A recent study shows that researchers have graphed 50 barbers from 37 barbershops in Oklahoma City and found nearly four in five could identify a condition that often develops in the beard area of African-America men and other people with curly hair. Dr. Prince Adotama said that Pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), also known as razor bumps, “can be a frustrating issue for all men.”  This study was published in JAMA Dermatology.

Researchers asked barbers to identify PFB and AKN in photographs and then questioned them about how they would handle customers with these problems and what they would advise men to do about these conditions. Razor bumps tend to develop when curly hairs grow back into the skin, and then the tissue becomes inflamed in reaction to the foreign object. Scars can develop over time. “African American men are at an increased risk of developing this condition (due) to their curly afro-textured hair,” Adotama said by email.

“This type of hair texture has an increased propensity to bend backwards, pierce and re-enter the skin, and develop an inflammatory reaction that eventually results in the development of razor bumps; shaving close to the skin can exacerbate this issue.” Most barbers also knew that razor use would aggravate PFB and another type of hair follicle problem – acne keloidalis nuchae (AKN) – that develops at the back of the head and neck, researchers.

The best way to treat this PFB is to stop shaving altogether, but this isn’t always a realistic option for many men, Adotama said. Using clippers instead of razor blades can help prevent razor bumps from getting worse. Men can often treat razor bumps with topical corticosteroids that reduce inflammation, said Dr. Lawrence Charles Parish. The problem can develop because men must shave daily to prevent the hair from growing enough to grow back into the skin, Parish said by email.

Shaving should also be with and against the grain or other directions, too, to stop ingrown hairs, he advised. “I prefer a four or five bladed razor, and a disposable razor often causes more problems,” Parish said. “The man should not mix a safety razor with an electric razor and/or depilatory because this also contributes to the problem. In summation, either shave appropriately or do not shave.” Dr. Andrew said, “Early detection and treatment can keep both types of hair follicle problems from getting worse, and barbers are well positioned to help men catch issues early.”

Researchers conclude that, in 16% of PFB cases and 30% of AKN cases, barbers wrongly thought they were looking at fungal infections. This suggests that barbers may need more education, they need to know how to spot common hair follicle problems in men of color.