Pseudofolliculitis Barbae (PBF) is a condition commonly referred to as ingrown hairs caused by shaving. The condition is most prevalent in African American men due to the genetic curvature of the hair follicle, but Hispanic and Caucasian men, and some women with curly hair can have PBF in areas where they shave.
Causes of PBF
In short, shaving causes PBF – and the closer you shave, the more likely you will end up with the condition. That’s because when attempting to get a close shave, the skin is pulled tight, and initially shaved in the direction of hair growth, then re-shaved against the growth. When the skin is released, the sharp angular cut of the hair tip re-enters the skin, piercing the follicular wall and causing an initial inflammation.
When this happens, the hair creates painful, hard papules and pustules (like pimples) under the skin, which then swell and begin to itch. These eruptions may surround hair deep inside, making shaving almost impossible and often painful. As the process continues and the sharp little shaved hair penetrates the Epidermis (top layer of skin), it may eventually penetrate the Dermis (layer beneath the Epidermis) as it grows, causing a severe abscess to form. These abscesses can result in hypertrophic or keloid scarring.
When the first sign of an ingrown hair or PBF presents itself – in other words, when the papules and pustules begin to form, professional treatment by a Dermatologist is recommended, especially if the area appears infected or inflamed. While this condition may look like acne, it is not, and it should not be treated like acne. It’s important to understand that part of the treatment plan should be to release the ingrown hair so it clears the Epidermis and grows freely. Abscesses and lesions, or any infected areas, should be treated with antibiotic therapy, administered by a physician.
PBF is generally a symptom of shaving and therefore can be avoided. For those with a heavy beard or tight curly hair, it’s important to adapt proper shaving techniques.
First, treat any inflamed or infected skin lesions and then, if possible, avoid shaving with a razor for a few days or more.
Shaving should begin with the softening of the beard with a very warm, moistened, towel wrapped around the face for about 5 minutes.
Or try gently buffing the skin with a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently dislodge any hairs about to penetrate the Epidermis as well as remove excess dead skin cells.
Then apply a quality grade, highly lubricated shaving cream and allow it to sit on the skin for about 60 seconds.
Use a sharp, clean, single edge, foil-guarded blade to shave the hair. Start in the direction of hair growth and make no more than to two passes over the same area.
Rinse the blade in hot water after each pass.
Sterilize the blade after shaving, wiping the blade with alcohol. Discard blade after two uses.
Additional remedies include the use of electric razors, or cream depilatories like Neet® or Nair®.
Shaving less frequently and less vigorously, and leaving a small bit of stubble are other ways to avoid PBF.
For more information on how to prevent ingrown hairs, read our article on Ingrown Hairs.
Products and Ingredients to Avoid
According to Pamela Springer, who specializes in skin care management for people with dark skin, there are things you should avoid putting on your skin, especially oils like the ones listed below. Oils can trap bacteria in the pore of the skin and cause or worsen the condition.
- Coco butter
- Coconut oil
- Acetylated Lanolin
- Cotton seed oil
- Soybean oil
- Wheat germ oil
Recommended Products and Ingredients
Next purchase quality products designed especially for ingrown hairs like these from Menscience that include a specially formulated shaving cream, a post-shave repair product and a face scrub to keep pores and hair follicles healthy. All three items will cost less than $80 and will save your skin from potential, permanent damage.
The following ingredients are ideal for skin prone to developing PBF. Look for them in your next shaving cream or apply after shaving to maintain healthy skin.
- Chamomile Extract – this is a clinically proven anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-itching and soothing to the skin.
- Aloe Vera – hydrates and softens the skin. Also heals with anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Glycolic Acid – helps dissolve dead skin cells to keep pores open and assists in the penetration of other ingredients.
- Salicylic acid – helps reduce dead skin cells and debris within the follicle and delivery anti-inflammatory properties.
- Vitamin A – this increases cellular turnover and helps improve damaged skin and skin tone.