Razor bumps and baldness: A men’s guide to skin troubles

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Black man shaving

A common mistake men make is shaving too close to the skin, which increases the likelihood of ingrown hairs. © Karen Struthers - Fotolia.com

It’s not just women. Guys are just as conscious about their outward appearance as we are. Yet, they suffer with their own set of less-talked-about skin ailments. So, let’s take a look at two of the most common offenders and what can be done about them.

Razor bumps

Razor bumps occur when hairs curl back into the skin and create inflammation. As a result, painful pimples, redness, dark spots and, sometimes, keloids can occur. A common mistake men make is shaving too close to the skin, which increases the likelihood of these ingrown hairs.

“Men with curly hair, such as African-American men, who suffer with razor bumps should purchase a razor with a guard that prevents contact with the skin,” says Dr. Madeliene Gainers, a general dermatologist in Jacksonville, Fla. at Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery.

For those concerned that using a guard would leave behind stubble, Gainers says: “Maybe some stubble, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t appear ‘clean cut,’ and it’s better than bumps or even worse — keloids.”

Razors made specifically for razor bumps — which are also called PFB or pseudofolliculitis barbae — are good options. Gainers suggests the brand Bump Fighter as an example.

To treat razor bumps once they happen:

  • Avoid shaving until all bumps have healed.
  • If shaving can’t be avoided, use scissors or an electric clipper to trim hair to about five millimeters in length.
  • Using a mirror, release the ingrown hairs with tweezers or a needle. Do not pluck them.
  • Apply a warm towel to the bumps daily.
  • For some, using an antibiotic cream or steroid creams may be necessary.

Going bald

Also called androgenic alopecia, male-patterned baldness occurs in men whose hair follicles are more sensitive to a hormone made from testosterone. It is usually genetic and affects white men four times more than black men.

It starts with a receding hairline in an “M” pattern, followed by hair loss in the top center of the head in a circular shape. Both expand until ultimately meeting each other, and creating the male-pattern of baldness.

Once it starts, however, there are a few interventions that can help.

“This process can be slowed or halted by medications like Propecia [which decreases this testosterone-derivative]. Minoxidil, or Rogaine, is also helpful,” Gainers says.

She continues: “If male-patterned baldness occurs and is undesired, hair transplantation is an effective option. But, it’s considered to be a cosmetic procedure and will not be covered by insurance.”

Some men opt to shave their heads completely bald once hairlines begin receding. However, men — especially African-American men — can develop large patches of razor bumps on the scalp that swell and lead to keloids or scarring. These are often at the back of the head.

Men who have these should use the same razor bump tips as above.

Dr. Tyeese Gaines is a physician-journalist with over 10 years of print and broadcast experience, now serving as health editor for theGrio.com. Dr. Ty is also a practicing emergency medicine physician in New Jersey. Follow her on twitter at @doctorty or on Facebook.