Finicky Follicles

A hair follicle is a pocket within the skin from which an individual hair grows. Each follicle's root has a sensory nerve fiber, which alerts the body when the hair has been pulled or irritated. Follicles also contain a sebaceous gland, which produces oil to condition the hair and nearby skin [source: Berman].

Bacterial Skin Infection Symptoms

Bacteria are responsible for causing a range of unsightly skin conditions, including cellulitis, folliculitis, impetigo, and boils and carbuncles, but these conditions are usually fairly easy to spot. Boils, redness, rashes and other irritation on the skin's surface might mean you need to seek medical attention.

Cellulitis forms deep in the skin's layers and can cause skin to swell, turn red and be warm and tender [source: Mayo Clinic]. Symptoms usually surface in the legs, fingers, toes, face, feet, hands, torso, neck and buttocks, but can occur anywhere [source: Stulberg]. Infection signs include swelling, bruising, chills and overall weakness. If you have more severe symptoms, including a large area of infected skin, fever, numbness, or infection near your eyes or ears, or if you have HIV or diabetes, consult a doctor as soon as you suspect an infection [source: University of Virginia Health System].

Small, white lumps around hair follicles can be a sign of folliculitis. These bumps also may begin as sore, red lumps but can become more serious if they take over a large area of skin. The blisters eventually fill with pus and break open, which can cause scarring [source: Mayo Clinic].

Signs that you may have impetigo include sores, usually found around the nose or mouth, that begin as red spots and progress to larger, itchy blisters. These sores can become a concern if they continue to increase in size and number [source: WebMD]. Once they break open, the sores may form a yellow-brown crust.

Boils and carbuncles begin as red lumps that grow larger and fill with pus before breaking open and draining. A boil, or furuncle, is a bacterial infection in a hair follicle. A group of these that form a connected area of infection is called a carbuncle [source: Mayo Clinic]. Boils are frequently found on the face, neck, armpits, buttocks or thighs. Carbuncles, frequently found on the back of the neck, shoulders or thighs, result in a deeper, more severe infection. Consult a doctor if you have boils that are on your face or spine, occur frequently or with a fever, or aren't showing signs of healing, or if you have red lines on your skin around the boil.

Concerned about catching an infection? Read on to discover ways to protect your skin from potential problems.