Any area of the body that is shaved frequently can develop Razor Bumps, which is common parlance for an aggravated bumpy appearance often associated with pain, redness and acne like eruptions. This is a persistent irritation and inflammatory response of the skin, which occurs due to the curling up of hair into the skin, instead of growing straight out of the follicle.
The skin reacts to the keratin protein of hair, leading to swelling, redness and fluid collection around the follicle. This condition differs from Folliculitis (which is caused by bacterial infection) hence called Pseudo Folliculitis (although secondary infection may occur on attempts to scratch or extract the hair).
Razor bumps are a common complaint over the beard region among men, who shave on a frequent or daily basis. Repeated or close shaving, especially in people with coarse or curly hair can result in Razor Burns. Left untreated, it can further lead to infection, pigmentation or scarring over the affected area.
Close shaves leave hair with sharp tips under the skin surface, which are more prone to piercing the skin while growing out, thereby leading to razor bumps. The medical name for this condition is Pseudofolliculitis Barbae (which literally translated means a condition similar to infection of hair follicles in the beard region). However, it can occur on any shaved region both in men or women, including the sensitive skin of the bikini and groin region (called Pseudofolliculitis Pubis).
The presence of razor bumps gives an unsightly uneven appearance along with redness, itching and irritation of skin. It may be accompanied with Razor Burn (redness and irritation caused by shaving), Ingrown Hair (wherein the hair grows within the follicle and does not exit the skin) and secondary infection of the follicles leading to the formation of pustules.
African and Asian men and women, with thick coarse or curly hair who frequently shave are especially prone to severe Pseudo Folliculitis over the beard, bikini, legs etc.
Management of Razor Bumps:
- Avoid shaving for a month if possible, to allow the inflammation to settle.
- Shave in the morning after a warm shower, in the direction of hair growth.
- Use a wire wrapped blade/electric razor and a new blade for each shave.
- Avoid a very close shave. Leave 0.5 – 1 mm length of hair over beard region. This gives a professional groomed look while avoiding bumps and irritation.
- Laser Hair Removal is a comfortable, painless method for permanent treatment of razor bumps and ingrown hairs. Laser is a beam of focused light which destroys the hair from the root. The treatment is done over multiple sessions 6-8 weeks apart, which reduce the coarseness and density of hair.
Nd YAG Laser technology gives excellent results with high safety margins, even in darker skin types and tanned skin. Laser treatments must be done only by trained and experienced therapists under medical supervision at a certified dermatology clinic. The clinic must adhere to all safety and hygiene protocol and keep a gap of 6 weeks between sessions.
- Application of soothing products containing aloe and witch hazel helps calm skin. Adequate moisturizing between sessions keeps skin supple.
- Glycolic acid creams can be applied at home along with chemical peels administered in clinic, to reduce the bumpiness by acting on the sulfhydryl bonds of keratin in the hair.
- Topical Retinoids may be prescribed for gentle resurfacing of the skin.
- Pustules and bumps, cysts etc. caused by secondary Infection of the follicles can be treated with prescription topical or oral antibiotics.
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