Pseudofolliculitis Barbae

Pseudofolliculitis barbae

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Abbreviation: PFB.

Pseudofolliculitis barbae is a chronic skin disorder, characterized by the presence of spots/bumps in the beard area, in people of African descent. This disease entity is also known by other names, including, barber's itch, ingrown bumps, pili incarnate, razor and shaving bumps.

Studies have shown that pseudofolliculitis barbae is one of the more common dermatoses in blacks, with the majority of sufferers being black men (between 14-25 years old), although women are also affected (typically perimenopausal).

The problem is mainly caused by shaving rather than infection. The shaved areas can become infected. Hair grows from hair follicles. The hair grows outward and emerges from the surface of the skin hair follicle opening.

When we shave, we try to get the closest possible shave. This is achieved by pulling on the skin and shaving against the grain. By pulling on the skin, the hair is made to stand farther out. After the razor passes over the hair and the skin is released, the hair stubble retracts under the skin. Since you cannot feel it, it feels smooth. When the razor cuts across the hair, it frequently cuts it at an angle producing a sharp point similar to a hypodermic needle.

As the hair grows out of the hair follicle again, the sharp point allows the hair to puncture the side of the hair follicle and move through the skin. In so doing, it carries bacteria and foreign material with it, which case an inflammation or infection in the hair follicle and surrounding skin. Sometimes that grows into the skin curling around to produce an ingrown hair.


The possible symptoms of pseudofolliculitis barbae includes:

    The affected skin area becomes red.

  • The pimples or pustules may be developing around one or more hair follicles.

  • Bleeding may occur from the affected area.

  • The skin inflammation and swelling are common during pseudofolliculitis barbae.

  • It mostly occurs onneck axilla or groin area.

  • Skin becomes itchy.


The diagnosis of pseudofolliculitis barbae is essentially based on the clinical manifestations; typically, spots/bumpsare seen around hair follicles located on chin, jawline and neck. Paradoxically, the mustacheand sideburns areas are usually spared. In women with hirsutism (excessive hair growth), pseudofolliculitis barbae occurs commonly in the chin region. Pseudofolliculitis barbae can range from only mild symptoms and signs tosevere manifestations, with more than 100 spots/bumps. In both men and women,complications of this disorder include secondary skin infections, postinflammatoryhyperpigmentation, and rarelykeloid formation.


Once established, pseudofolliculitis barbae is difficult to treat, and this must be communicated to sufferers. Nonetheless, the first step in managing this condition is to stop shaving, if this is a feasible option. This will result in initial worsening of the pseudofolliculitis barbae (within the first week) prior to subsequent improvement of the condition. This is due to the re-growth of previously shaved hair. For mild cases, shaving should be stopped for 1-2 months, for 2-3 months for moderate cases and 6-12 months for severe cases. During this time, the beard can be trimmed with scissors or electric clippers to a length of about 1 cm. Although, cessation of shaving should be actively encouraged by dermatologists, it may not be a feasible option for everyone and hence it is important to educate sufferers about appropriate hair removal techniques.

Here are some suggestions for management of this problem.

    Shave with a single blade razor rather than a multiple track razor. Some electric razors make pseudofolliculitis worse. The Norelco electric shaver that does not shave as closely may be preferable. Whether electric or plain, try to settle for a less close shave.

  • Before shaving, wet the beard thoroughly and apply a heavy layer of shaving lather (not for electric razor). Allow the lather to sit of the beard about 3 minutes before shaving. This will soften the hair so that, when it is cut, it will produce more of a blunt end rather than a sharp needle like point.

  • Shave with the grain rather than against it.

  • Do not pull the skin tight.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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