Staphylococcal acne isn't actually acne. It's a form of folliculitis known as staphylococcal folliculitis. With acne, pores clogged with dead skin and excess oil are infected with the P. acnes bacterium. This causes inflammation of the hair follicle, resulting in the papules or pustules associated with this skin condition. Staphylococcal folliculitis develops when hair follicles are exposed to a different type of bacteria, asserts the Mayo Clinic. Much like acne, the infection causes pustules to form. Though the two conditions may appear similar, they really have nothing to do with one another.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, staphylococcal folliculitis is the most common form of folliculitis. Often referred to as barber's itch, it is an infection of the hair follicle caused by staphylococcus aureus, or staph. Naturally found on the body, this bacterium doesn't usually pose a problem until it breaches the surface of the skin.
As the infection sets in, it causes white, pus-filled bumps or pustules to develop along the skin. This is why people frequently identify this form of folliculitis as staphylococcal acne. But unlike acne vulgaris, the pustules are accompanied by an itching sensation, and they normally form soon after shaving.
As mentioned before, staphylococcal folliculitis develops when the bacterium breaches the skin. This can happen through any sort break in the epidermis. Shaving is probably one of the more common culprits of this skin condition, largely due to the development of an ingrown. However, you may also develop folliculitis from a scratch, cut or sore, warns the Mayo Clinic. Even friction to the skin may expose the hair follicles to the bacteria.
Over-the-counter acne creams most likely won't help to clear up this form of folliculitis. Treatment of the pustules usually involves antibiotics. While some people can respond favorably to OTC antibiotics, it may be necessary to use a prescription strength antibiotic to kill the bacteria affecting the follicles. The antibiotic is either taken orally or applied topically to the skin. The Mayo Clinic also recommends you avoid shaving until the pustules have healed, especially if you use a razor blade for hair removal.
If left untreated, or the infection becomes severe, it may result in permanent hair loss, skin discoloration and even scarring. As soon as the infection develops, it's critical to treat the condition and take precautions to keep the infection from worsening. To do this, wash the affected area each day and use a clean razor for each shaving.
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