Dealing With Those Unsightly Razor Bumps

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September 04, 2012

Pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), otherwise known as razor bumps or shaving bumps, is a common cutaneous or skin condition of the beard, neck and even the pubic area. It is a condition seen mostly in individuals with curly hair who shave. It is most commonly seen in the black male, usually post puberty, although it is seen in black women, particularly those that are hairy and tend to grow facial hair. However, in women that tend to shave the axillaries (arm pits) and their pubic areas, they will find this problem occurring there as well.

It is associated with close shaving on a regular basis and can be a problem for those individuals whose job requires a clean-shaven face. PFB is not a condition of black people only. It is found amongst their white counterparts who have curly and/or tightly coiled hair as well. Most of the time, the development of these unsightly bumps come with a history of painful acne-like eruptions that occur after the individual would have shaved the area.

Therefore on inspection of the area they, their spouse or partner would notice a protruding or trapped hair trying to emerge from the bump. By this time the lesion can be rather tender, painful, red or skin-colored. It occurs as a result of the free shaved hair ends curling and tightly coiling into the skin as it grows. When hairs are shaved, the tip of the cut hairs are pointed and sharp, so as the hair grows and curls on itself, it pierces the skin surface, digging, penetrating and burrowing its way back into the skin and hair follicle creating an irritation and inflammation of the hair unit.

As a result, a foreign-body-like inflammatory reaction causes the area to become itchy, form bumps with or without puss, which can be painful, red and very uncomfortable and cosmetically undesirable which in some cases can lead to potential abscesses and skin infections. In addition, other potential complications of the inflammatory reaction would include post inflammatory hyperpigmentation or darkening of the area, permanent scarring and keloid formation. The severity of the condition can vary from a few papules or bumps and pustules to more than 100 lesions seen at any one time.

Treatment Treatment for this condition is sometimes easier said than done. The main treatment is to not shave or not too closely shave. But, as mentioned earlier, there are some professions that require one to have a clean-shaven face at all times so this can cause a problem. When the area is constantly shaved and irritated it encourages the formation of PFB which worsens over time. Areas that are affected not only darken, but over time the irritated bumps can harden making it difficult for those lesions to resolve.

However there are a few simple things, if and when possible, that preferably done on regular basis can help.  Allow the beard to grow out for at least three weeks to help decrease ingrown hairs.  Use moisturizing shaving foam for shaving to soften the hairs to give a better shave.  The next time you shave, use a single blade razor instead of a double blade razor to prevent the hairs from cutting too short which would encourage them to grow in.

If possible, alternate an electric hair clipper or razor with an attachment that leaves the cut hairs long -- and while in the process of shaving try to have a 5 o'clock shadow immediately after shaving.  Also shave in the direction that the hair grows without scraping the skin, this will also decrease the amount of hair that curls back into the skin. For more severe PFB, consultation with a dermatologist should be considered for possible peeling agents and/or procedures that can be carried out to reduce the formation of some of the painful irritating bumps and or discoloration of the skin.

 Laser hair removal is also a possibility and in some cases more effective in removing the facial and bearded hair which in turn reduces and eliminates PFB.  If you try all of the treatment options, and they are not as successful, then you will have to grow out the beard. But in certain occupations where beardedness is not approved of, a medical certificate may help.   Dr. Rokeisha Clare-Kleinbussink studied at Cosmetology Cosmetic Training for Dermal Filler in London, UK and attended the Academy of Beauty Training for Laser and Microdermabrasion in Nottinghamshire, UK. She also attended the University of the West Indies School of Medicine and Cardiff University School of Medicine. She has a private practice at Roseona House of General and Cosmetic Dermatology and can be reached at or 422-2022.

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News date : 09/04/2012    Category : Health, Nassau Guardian Stories

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