Pseudofolliculitis (Razor Bumps)

What causes pseudofolliculitis?

Pseudofolliculitis is a type of folliculitis that results from in-grown hairs. Hair grows inside tubes in the skin called “follicles.” When shaved, the tip of the hair is left with a sharp point. As curly hair grows, this sharp tip may curve back and pierce the skin, known as “extrafollicular penetration.” The body then interprets the hair as a foreign body, as it would a splinter, and generates an inflammatory reaction leading to the development of red bumps and pustules. This can lead to the formation of dark spots that may take months to fade. Razor bumps can also form when shaving too close to the skin causing the hairs to be clipped off below the skin surface. This allows the hair to penetrate the side of the follicle leasing to “transfollicular penetration.”


Who is at risk for pseudofolliculitis?

Razor bumps can affect anyone with curly hair or those with hair follicles oriented in oblique angles to the skin surface, since it increases the risk of hairs re-entering into the skin. The populations at highest risk include those of African or Mediterranean descent.

What is the treatment for pseudofolliculitis?

The best therapy is to avoid shaving and let the hairs grow or receive laser hair removal. However, this is not always practical or economical. If you do shave, the following step-by-step program below is recommended. It should be noted that if your doctor feels that your condition is severe, you should let your beard grow out for several weeks before beginning the below shaving regimen. Sometimes additional topical treatments or oral antibiotics may be needed for severe cases.

Step-by-Step Shaving Regimen

  1. Wet the beard or other shaving area with warm water to soften the hair. The best way to accomplish this is to shower before shaving. Hydrated hairs cut more easily and leave hair tips that are not as sharp. This will decrease the risk for re-entering into the skin.
  2. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, in a circular motion, over the shaving area to dislodge any hair tips that are beginning to pierce the skin. This should be done twice daily: before shaving and at bed time.
  3. Lather the entire beard area with VanicreamTM Shaving Cream. This is a gentle and highly lubricated product formulated to enhance razor glide and minimize irritation.
  4. Use the PFB Bumpfighter® Razor or a single blade razor. These razors cut the hairs at the correct length. Multiple blade razors cut the hairs too short, allowing them to grow in. Alternatively, you may wish to use an electric razor or clippers while avoiding the “closest” shave setting.
  5. Shave in the direction of the follicle and not against it. Do not stretch the skin.
  6. Apply a glycolic acid-containing cream at night (Glytone® Overnight Cream for the face or Glytone® Body KP Kit for the arms, legs, or trunk) or use a glycolic acid wash (Glytone® Daily Facial Cleanser) twice daily. This exfoliates the surface of the skin allowing the hair to penetrate easily through the skin.