order to treat scalp folliculitis. But the first step you must take is to find the root cause of the condition. Try to be mindful of your habits. For example, if you frequently shave your head, it is better to maintain a gap of around three to four weeks between each shave. Aside from that, some of the other home remedies for scalp folliculitis involve warm compress, herbs, and oils like lemon, clove, eucalyptus, tea tree, and chamomile.[1]

Types of Creams for Scalp Folliculitis

a jar of medicated cream

Now that you know the symptoms, causes, types, and treatments for scalp folliculitis, let us further learn about the types of creams that you can use to deal with the scalp condition. Note that scalp folliculitis can either be bacterial or fungal. Doctors may examine your skin and take a swab from the affected area to know whether it is a bacterial or fungal infection.[1]

Below are the different types of creams that you might want to try in order to deal with and treat scalp folliculitis:

Topical Antibiotics

As we’ve mentioned earlier, topical antibiotics are helpful when it comes to alleviating the itch that the condition causes, as well as preventing the spread of folliculitis. Some of the common topical antibiotics that work for scalp folliculitis include:

  • Fusidic Acid: Fusidic acid is also known as sodium fusidate. It is an antibiotic that works by stopping bacteria from growing. It comes as a cream or ointment. It is only available on prescription and with a steroid as a combined cream.[4
  • Clindamycin: This is another type of topical antibiotic that is used to treat bacterial infections like scalp folliculitis. It can be used alone or with one or more other medications that are used on the skin. However, it is also only available by a doctor’s prescription.[5
  • Erythromycin: This topical antibiotic is commonly known to treat inflammatory acne but may also be used to treat folliculitis. It comes in creams, gels, ointments, and toner-like solutions. You can only get topical erythromycin with a prescription.[6

Medicated Creams

In addition to topical antibiotics, medicated creams can also be used to treat folliculitis of the scalp. Below are some of the medicated creams that doctors may prescribe for scalp folliculitis:

  • Antifungal Creams: If the scalp folliculitis is caused by yeast rather than bacteria, then using antifungal creams may help treat the condition. Doctors are able to prescribe or recommend effective antifungal creams for the scalp.[7
  • Steroid Creams: If you are suffering from mild eosinophilic folliculitis, doctors may recommend you try using a steroid cream to ease the itching.[7
  • Ketoconazole Cream: This is another antifungal medicine that is used to treat infections caused by a fungus or yeast and prevent them from coming back. There are ketoconazole creams available over the counter, while stronger ones are prescribed by doctors.[8

How to Prevent Scalp Folliculitis

There are also effective prevention guidelines that you can follow to avoid the occurrence of scalp folliculitis. Below are some of them:[1

  • Take a bath every day, particularly after workouts.
  • Use mild soaps.
  • Avoid scratching bumps on your scalp.
  • Do not shave too frequently.
  • Do not tie your hair too tight.
  • Avoid using too much oil on your hair as this can clog the follicles and trap bacteria.
  • Always maintain personal hygiene.
  • Avoid sharing personal items with other people, such as your towel and comb.
  • Make sure that the pools and hot tubs you are using are always clean.


Scalp folliculitis is among the common skin conditions experienced by a lot of people. It is caused by inflammation and infection in the hair follicles. While a mild infection usually goes away by itself and can be treated at home, it is always important to consult with a doctor before using any products or medication. They are able to suggest the right course of action depending on your situation, severity of the condition, and frequency of recurrences. We hope this post helped you learn more about the types of creams that are useful for dealing with scalp folliculitis.


[1] Sen, C. (2022, August 25). 8 types of scalp folliculitis & ways to get rid of them. SkinKraft. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://skinkraft.com/blogs/articles/scalp-folliculitis#what-is-scalp-folliculitis

[2] Santos-Longhurst, A. (2019, February 15). Folliculitis scalp: Symptoms, pictures, shampoos, and other treatments. Healthline. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/health/folliculitis-scalp#symptoms

[3] Santos-Longhurst, A. (2019, February 15). Folliculitis scalp: Symptoms, pictures, shampoos, and other treatments. Healthline. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/health/folliculitis-scalp#symptoms

[4] NHS, E. (2021, November 30). About fusidic acid. NHS choices. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/fusidic-acid/about-fusidic-acid/ 

[5] Mayo Clinic, E. (2023, January 1). Clindamycin (oral route) side effects. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/clindamycin-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20110243?p=1

[6] Palmer, A. (2022, September 26). Is topical erythromycin the right acne treatment for you? Verywell Health. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/topical-erythromycin-15882

[7] Mayo Clinic, E. (2022, August 31). Folliculitis. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/folliculitis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20361662 

[8] NHS, E. (2021, June 24). Ketoconazole. NHS choices. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/ketoconazole/