Filipina woman in swimming pool

Do you have tiny bumps on your skin that look like acne but aren’t quite acne? It could be a case of folliculitis. A skin infection that can develop anywhere you have hair follicles, folliculitis looks like an acne breakout that came out of nowhere and is usually itchy, sometimes painful. It’s not unusual for folliculitis to develop on the armpits. It is often mistaken for pimples when it does. Here is what it is, how you get it, and what to do about it.

How Do You Get Folliculitis?

Folliculitis can develop when the hair follicle is damaged and prone to infection and inflammation. It may be surprising, but there are many ways to . These include frequently rubbing or touching the skin, friction from tight clothing, skin-to-skin chafing, and shaving. 

, such as shaving, plucking, and waxing, can lead to this skin condition if you:

  • Shave your skin while it’s dry without applying shaving cream or gel
  • Shave against the direction of hair growth, which can cause painful bumps and ingrown hairs
  • Store your razor near the sink, in the shower, or anywhere it can get wet or contaminated with bacteria
  • Subject already irritated skin to harsh hair removal products
  • Press too hard on your skin when shaving

There’s also such a thing as “hot tub folliculitis,” which is specifically caused by — you guessed it — sitting in a hot tub. The warm, damp environment weakens the hair follicles and opens them up to damage. Usually, the resulting irritation occurs in the area covered by clothing.

What Can You Do About It?

Some people are just more prone to getting folliculitis. Armpit folliculitis is common and harmless. However, it can be frustrating, especially if you take special care of your underarm skin. If you are prone to getting these , the American Academy of Dermatology recommends:

  • Wearing tight, breathable clothing especially when it’s hot and humid and you know that you’ll be doing some activity that will cause friction against the skin.
  • Washing your swimsuit or wet suit after each use and letting it dry completely before wearing it again
  • Sitting only in clean, well-maintained hot tubs — or just soak in a pool or bathtub.
  • Showering with lukewarm (not hot) water, which can further dry the skin and make it more prone to irritation and inflammation
  • Being gentle on your skin by using a soft washcloth for cleansing and avoiding harsh scrubs and ingredients
  • Avoiding the shaving no-no's mentioned above and making sure to take care of your skin by using nourishing products. Vaseline Intensive Care Deep Restore Body Lotion has petroleum jelly and aloe vera to soothe and repair skin. It also has a non-sticky formula that makes it easy and appealing to apply regularly.

Folliculitis may appear alarming, but it can easily be prevented and eliminated with proper underarm care. If after practicing the tips above and your skin’s condition hasn’t improved or is getting worse, consult with your dermatologist for the best treatment.