A technique for quantitating bacteria in isolated pilosebaceous follicles is described. This involves microdissection of the follicles from biopsies of skin, using the method of chemical pretreatment of skin to facilitate the separation of the epidermis and epidermal appendages from the dermis. The aerobic cocci and anaerobic diphtheroids in pilosebaceous follicles in 66 biopsies of scalp and 48 biopsies of skin of the upper back were quantitated using this technique. On the back, aerobic staphylococci were very sparse in normal follicles, indicating that their primary habitat on the skin must be on the skin surface rather than within follicles. Of 138 isolated follicles from skin of the upper back, 94 contained no aerobic cocci. Anaerobic organisms were present in high numbers within normal follicles. The geometric mean density of anaerobes in 138 isolated follicles from skin of the upper back was 3.8 X 10(4) diphtheroids per follicle. Eighty-eight follicles contained more than 10(4) anaerobic diphtheroids. Using data from scalp biopsies we found that there was a correlation between the weight of sebaceous glands and the density of anaerobes within the follicles attached to these glands (coefficient of correlation = 0.6).