Preventing and Treating Razor Bumps

Have You Thrown in The Towel?

You are in a losing battle to be a clean-shaven man each morning. Hairs and bumps remain on pitted skin. Pseudo­follicu­litis barbae (PFB) is a long phrase that describes coarse curly hairs that grow into the skin. They cause prominent inflam­ma­tion and keloid scaring on your face.

You’re not alone. With 3 million cases per year, the condition is 15x more likely to occur in African American men than Caucasian and Asians. Six out of ten of black men have PFB.

Get To The Root of The Problem

PFB skin is extra sensi­tive and scars more easily than others. A slight scratch in the upper layer of skin can leave a mark that looks like you were in a knife fight. Using a razor blade to shave, you are in a knife fight nearly every day. To minimize scarring, avoid using either razor blades or depila­tories on sensitive skin with coarse hair.

Pseudofolliculitis barbae
Pseudofolliculitis barbae and kelloid scaring at two magnifications.

A depilatory is a caustic chemical that weakens the hair shaft. After a few minutes, hairs with the chemical are scraped away using a dull plastic spatula. It seems like a gentle alterna­tive to a razor. But coarse beard hair can resist. Leaving the cream on longer damages skin. So you end up with a bad shave and a red inflamed face.

  • Best option: A well-manicured beard.
  • Second best option: Shave with an electric razor.
  • Third best option: Lather up and gently drag single-stroke razor blade in direction of hair growth without stretching skin. (Translation: bad shave.)

Focus On Best Two Options

To prevent bumps and scarring, you must keep sharp hairs from curling into the skin. Maintain­ing a beard length of at least 1/4 inch should provide sufficient clearance. The beard can prevent or mask facial scarring.

With a shield over the blades, an electric razor is made for stubble, not long straight or flat hairs. Electric razors for black men or PFB are expen­sive. Plan to spend $200–350. Clean blades after each shave and replace blades ($40–50) every 18 months. It is more expen­sive than dispos­able razor blades but less expensive than regular dermatology visits. Consider it an invest­ment in your face.

Pseudofolliculitis barbae white man
Though in the minority, pseudo­follicu­litis barbae can affect Caucasian men.

The Willie Stargell Remington Black Man’s Corded Shaver was a 1978 innovation. It included a comb-like device to rake facial hairs in an upright position. This trained the hair follicles to reorientate hairs for easier cutting.

Each year there are new electric razor models. So you might as well get one with suffi­cient features to keep you from having razor envy a couple of years from now. With a new model, you have a better chance of getting parts a few years in the future.

If you are reading this, you know how ineffective cheap electric razors can be. Based on current techno­logy, the Braun Series 9 9370cc Electric Razor for men is supposed to be one of the best. What do you get for 5–7 times the price of ordinary electric razors? With ultrasonic vibra­tion and four different cutting blades with octagonal shields, it lifts and removes many, but not all, hairs.

Use this cordless razor on a wet or dry face. Park it in its dock to recharge, flush clean, sanitize, and dry between shaves. The wet-dry feature opens options for applying shaving cream, aloe vera gel, or other lubricants into your face prior to shaving. Run the blades under hot water to simulate a hot barber shave.

There is a Braun Series 9 model without the auto-cleaning dock. But in my opinion, this is the best feature of the shaver. But it does require ongoing replacement parts.

Expect some unfulfilled hype in the product video animations. In my tests, it performs very well for short vertical hairs and above average for horizontally-laying hairs. You can get a close shave with much facial stretching if you go over areas multiple times from different directions. Even with this, expect some patches of unshaved hair. The razor is designed cut short stubble. This requires daily use. The slide-out groomer is not very sharp and the convex shape is awkward for trimming sideburns or mustache.

Clear Your Skin

For skin treatment of PFB keloid lesions, avoid any shaving for 3–4 weeks until all bumps subside. During this time, treat skin with 1% hydro­cortisone cream, pres­crip­tion oral doxycy­cline, or oral erythro­mycin to reduce inflam­mation.

Do not use hydroquinone to lighten dark areas, especially for dark complexions. It will depigment skin an cause other problems. Avoid sunlight when using some medications. Get a facial at a spa to have hairs dislodged from beneath your skin.

Following successful treatment, you may continue growing a beard or shave using an electric razor. With or without a short beard you can massage aloe vera, coco butter, or shea butter into your skin at least twice daily. Scars should begin to lighten in 6–9 months. See a dermato­logist if home remedies are unsuccessful.

To be on the winning team, stand up and fight razor bumps now. Stop envying the faces of other men. You can have a well-groomed beard or smooth, even skin tone with proper care.

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

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