Healthy Living

Is it Heat Rash or Folliculitis?

Is it Heat Rash or Folliculitis?

Key Takeaways

  • Heat rash and folliculitis can have very similar symptoms and therefore can be mistaken for each other. 
  • Both cause a visible rash.
  • Heat rash results from a blockage of the sweat ducts, while folliculitis results from inflammation of hair follicles

What Is Heat Rash?

Heat rash is a condition of the skin that results from a blockage of the sweat ducts. This condition can be attributed mostly to excess sweating, and is therefore very common in hot and humid areas. All people can be affected by heat rash, especially if they are in conditions that cause excessive sweating.

What Is Folliculitis?

Folliculitis is also a condition of the skin, but it occurs due to inflammation of the hair follicles. Once the hair follicles become inflamed they cause a visible rash on the skin.

Relationship between Causes of Heat Rash and Folliculitis

These are two very different conditions, that have completely separate causes. Here is a comparison between the two:

Heat rash is caused by:

  • Blockage of the sweat ducts
  • Excess sweating
  • Underdeveloped sweat ducts that trap perspiration
  • Excessive physical exercise that causes sweating
  • Consistent exposure to heat

Folliculitis is caused by:

  • Fungal infections
  • Irritation from shaving
  • Injuries that cause inflammation of the skin
  • Other skin conditions that might in turn irritate the follicle area

Comparison of Symptoms

Heat rash typically causes more severe symptoms than folliculitis. However, there are some similarities between the symptoms of both infections.

  • Both conditions cause symptoms that are observed on the skin
  • They both can cause bumps
  • Itching of the skin

There are also some differences in the symptoms. These include:

  • Bumps caused by folliculitis are mostly pus-filled, while heat rash results in bumps that are mostly pink or red.
  • Folliculitis can cause the surrounding skin to be very inflamed, as a result of the inflammation of the hair follicles. In the case of heat rash, there is little inflammation of the skin, and any that does occur goes away within a short time.
  • Severe itching occurs in cases of heat rash, while folliculitis does not typically itch very much.

Risk Factors for Heat Rash and Folliculitis

There is a big difference in the risk factors for these conditions. The only common risk factor they share is obesity

In heat rash, risk factors include the following:

  • Staying in the sun for a long time
  • Overdressing
  • Using heavy creams or lotions that block the sweat ducts
  • Prolonged exposure to heat
  • Strenuous activities that can cause excess sweating

The following are the risk factors for folliculitis:

  • Frequent shaving
  • Prolonged pressure, especially on the buttocks
  • Diabetes
  • Weakened immune system, often caused by infections such as HIV
  • Underlying skin infections such as eczema

The Bottom Line

There are some similarities between heat rash and folliculitis like the presence of bumps on the skin and irritation of the skin and surrounding areas. Both conditions can be triggered by other underlying infections of the skin and by obesity. However, heat rash is not the same as folliculitis. It is important to note that having heat rash can sometimes result in folliculitis. Restriction of the sweat in hot conditions can cause inflammation of the follicles, therefore progressing from heat rash to folliculitis.