Pseudofolliculitis Barbae (PFB) - Rxharun

Pseudofolliculitis Barbae (PFB)

Pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), also known as barber’s itch or razor bumps, is a common skin condition that affects people with curly or kinky hair, especially those with African descent. It occurs when hair that has been shaved, waxed, or plucked grows back into the skin instead of up and out of the follicle. This leads to an immune response in which the body perceives the hair as a foreign invader and sends white blood cells to attack it. This immune response results in inflammation, redness, and bumps around the hair follicle, which can be painful, itchy, and cause scarring if left untreated.

There are three main types of PFB: mild, moderate, and severe.

  1. Mild PFB is characterized by small, red, pimple-like bumps around the hair follicle. They may be itchy and slightly painful, but they typically go away on their own within a few days to a week.
  2. Moderate PFB is characterized by larger, more persistent bumps that may become infected. These bumps may be accompanied by scarring and hyperpigmentation.
  3. Severe PFB is characterized by extensive scarring, hyperpigmentation, and keloid formation. This type of PFB is most common in people with dark skin, who are more prone to scarring and hyperpigmentation.


The main causes of PFB include:

  1. Curly hair

One of the main causes of PFB is the shape of the hair follicle. People with curly hair tend to have hair follicles that curve back into the skin, which can result in ingrown hairs. When hair is cut or shaved, the sharp edges of the hair can penetrate the skin and become embedded, leading to inflammation and the development of papules and pustules.

  1. Shaving or hair removal

Shaving or hair removal is a common trigger for PFB. The act of shaving cuts the hair shaft at an angle, which can cause the sharp end of the hair to penetrate the skin and become embedded. This can result in inflammation and the development of papules and pustules. Additionally, the act of shaving can also cause microtrauma to the skin, which can exacerbate the symptoms of PFB.

  1. Hair density

The density of hair can also contribute to the development of PFB. People with dense hair growth are more likely to experience hair regrowth after shaving or hair removal, which can increase the risk of ingrown hairs and the development of PFB.

  1. Hormonal factors

Hormonal factors can also play a role in the development of PFB. During puberty, an increase in androgens (male hormones) can lead to increased hair growth and sebum production, which can contribute to the development of PFB. Additionally, hormonal changes during pregnancy can also increase the risk of PFB.

  1. Skin type

Skin type can also contribute to the development of PFB. People with ethnic skin types, such as African Americans, tend to have thicker, more tightly curled hair and a higher risk of developing PFB. Additionally, people with skin types that are prone to hyperpigmentation and keloidal scarring are also more likely to experience PFB.

  1. Bacterial colonization
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Bacterial colonization can also contribute to the development of PFB. The hair follicles can become infected with Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria that is commonly found on the skin. This can result in the development of papules and pustules, which can become infected and lead to the development of keloidal scars.

  1. Other skin conditions

Other skin conditions can also contribute to the development of PFB. For example, people with acne or folliculitis (an inflammation of the hair follicles) are more likely to experience PFB. Additionally, people with a history of atopic dermatitis (eczema) or other skin allergies are also more likely to experience PFB.


It occurs when the hair that has been shaved, trimmed, or plucked grows back into the skin, causing an immune response that results in an inflamed, pimple-like bump. This condition can be painful, unsightly, and can lead to scarring if left untreated.

The following is a list of symptoms associated with PFB:

  1. Inflammation and redness: The skin in the affected area may become inflamed and red, with raised, red bumps that can be painful to the touch.
  2. Bumps and pimples: The most common symptom of PFB is the appearance of small, raised bumps that look like pimples. These bumps can be red, white, or skin-colored and are often accompanied by itching, burning, or stinging.
  3. Irritation and itching: The skin in the affected area may become itchy, causing discomfort and a desire to scratch. Scratching can further irritate the skin, leading to additional itching and scratching, and potentially leading to infection.
  4. Scarring: If PFB is left untreated or if the affected skin is repeatedly scratched or picked, it can lead to scarring. Scarring can cause the affected skin to become discolored, rough, and raised, making it noticeable even after the bumps have disappeared.
  5. Darkening of the skin: The affected skin may become darker due to increased pigmentation, a condition known as hyperpigmentation. This can occur as a result of inflammation and irritation, and can be permanent if left untreated.
  6. Ingrown hairs: PFB is often caused by ingrown hairs, which occur when the hair that has been shaved or trimmed grows back into the skin, instead of growing out. This can cause the hair to become trapped beneath the surface of the skin, leading to inflammation and the development of pimple-like bumps.
  7. Formation of keloids: In some cases, PFB can lead to the formation of keloids, which are raised, thickened areas of scar tissue that form in response to injury or irritation. Keloids can be itchy, painful, and can cause cosmetic concerns.
  8. Recurrence: PFB is a chronic condition that can recur even after the affected skin has cleared. This can make it difficult to manage and can lead to frustration and low self-esteem for those who suffer from it.


