Pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), also known as shaving or razor bumps, is a persistent inflammatory reaction caused by close shaving. Symptoms include itching, redness, and the formation of papules and pustules.
Where do shaving bumps usually form?
PFB usually affects areas of the body with curly hair and sensitive skin, both of which are risk factors for ingrown hairs. Two types of ingrown hairs lead to PFB:
- Extrafollicular – hair exits the follicle before reentering the skin
- Transfollicular – hair curls back into the follicle
How likely am I to develop shaving bumps?
Your likelihood of PFB increases by a factor of 50 if you have naturally coarse or tightly curling hair. There is also a risk factor associated with a common polymorphism in the keratin gene K6hf.
What complications can result from shaving bumps?
Most people consider shaving bumps to be a minor annoyance; however, persistent PFB can lead to a number of complications, including:
- Keloid formation
- Hypertrophic scarring
- Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
- Temporary and permanent hair loss
- Secondary infection
How do I prevent or treat shaving bumps?
The most effective way to prevent shaving bumps is to allow the hair to grow naturally. Past a certain length, the issue of ingrown hairs resolves itself.
If not shaving isn’t an option, the next best thing is to avoid daily and overly aggressive shaving. Cutting back shaving frequency from daily to every other day improves PFB. Beard trimmers and electric shavers, which do not cut hair shorter than 0.5 to 1 mm, are also recommended.
Chemical depilatories like barium sulfide and calcium thioglycolate are another alternative that can reduce PFB; however, they are known irritants and are often not suitable for use on facial skin.
Is permanent hair reduction effective against shaving bumps?
Permanent hair reduction can prevent the recurrence of PFB. This can be achieved via prescription drug (eflornithine), electrolysis, and IPL; however, developments in laser hair removal have made the latter one of the safest and most effective permanent hair reduction methods for patients of all ethnic groups and skin types.
How does laser hair removal work?
During laser hair removal, pigment in actively growing hair absorbs laser energy, which damages the follicle. Six to eight treatments spaced four to 12 weeks apart will produce optimal long-term results. Treatment sessions can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the area to be treated.