Anyone who has had tender, red raised bumps after hair removal knows that these can be ugly, uncomfortable, and hard to eliminate. The medical term for razor bumps is pseudofolliculitis barbae.

That mouthfull of letters is pronounced "SOO-doh-fah-lik-you-LIE-tis BAR-bee."

pseudo (false)
follicle (hair)
itis (inflammation)
barbae (of the beard)

At HairTell, we just use the abbreviation PFB.

This is most common on the male face, but it can also happen on other parts of the body where hair is shaved or plucked, especially areas where hair is curly.

Why do they call it a "FALSE beard hair inflammation"? This condition is called "pseudo" folliculitis because it is caused not by a bacterial infection, but by the regrowth of hair after it has been removed.

For more on the kind NOT caused by hair removal, please see: Pseudofolliculitis barbae vs. folliculitis barbae

After a hair has been shaved, it begins to grow back. Curly hair tends to curl into the skin instead of straight out the follicle. It can make the skin look itchy and red, and in some cases, it can even look like pimples. These inflamed papules or pustules can form especially if the are gets infected.

This is especially problematic for African American men and other people with curly hair. Over time, this can cause keloidal scarring which looks like hard dark bumps of the beard area and neck.

Treating PFB

1. Don't shave or pluck

The easiest treatment for razor bumps is to not shave or pluck the hair. If you let the beard grow, once the hairs get to be a certain length, they will not grow back into the skin.

Unfortunately, that's not always an option. Some jobs require a clean-shaven face, and some of us have other areas with unwanted hair (like armpits or bikini area), so we get it removed.


2. Cleanse and exfoliate

Washing the beard area with antibacterial soap using a Buf-Puf can help raise the hairs from under the skin and prevent them from growing back into the skin. This should be done twice a day. Buf-Pufs are available without a prescription at your local drug store.


3. Skip the blade

Go electric: Use of an electric shaver can help the condition because it does not cut as close as blades do.

Shaving powders and depilatories: Some doctors recommend chemical shaving with depilatory products such as Nair or Neet to improve pseudofolliculitis barbae. However, many of these products cause irritation on sensitive skin. On coarse male facial hair, skin may start to burn before the hair is dissolved. Do not switch back and forth between depilitories and shaving-- that can increase irritation.

Prescription topicals: Retin-A (trentinoin) or a topical antibiotic solution prescribed by your doctor can help the problem. Some studies suggest a clindamycin/benzoyl peroxide gel can be effective, too.


4. If you decide to use a blade

If you must use a blade, before shaving wash the face with a mild cleanser such as Cetaphil Lotion, then rinse. Massage the beard area gently in a circular motion with a warm, moist, soft washcloth. This will free up the hair tips so they can be cut with the shaver. The warm water will also soften the hairs, making them easier to cut. Lather the beard area with a non-irritating shaving gel such as Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel instead of cream and shave in the direction of beard growth using an Aveeno PFB Bump Fighter Razor. Both of these products should be available at your local drug store. After shaving is finished, rinse thoroughly with warm water and apply a mild moisturizing aftershave lotion such as Cetaphil Lotion.

Shaving every other day, rather than daily, will improve pseudo-folliculitis barbae. Do not pull the skin taut when blade shaving and do not use a double or triple-edged razor.

Shaving whiskers in the direction opposite to their natural growth can cause the tip of the hair to grow into the skin rather than in the normal outward direction.

Don't use a dull razor blade. Replace disposable blades or razors at least once a week to minimize the irritation caused by razor bumps.

Experiment with different types of blades (double- or triple-blades cut closer than singles, which can be part of the problem).

Shave in the direction of hair growth and limit the number of razor strokes as much as possible.

Try a highly lubricating shaving gel such as Edge Pro Gel, Gillette Satin Care, or Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel.


Products like Bump Stopper-2 Razor Bump Treatment may also help reduce the formation of razor bumps. Apply this product after shaving and nightly at bedtime.

Once or twice daily, rub a clean, short-bristled toothbrush or rough wash cloth over the affected area, using a gentle, circular motion. This may help dislodge ingrown hairs.

Razor bumps that are very red, large, or painful, or don't improve may be infected. Contact your doctor or dermatologist if you suspect you have infected razor bumps.

If hairs begin to ingrow, lift them up with an alcohol-cleaned needle (don't tweeze or pluck) just before shaving.

If you have an ingrown hair

If hairs begin to ingrow, lift them up with an alcohol-cleaned needle (don't tweeze or pluck) just before shaving. Don't dig into the skin! This can cause scarring.

If you have a lot of ingrowns and aren't having much luck on your own, you should see a dermatologist.

Besides topical prescriptions, there has been a lot of recent research into lasers for PFB. It is critical for people with dark skin to consult a doctor before undergoing laser hair removal. Some lasers can severely damage darker skin, and some practitioners do not have the experience to treat darker skin without causing problems.

Further reading:

American Academy of Dermatology Web Site


Edited by Andrea (08/27/04 12:49 AM)