What is Hot Tub Folliculitis Rash? (7 Ways to Treat It!)

By Dillon •  Updated: 05/11/21 •  12 min read

What is hot tub folliculitis rash?

Hot tub folliculitis rash is a condition where people develop a red, itchy rash on their skin after entering a hot tub or spa. In addition to being incredibly uncomfortable, the rash can cause the skin to peel off in areas that are particularly affected by the infection. Symptoms of this skin infection differ depending on how long the bather has been infected with it. Symptoms usually begin within 24 hours and itch for around 4-7 days.

Check out my list of high-quality hot tub products to help keep your hot tub clean and running great all year long!

Aquaphor healing ointment will help soothe the itching and irritation from hot tub folliculitis. This ointment can be used at night to reduce redness and itchiness. Apply an amount about the size of a grain of rice to all affected areas. You can also use this ointment in the morning to help moisturize your skin and keep your pores clean.

A few years ago, my brother used a hot tub and got a rash the next day. I thought that maybe the problem was related to the spa water itself, so I did a bit of research.

This is what I found…

If you’ve ever experienced a troubling rash after getting out of a hot tub, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Hot tub folliculitis rash is a skin condition caused by over-exposure to hot water in a hot tub or spa. It is characterized by red erythema, scaling, and irritation. Fortunately, you can rest assured that there are ways to cure and even prevent this condition from happening again.

Frequent bathers can develop hot tub folliculitis rash by bathing in water that is too hot and humid. This leads to an overgrowth of bacteria on the skin, filtered out by the bather’s hair follicles.

This article will go in-depth on hot tub folliculitis rash, focusing on all common causes, symptoms, and prevention techniques.

Let’s get started!

What Exactly Is Hot Tub Folliculitis Rash?

As mentioned above, hot tub folliculitis rash is the condition of people who develop a red, itchy rash on their skin after entering a hot tub or spa.

The water in the hot tub causes this because it is too warm and can trap too much humidity. The water doesn’t need to be a specific temperature for this condition to occur. Still, the bather must be directly exposed to it and stay in there long enough for the bacteria that reside on them and in their hair follicles to spread. In most cases, a person will only begin to experience symptoms after remaining in the hot tub for at least 20 minutes.

Saltwater hot tubs are often less abrasive for skin and lead to a more relaxing experience, check out our full article on saltwater hot tubs for more information.

What Causes Hot Tub Folliculitis Rash?

The leading cause of this skin infection is over-exposure to hot tub water when you are in the water and allow it to sit for too long. This means that bathers who experience this condition have to be extremely careful when getting out of a hot tub or spa because they can transfer this bacteria on their skin to other parts of their body. In addition, with susceptible hair particles, the bacteria can spread and infect pretty easily.

The chemicals in the hot tub also cause this because they can weaken the skin, making it easier for the bacteria to cause infection. In addition, over-exposure to hot tub water is very likely a contributing factor in the increased cases of folliculitis around the country, even after manufacturers have altered their products to decrease this risk. Because of these factors alone, hot tub folliculitis is extremely common, and many people go months without noticing any symptoms.

Other common risk factors for developing hot tub folliculitis include being over 40 years old, being overweight or obese, using topical antibiotics or anti-fungal creams, and excessive sun exposure, especially between 11 am and 4 pm. Also, if you have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, you can be more likely to develop this type of rash.

If you have shaved or waxed recently, your follicles will be freshly exposed, which also increases the likelihood of you contracting hot tub folliculitis. Lastly, it’s also been noted that people with curly hair are fairly more likely to get it than those with straight hair, just because of how curly hair follicles react to hot water.

Common Symptoms Of Hot Tub Folliculitis Rash

Some symptoms are listed below. If you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor right away.

