Pseudofolliculitis barbae is a medical term for persistent inflammation caused by shaving. It is also known by the initials PFB or the phrases “razor bumps” or razor rash. The etymology comes from “pseudo” (false) “follicle” (hair) “itis” (inflammation) “barbae” (of the beard).
PFB is most common on the male face, but it can also happen on other parts of the body where hair is shaved or plucked, especially areas where hair is curly and the skin is sensitive, such as genital shaving.
After a hair has been shaved, it begins to grow back. Curly hair tends to curl into the skin instead of straight out the follicle. PFB can make the skin look itchy and red, and in some cases, it can even look like pimples. These inflamed papules or pustules can form especially if the area becomes infected.
This is especially problematic for men of African descent and other people with curly hair. If left untreated over time, this can cause keloid scarring in the beard area.
Prevention and treatment varies by person. Some males use shaving powders (a kind of chemical depilatory) to avoid the irritation. Others may use a razor with a single blade or special wire-wrapped blade to avoid shaving too closely. Some men trim instead of shaving or grow a beard. In severe cases or in occupations where shaving is a requirement (such as the military), some men get electrolysis, laser hair removal, or use exfoliating products to minimize PFB.
There is also a condition called folliculitis barbae. The difference between the two is the cause of the inflammation in the hair follicles. Folliculitis barbae is caused by viral or bacterial infections, where pseudofolliculitis is caused by irritation from shaving and ingrown hairs.
A related condition, Pseudofolliculitis nuchae, occurs on the back of the neck, often along the posterior hairline, when curved hairs are cut short and allowed to grow back into the skin. Left untreated, this can develop into acne keloidalis nuchae, a condition where hard, dark keloid-like bumps form on the neck.