Pseudofolliculitis barbae: Razor bumps

What is pseudofolliculitis barbae?

It is a rash that is the skin’s reaction to ingrown hairs. When curly hairs are shaved, they can curl back and the sharp tip can poke the skin. That causes inflammation and bumps. It is also known as razor bumps.

While it is most common in people of African descent it can affect other ethnic groups.

How do I know if I have pseudofolliculitis barbae?

  • You will have small red or dark brown bumps around hair follicles in the:
    • Beard, such as the chin, lower cheeks, under the jawline, and neck
    • Underarms
    • Groin
    • Legs
  • The mustache and sideburns are not usually affected.
  • The bumps can cause changes in the color of your skin and thick scars, such as keloids.
  • You will have bumps as long as you keep shaving.

How do you treat pseudofolliculitis barbae?

  • It is best to stop shaving or plucking hairs. Active bumps will be better within weeks.
  • Chemically remove hairs.
  • Change your shaving habits:
    • Use electric clippers set to 0.5 to 1 mm in length to trim your beard.
    • Wash your face with warm water and a mild cleanser (Cetaphil®).
    • Use a warm washcloth.
    • Lather your beard with soothing cream (Aveeno® therapeutic shave gel or Neutrogena® skin clearing shave cream).
    • Do not pull or stretch your skin while shaving.
    • Shave hairs in one pass with soft strokes.
    • Shave in the direction of hair growth.
    • Use prescription topical medicines after shaving if needed.
  • If it is not better after trying the above treatments, laser-hair removal and/or prescription cream can be used to slow hair growth.
  • Steroid injections can be used to treat thick scars and keloids caused by the bumps.
Last reviewed: 
March 2017

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