Diagnosis of PFB typically begins with a physical examination of the affected area by a dermatologist. The dermatologist will examine the skin for signs of inflamed papules and pustules, as well as for the presence of ingrown hairs. The doctor may also ask about the individual’s grooming habits, such as how often they shave and what type of razor they use, in order to get a better understanding of what might be contributing to the condition.

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In some cases, a biopsy of the affected skin may be taken in order to rule out other potential causes of skin irritation, such as folliculitis or a skin infection. A biopsy involves removing a small sample of skin tissue and examining it under a microscope. This can help the dermatologist determine the exact cause of the skin irritation and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

In addition to a physical examination and biopsy, the following tests may also be used to diagnose PFB:

  1. Wood’s Lamp Examination: A Wood’s lamp examination is a diagnostic tool that uses ultraviolet (UV) light to examine the skin. In individuals with PFB, the affected skin may appear darker under the UV light, which can help the dermatologist make a more accurate diagnosis.
  2. KOH Preparation: A KOH (potassium hydroxide) preparation is a simple test that can be used to diagnose fungal infections of the skin. The test involves applying a drop of KOH to a small sample of the affected skin, which is then examined under a microscope. If a fungal infection is present, the skin cells will break down and become discolored.
  3. Culture Test: A culture test is used to determine if a skin infection is present. The test involves taking a sample of the affected skin and placing it in a special medium to encourage the growth of bacteria or other microorganisms. The culture is then examined under a microscope to determine the type of bacteria or other microorganisms that are present, which can help the dermatologist determine the best course of treatment.
  4. Patch Test: A patch test is a diagnostic tool used to identify allergens that may be causing skin irritation. The test involves placing a small amount of a suspected allergen on the skin and covering it with a patch. The patch is then removed after a certain amount of time, and the skin is examined for any signs of an allergic reaction.


Treatment of PFB is aimed at reducing inflammation, preventing ingrown hairs, and minimizing scarring. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan, but a combination of the following treatments can be effective in managing the symptoms of PFB:

  1. Topical medications:

Topical medications are applied directly to the skin and can be effective in reducing inflammation and preventing ingrown hairs. Some commonly used topical medications include:

  • Corticosteroids: These are anti-inflammatory medications that can reduce redness, itching, and swelling. They come in various forms, such as creams, lotions, and gels, and can be applied directly to the affected area.
  • Antibiotics: If there is an infection present, topical antibiotics can be prescribed to help clear up the infection. They come in various forms, such as creams, gels, and ointments, and can be applied directly to the affected area.
  • Retinoids: These are vitamin A derivatives that can help unclog hair follicles and prevent ingrown hairs. They come in various forms, such as creams, gels, and lotions, and can be applied directly to the affected area.
  1. Shaving techniques:
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Correct shaving techniques can help reduce the incidence of PFB. It is important to shave in the direction of hair growth and use a sharp, clean razor. Avoid using dull razors, as they can increase the risk of ingrown hairs.

  1. Hair removal methods:

If shaving is not effective in reducing the symptoms of PFB, other hair removal methods may be considered. Some of these methods include:

  • Electrolysis: This is a permanent hair removal method that uses a fine probe to destroy the hair follicle.
  • Laser hair removal: This method uses a laser to destroy the hair follicle, resulting in permanent hair reduction.
  • Depilatory creams: These creams dissolve hair above the skin surface and can be used as an alternative to shaving.
  1. Medical procedures:

In severe cases of PFB, medical procedures may be necessary to help reduce symptoms. Some of these procedures include:

  • Corticosteroid injections: Corticosteroid injections can be used to reduce inflammation and prevent scarring. They are usually administered directly into the affected area.
  • Excisions: This is a surgical procedure in which the affected tissue is removed. This is typically done for large, deep-seated keloidal scars.
  1. Home remedies:

In addition to the above treatments, some home remedies can also be effective in managing the symptoms of PFB. Some of these remedies include:

  • Warm compresses: Applying warm compresses to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and unclog hair follicles.
  • Tea tree oil: This essential oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce symptoms of PFB.
  • Aloe vera: Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties that can help soothe the skin and reduce symptoms of PFB.

It is important to note that not all treatments work for all individuals, and it may take some time to find the right combination of treatments that works best for you.


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