Razor bumps look and feel like pimples but they are really the result of ingrown hairs. The medical term for this condition is Pseudofolliculitis Barbae. (PFB)
What causes razor bumps?
Hair grows inside tubes in the skin called “follicles.” When shaved, the tip of the hair is left with a sharp point. As curly hair grows, this sharp tip may curve back and pierce the skin. Medically this is called “extra follicular penetration.”
Razor bumps can also form when shaving too close to the skin causing the whiskers to be clipped off below the skin’s surface. This allows the hair to penetrate the side of the follicle instead of following its normal path to the skin’s surface. This can occur more often with curly hair. The medical term for this cause of PFB is “transfollicular penetration.”
The body treats all ingrown hairs just as it would a splinter or any other foreign object by producing an inflammatory pimple-like bump. Often, if the condition occurs over an extended period of time, the skin will respond by producing unsightly dark spots at the sites of the PFB bumps. Unfortunately, these dark spots can take months to fade. Since most African-American men have curly, coarse hair and curved follicles, they frequently suffer from razor bumps. This is also true for people of Mediterranean descent. It should be noted that razor bumps can affect anyone who has curly hair or who has hair follicles oriented at oblique angles to the skin surface, which makes it easier for the sharp hair tips to re-enter the skin.