Part 2: How to prevent or reduce razor bumps
Last week we discussed what causes razor bumps and why they may affect some kinds of skin and beards more than others. This week we describe preventive measures you can take at home to reduce the occurrence of this condition, called Pseuodofolliculitis Barbae (PFB).
It should be noted, as mentioned last week, that if your doctor feels that your condition is extreme, you should let your beard grow out for several weeks before proceeding. As the hair lengthens, the shafts will act like miniature “springs” and eventually “pop free.” Your doctor may even prescribe a short course of antibiotic pills. Your doctor will tell you when to begin the anti-PFB shaving program.)
Steps for shaving to reduce razor bumps
1. Wet your beard with warm water to soften the hair. The best way to accomplish this is to take a shower before shaving. Make sure that your beard hair is in contact with the water for at least two minutes. This will fully hydrate your hair. Hydrated hair cuts more easily and leaves a hair tip that is not as sharp.
2. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, in a circular motion on the beard area, to dislodge any hair tips that are beginning to pierce the skin. This should be done twice per day: before shaving and at bedtime. If approved by your doctor, you may even use a sterile needle (cleaned with rubbing alcohol) or a pointed toothpick to dislodge any particularly stubborn tips. Failure to dislodge any tips attempting to re-enter the skin will cause “extra follicular” razor bumps.
3. Lather the entire beard area with Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel. This gentle and highly lubricated product is formulated to enhance razor glide and minimize irritation.
4. Use either an electric shaver with multiple settings (put on longest hair setting) or the PFB “Bump Fighter” razor. This special razor cuts the hair at the correct length with a protective guard to reduce the likelihood of hair-tip re-entry into the skin. Although this razor, by design, might not give you a super-close-feeling shave, rest assured it will appear to observers that you have a very close shave.
5. Shave in the direction of beard growth. Do not stretch the skin. You may pass the area more than once, but be sure not to shave against the direction of hair growth or pull the skin taught. Pulling the skin taught or “going against the grain” will leave the tip under the surface of the skin and cause transfollicular razor bumps.
6. Do not use after-shave, cologne, or any other products not recommended by your doctor. Instead, use a combination of moisturizing and anti-inflammatory lotions. I use Crutchfield Dermatology Skin Conditioning Lotion followed by Cuticort Cream#6. Be careful not to get any of the lotion in or near your eyes.
7. Always use a “collar extender” whenever wearing neckties to prevent excess friction and pressure from worsening the PFB condition on the neck and collar area.
8. For cleansing purposes, you should always use a mild cleanser such as VaniCream, Dove, Olay, Purpose, Basis or Cetaphil.
9. If dark spots are a problem, it is recommended that you use lightening cream prescribed by your dermatologist.
Here is a list of what you’ll need
• PFB ‘”Bump Fighter” razors or an adjustable electric razor
• Mild cleanser (VaniCream or Dove)
• Aveeno Shave Gel
• Cuticort Cream #6
• Dermatology skin conditioning lotion
• A soft-bristled toothbrush
• A collar extender
It may take a few days to several weeks for your condition to improve. Sometimes it can even take a couple of months to see improvement. Stay with the program and do not give up.
The goal is not to necessarily have “perfect” skin, but rather to significantly improve your current skin condition. Many patients do experience extremely satisfying results. As lasers become better at distinguishing dark skin from dark hair, they may be an option for treatment for some people.
It is also important to note that whenever you have inflammation of the skin, your skin can react by producing dark spots. If the inflammation is removed, the dark spots will fade away with time. This may take several weeks or even months. The best way to treat dark spots is to prevent them from coming in the first place.
Remember, no one need suffer with razor bumps. Talk to your dermatologist for an effective treatment program.
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine and one of the top 21 African American physicians in the U.S. by the Atlanta Post. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians, MABP.org.