Rash

The most common symptom of hot tub folliculitis is a rash. This rash starts as itchy red patches, and these will usually be in clusters on the back and around the groin. It can spread to the arms, chest, face, neck, buttocks, or legs. These rashes tend to first appear on the back but will apply to other areas, especially if you are a frequent hot tub user. This condition typically occurs in three stages:

The first stage of this skin infection is referred to as the primary stage, in which there is redness and itching and a mild pimple-like rash. In the secondary stage, the rash becomes irritated, red, and swollen. In the final stage, the skin begins to flake or peel.

Scaling And Redness

In addition to the rash, there may also be scaling and redness due to over-exposure to hot water. When this happens, you can often see tiny bumps on your skin that resemble dandruff (much less than one millimeter in length) and are usually very itchy. This scaliness is typically a result of the follicle ducts clogging with bacteria, as this is how hot tub folliculitis is contracted.

White or Tan Discoloration (Hyperpigmentation)

You may also notice that your skin has a white or tan discoloration after your rash has cleared up. This is the result of the skin’s immune system reacting to the presence of bacteria. The white or tan discoloration only lasts a few days and is not permanent, but it can be pretty obvious because you can see these bumps on your skin, which are tiny veils of skin that are not attached to your actual epidermis (outer layer of skin).

Itching

The itching associated with hot tub folliculitis results from the bacteria causing your blood vessels to react and become inflamed. The itching can be intense and annoying, but it should subside after about a week.

Blisters

Blisters are an infrequent symptom of hot tub folliculitis, but they are usually on the nipple areas if they do occur. Blisters are typically filled with a medium-sized amount of fluid and can be filled with pus and blood as well.

How To Treat Hot Tub Folliculitis

If you suddenly experience a rash, itching, redness, or flaking on skin that has been exposed to hot tub water, it’s best to rinse the area with room temperature water and apply aloe vera gel. If the symptoms do not subside after 24 hours, it’s best to see your doctor.

Please consult your medical professional before using any of these treatments.

Other ways to treat the rash include:

Shampoo or Soap

Anti-dandruff, dermatitis, or antibacterial soap or shampoo may also help provide some relief to someone with hot tub folliculitis rash.


Antibiotics

Sometimes hot tub folliculitis can be treated with a 10-day course of antibiotics, but most cases do not require this treatment. You should only use antibiotics if your symptoms become inflamed and infected or if there are large areas of peeling skin, significant swelling, or signs of heat with redness (known as “hot tub folliculitis”). You should then apply aloe vera to the affected area and discontinue using the hot tub until your symptoms have subsided completely.

Oatmeal Baths

You should dilute 1 cup of oatmeal in the tub water as hot as your skin can tolerate. This type of bath is helpful when you have a rash on your breast, neck, thighs, or buttocks. Oatmeal baths help with itching and inflammation; you should stay in the tub for 10 minutes at a time and do this two or three times a day.

Cool Water

If you have a rash that appears on your chest, back or shoulders, you can help ease the itching by taking cool showers. You should keep your body out of hot water and only let it soak in cool shower water for five to 10 minutes. Repeat this two or three times a day. Also, use aloe vera to treat the redness, flaking skin, and itching.

An Ointment

Aquaphor healing ointment will help soothe the itching and irritation from hot tub folliculitis. This ointment can be used at night to reduce redness and itchiness. Apply an amount about the size of a grain of rice to all affected areas. You can also use this ointment in the morning to help moisturize your skin and keep your pores clean.

Moisturizing Cream

If you have dry skin, apply a soothing cream that’s designed for sensitive skin. You can choose from several creams that are specifically made for hot tub folliculitis and other skin conditions. These creams contain moisturizing ingredients, vitamins, and herbs to heal the skin and relieve itching. Some of these creams may also feature anti-itch ingredients like menthol; these are especially helpful if you have a rash on your chest or groin areas.

White Vinegar

This home remedy is a staple for people suffering from hot tub folliculitis. Mix 1 part white vinegar, 1 part water, and apply the mixture to the affected area every day. Over time, the combination will work to kill the fungus that causes hot tub folliculitis and help heal your skin.

I recommend natural distilled white vinegar.

