Razor Bumps (Pseudofolliculitis Barbae)

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Images of Pseudofolliculitis Barbae

Overview

Pseudofolliculitis barbae is commonly known as razor bumps or shaving bumps, and it is a more severe form of the condition known as razor burn. Razor bumps tend to affect men with curved or curly facial hair; when the facial hair is cut off at the surface during shaving, it may curl back into the skin as it grows out, causing a small, tender bump. The bumps are not infected (if the bump becomes infected, it is called folliculitis barbae), but they are irritated. Treatment of razor bumps involves allowing the inflammation to settle down, which may simply involve not shaving for a while to allow the bumps to go away. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe a cream to help the inflammation. A "close shave" increases the risk of getting razor bumps, so if you are prone to this condition you should minimize frequency of shaving and avoid close shaving. Allowing razor bumps to go untreated may result in scarring, which is difficult to treat.

Who's at risk?

Razor bumps can affect anyone, but they most often affect people with tightly curled hair who shave often.

Signs and Symptoms

Skin-colored to red bumps or pimples of the shaved area, often with a hair visible in the center.

Self-Care Guidelines

Shave every other day, rather than daily. Try not to pull the skin taut if shaving with a razor blade. Use an electric razor if possible. There are a variety of over-the-counter products that dissolve the hair but may be irritating. Consider laser hair removal. In some cases, this is much more effective than any other measure.

When to Seek Medical Care

If none of the self-care measures help and you must continue shaving, seek medical help.

Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe

  • Tretinoin cream used at night
  • Eflornithine cream to try and reduce hair growth.
  • Topical or oral antibiotics

Trusted Links

Clinical Information and Differential Diagnosis of Pseudofolliculitis Barbae

References

Bolognia, Jean L., ed. Dermatology, pp.560-562, 1478. New York: Mosby, 2003.

Freedberg, Irwin M., ed. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed. pp.1860-1861. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.