Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicles, the tiny pits in the skin from which hair grows. Usually, the inflammation is due to infection with staphylococcus bacteria or a fungus. Chronic skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis can put you at risk for folliculitis, as can diabetes, tight clothing, living in unsanitary conditions, heat and humidity, and staph infections in the nasal passages. (There's also a more severe form of folliculitis that comes from using hot tubs that haven't been properly disinfected. Known as "hot tub folliculitis" and caused by pseudomonas bacteria, this condition can be painful and resistant to treatment.)
Usually, common folliculitis responds to treatment with over-the-counter antibiotic ointments applied to the affected area, but if the area is large, you may need a course of an oral antibiotic. But repeated use of antibiotics, either topically or orally, is likely to select for resistant, nastier strains of staph. You need to try another approach.
I would recommend taking astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous), one of my favorite immune-boosting tonics. It is the root of a plant in the pea family long used in China to prevent illness and strengthen sick people. Buy astragalus root standardized to 16% polysaccharides in capsules and follow dosage directions on the product. This herbal remedy does not attack the germs in your skin; rather it increases your natural resistance to them. Astragalus is completely nontoxic, and you can take it indefinitely. I also recommend "Host Defense" capsules, a blend of medicinal mushrooms from Fungi Perfecti that can help boost your immunity.
Keep the affected area clean, but stop using antibacterial soaps. You can apply hot, wet compresses to bring more blood to the skin to help fight the infection.
The goal is not to eradicate the staph germs but to get back in balance with them. They are normal inhabitants of the skin and do not have to cause you problems. To that end, I strongly recommend that you try some form of mind/body medicine, such as hypnotherapy, which can be very effective in treating skin conditions. Look for a hypnotherapist with experience in dealing with these disorders. You can get a referral from the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. Guided imagery is another option, learn more at the Academy for Guided Imagery.
And it also might be worth making some dietary adjustments: reducing the amount of sugar you are consuming, adding some raw garlic to food or to salad dressing, and taking a probiotic supplement, such as Culturelle or products containing BC-30.
Andrew Weil, M.D.