Tea Tree Oil

You can purchase tea tree oil in essential oil form, or you can make your own at home by adding 3-4 drops of tea tree oil to 3 tablespoons of organic coconut oil. Mix the solution and apply it to the affected area every day. Once the infection has gone down, you can begin using this solution once a week to prevent hot tub folliculitis from returning.

Preventing Hot Tub Folliculitis Rash

To prevent hot tub folliculitis rash, you should do the following.

  1. Take a Hot Tub Bath for Less Than 20 Minutes
  2. Wash Your Hair With Less Soap or Avoid Showering
  3. Avoid Excessive Sun Exposure
  4. Don’t Shave For A Couple Days After Exiting The Hot Tub
  5. Install A New Hot Tub Filter
  6. Use Proper Equipment To Get In And Out Of The Hot Tub
  7. Change Out Of Your Swimwear Right After Exiting The Hot Tub

Cleaning your spa is also very important, check out our full article on how to clean your spa properly.

You must take steps to prevent your body from developing hot tub folliculitis. To do this, you should:

1. Take a Hot Tub Bath for Less Than 20 Minutes

When you take a hot tub bath for longer than 20 minutes, you expose yourself to the bacteria that cause this condition. The likelihood of contracting this skin infection increases if you use a hotter-than-usual water temperature in your hot tub.

To enjoy your hot tub more, check out our article on hot tub aromatherapy.

2. Wash Your Hair With Less Soap or Avoid Showering

This is especially important if you have sensitive skin and can’t use certain types of soaps and cleansers. For example, if your hair doesn’t seem to absorb soap and others, this could be the cause.

3. Avoid Excessive Sun Exposure

You should also avoid staying out in the sun for long periods between 11 am and 4 pm. This will significantly reduce your risk of getting folliculitis from a hot tub.

4. Don’t Shave For A Couple Days After Exiting The Hot Tub

You must give your skin time to heal before you shave again. Using a razor can spread the bacteria beyond your skin and into other areas of your body, which could cause more hot tub folliculitis.

5. Install A New Hot Tub Filter

If you develop hot tub folliculitis, it’s crucial to install a new hot tub filter at least once (depending on how often you use it, you may want to replace it more regularly). If you don’t install a new filter regularly, the bacteria in your hot tub could begin to grow and multiply, which can cause more itching and flaking skin.

Check out our full article on how to clean hot tub filters for more information.

6. Use Proper Equipment To Get In And Out Of The Hot Tub

When exiting the water of your hot tub, you should use spa steps or even a ladder if necessary. This will help prevent you from stepping directly into the tub, which could spread bacteria and cause you to get hot tub folliculitis again.

7. Change Out Of Your Swimwear Right After Exiting The Hot Tub

You should also change into other clothing or wash your swimwear immediately after you exit the hot tub. If you leave swimming attire on that’s been in your hot tub too long, the bacteria that cause this condition will continue to grow and multiply, which could lead to a rash on any exposed skin that comes into contact with your swimwear.

Hot Tub Folliculitis Rash: Conclusion

hot tub folliculitis rash

If you have a hot tub folliculitis rash or any of these symptoms listed above, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. Although hot tub folliculitis is an annoying and uncomfortable skin condition, it is relatively easy to treat once you catch it early enough. You should also take steps to prevent your skin from developing this rash in the future by following some of the advice outlined above.

While it can be an annoying and sometimes embarrassing issue, it’s essential to know that you’re not alone and that there are simple steps to take to get rid of this issue.

Check out this great article on how hot tubs can help you burn calories for more spa health tips.

I hope you found this article on hot tub folliculitis rash helpful.

Dillon

I'm Dillon, creator of SpaToolKit.com. During the day I'm a software developer for an engineering company. At night I enjoy sitting in my hot tub and relaxing. My hope is that Spa Tool Kit will be a place where you can find the best information on hot tubs, spa equipment, setups, parts, and accessories. Let's get started!