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Razor bumps are not uncommon to men with coarse or curly hair. They are especially common for black men, with some people estimating up to 30 or 40% of black men may experience bumps. The process of blade shaving can cut the hair at an angle, making it sharp. Curly hair then sometimes curls back toward the skin and can puncture the skin and become ingrown. This leads to red bumps and skin irritation, which can be very painful for some men. The technical name for razor bumps is pseudofolliculitis barbae (often abbreviated PFB).
You can see some pictures at the Dermatology Image Atlas.
The following steps may reduce your chance of suffering from razor bumps:
Some people who suffer from razor bumps might prefer using a depilatory (like Nair or Neet) instead of a razor. Depilatories work by dissolving the hair so it can be washed off. The chemicals used in depilatories are strong, and may cause irritation. There's a little more information about them in this article.
A recent treatment for razor bumps is called eflornithine hydrochloride 13.9 percent, usually called Vaniqa (made by Bristol-Myers Squibb). It's a prescription drug used to remove facial hair for women, but it's apparently proven effective in controlling and treating razor bumps as well. Since it's a prescription drug, you'll have to talk to your doctor about it.
The following companies sell products that are available on the Internet and claim to help people suffering from razor bumps. I haven't tried any of them myself; buyer beware.
No Mo' Bumps After Shave
Prince Reigns gel
Follique treatment for razor bumps
Elicina Biological Treatment
Moore Unique Skin Care
Dermagen Skin Revival System
If you are suffering seriously from razor bumps, you should probably consult a dermatologist or your family doctor.
Pseudofolliculitis of the Beard - A detailed article on razor bumps, from eMedicine.com.
Pseudofolliculitis barbae (shaving bumps) - information for patients - Article (with picture), from the New Zealand DermNet
Shaving Problem Avoidance
Teenage Boys and Razor Bumps
A Practical Guide to the Management of Razor Bumps
Deas, Gerald W. "Getting a jump on the razor bump." New York Amsterdam News, 10/4/2001, Vol. 92 Issue 40, p16, 1/4p, 1bw.
"EM insider." Ebony Man, Oct97, Vol. 12 Issue 12, p20, 1p, 4c.
Gite, Lloyd. "How to take the bumps out of shaving." Heart & Soul, Jun/Jul96 Issue 15, p72, 1/2p, 1c.
Laliberte, Richard."Chin flicks: how to shave so you'll never again have to deal with razor bumps, burns or slashes." Men's Health, Feb 1991 v6 n1 p19(2).
Tucker, Miriam E. "Eflornithine Cream Clears Razor Bumps." Internal Medicine News, Sept 15, 2001 v34 i18 p15.
If you have any additional comments or questions about razor bumps, feel free to contact me about them. This article was last updated July 2003.
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