Study Finds Barbers May Be the Solution to Early Detection of Hair Follicle Problems

A new study suggests barbers may be best able to recognize hair follicle problems that are common in men of color. This will allow them to offer advice on how to shave to avoid irritation or other complications.

The study looked at 50 barbers from 37 barbershops in Oklahoma City. Researchers found that nearly four in five could identify a condition that is commonly found in the beard area of African American men (as well as other people who have curly hair).

Lead author Dr. Prince Adotama, who is a dermatology researcher at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in Oklahoma City, says pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), commonly known as razor bumps, “can be a frustrating issue for all men. African American men, in particular, are at an increased risk of developing this condition (due) to their curly afro-textured hair.”

The research also reported that most barbers knew that razor use would agitate PFB and an additional type of hair follicle issue known as acne keloidalis nuchae (AKN).

The most effective treatment for PFB is to stop shaving altogether, which is great news for the bearded men of the world, but which may not be an option for many men. Razor bumps typically form when curly hairs grow back into the skin, causing the tissue to become inflamed. This can lead to scarring over time.

The problem can develop if men shave daily to prevent the hair from growing long enough to grow back into the skin. Men with these conditions often treat the razor bumps with topical corticosteroids that reduce inflammation.

During the study, barbers were asked to identify PFB and AKN in photographs. They were then asked how they would handle customers who had these problems and the advice they would give to these men.

The researchers found that in 16% of PFB cases and 30% of AKN cases, barbers thought they were looking at fungal infections. This data suggests that barbers may need more education on how to properly identify these hair follicle problems in men of color.

With 100 million Americans visiting salons each month, barbers should be able to correctly detect and advise on these conditions. Early detection and treatment is key to keeping both of these problems from getting worse, and barbers are in a unique position that allows them to help men detect these issues.

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