The Regimen

Say Goodbye to Razor Bumps

Male dark skin model close up with serum dropper on his face

Pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB). It's the long way to say "razor bumps" and the short way to say "painful, chronic inflammatory condition caused by shaving or plucking coarse hairs on the face or body." Whatever the name, we're pretty sure you'd most like to call it "gone." Read on for your guide to smooth, bump-free, even-toned skin.


What causes pseudofolliculitis barbae?

This chronic inflammatory condition is caused by shaving or plucking coarse hairs on the face or body. Shaving stretches the hair beyond the follicle and then creates a sharp edge on the hair. The hair snaps back beneath the surface of the skin and gets trapped.


Is pseudofolliculitis barbae the same as ingrown hairs?

Not exactly. It can present the same way creating painful, tender bumps on the skin. But, as the name implies, it goes a step further. In PFB, the trapped hair grows downward and escapes the follicle, emerging through the dermis in what's known as extra-follicular penetration. This "follicle simulation" is where we get the term "pseudofolliculitis," and it's what distinguishes PFB from ingrown hair.

When extra-follicular penetration occurs, the skin treats the hair as a foreign body and mounts an inflammatory response, leading to pustules, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and sometimes keloid scars.

PFB is more common in Black skin because the hair follicle is curved. It can affect both men and women, but because it's the result of shaving or hair removal, it's mostly seen in men on the face and neck. However, bikini lines and underarms are also fair game.


What to do about pseudofolliculitis barbae

First, stop shaving or plucking. Wait until razor bumps have resolved before going back to shaving or engaging in further hair removal at the site.

Skincare should focus on gentle exfoliation to remove impactions and free trapped hairs, killing bacteria, and soothing irritation. Melanin-inhibitors and brightening ingredients can be used to manage hyperpigmentation.

Our top ingredient for preventing and managing pseudofolliculitis barbae, especially in Black skin? Mandelic acid. First, it's the most gentle of the AHAs due to a larger molecular structure that slows its absorption and limits irritation. Second, it's a multi-tasking overachiever with micro-exfoliating, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and brightening properties. Mandelic acid unblocks follicles, kills bacteria, calms irritation, acts on melanocytes to block PFB-triggered hyperpigmentation, and increases cell turnover to disperse excess surface pigment. 

We recommend a complete mandelic acid regimen for both treatment and prevention of PFB. 

Start with Mandelic Acid 3-In-1 Exfoliating Cleanser to keep follicles free of bacteria and cellular debris and encourage an even tone.

Follow with Daily Repair Pads, textured single-use pads steeped in a blend of mandelic acid, salicylic acid, niacinamide, and healing zinc to decongest pores, soothe inflammation, improve texture, and brighten tone.

The core of your regimen is our 8% Mandelic Acid 3-In-1 Serum. This gentle transformer is the ultimate defender against bumps, bacteria, hyperpigmentation, and irritation. Resurfaces and brightens to keep skin clear, resilient, and healthy.

For added soothing and hydration, try Allantoin Sedating and Hydrating Lotion, a lightly keratolytic calmer that moisturizes without a hint of greasiness. Our Totaloe Calming and Hydrating Gel is also a great choice with its ultra-healing formula and brightening effects.


PFB Avoidance strategy

Pregame your shave by applying a warm compress on the face for several minutes before shaving. The warm water will create a swelling effect, making the hair stand more upright.

Use a low-angle single blade or an electric razor. Avoid multi-blade systems that pull the hair out farther for a super close shave.

Don't stretch the skin and always shave in the direction of hair growth rather than against the grain.

If using a razor, don't dry shave because it can make for a sharp, beveled cut that encourages PFB. Vivant's Mandelic Acid 3-In-1 Wash or Green Tea Antioxidant Cleanser double as shaving gels and contain ingredients to enhance even tone and cellular repair.

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