Razor burn is a common problem among men. Approximately 60% of black men and men with curly hair face a unique problem with razor burn called Pseudofolliculitis Barbae (PFB), a severe form of razor bumps which occur in two ways.

The first type occurs when facial hair is shaved creating a sharp edge at the end of the hair which then curls back toward the skin and pierces it allowing for re-entry. The second type occurs when freshly cut hair punctures the follicle wall without ever leaving the external layer of skin. PFB can happen anywhere hair grows, but is most common on the beard area. It can even cause keloidal scarring which are scars that expand past the original wounded area and can cause pain and itching.

If the case of PFB is not extreme, merely changing your facial care routine may help. When washing your face, use a mild cleanser and apply using a circular motion to set free any embedded hairs. Always use shaving cream or gel with a high-moisturizing component and aftershave cream. Bacteria can aggravate facial skin. Using an aftershave such as benzoyl peroxide-antibiotic gel, which fights bacteria, may help reduce the bumps.

There are many options for prevention and treatment of PFB, but the best of all is to allow the beard to completely grow out. After approximately 3 to 4 weeks the hair will not grow back into the skin. Using a cortisone cream throughout the process will help reduce irritation. For many, growing out the beard is not an option due to occupation or other lifestyle reasons. There are other options:

Shave every other day Shaving every other day helps reduce the irritation caused by shaving. Before shaving, soften the beard by wetting or pressing a wet washcloth over the beard for five minutes. Use a lubricating shave gel and always shave with the grain of the beard. Avoid stretching the skin and do not make more than one pass with the razor.

Use an electric razor Electric razors are typically not as abrasive as a blade and can lessen the effects of PFB. Use an electric razor pre-shave to moisturize the area. With the razor set on high, shave lightly, making sure not to press the razor on the skin too firmly.  As with blade shaving, go with the grain and do not stretch the skin or make more than one pass with the razor.

Barber’s clippers Just after letting your beard grow out, the second best option for shaving is using barber’s clippers with a guard no closer than 1mm. This option will not provide a close shave, but will allow the hair to remain short and is the least irritating of the shaving methods.

Chemical shaving Using a cream that chemically dissolves hair allows you to avoid shaving all together, but it does come with some possible complications. Chemical creams can cause burn and irritation on facial skin, so caution should be used when applying. Cleanse the skin just before applying and test a small area of the beard for a time shorter than what is recommended on the product box to help prevent burn.

Prescription medicine Your doctor may be able to prescribe lotions, gels and oral antibiotics for PFB.

Electrolysis and laser hair removal They are expensive, but electrolysis and laser hair removal may be a good last resort for PFB. These treatments may be painful to some individuals and will take several visits to complete. The good news is there are some insurance providers that will cover the costs of treatment, so make sure to check with your provider.