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Last updated August 26, 2017, originally published December 1, 2014
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist
This itchy condition may not be life-threatening but it can be life-
changing. Barber’s itch, also known as "pseudofolliculitis barbae"
causes sore, unsightly and embarrassing bumps on the skin.
Barber’s itch can even leave to scarring and permanent hair loss.
Barber’s itch is a type of folliculitis, a common skin condition where the
hair follicles of the beard are inflamed. This irritating condition primarily
affects curly-haired men who shave, and is a particular problem for
black men. What exactly causes barber’s itch? If you suffer from this
problem, what can you do about it?
What are the Symptoms of Barber’s Itch?
The hair follicles are the minute pockets out of which the hairs grow.
With barber’s itch, the follicles on the chin, neck and beard area
become inflamed and you’ll see small bumps or pimple-like spots on the
skin. Over time the bumps turn into scars covering the beard area and
What Are the Causes of Barber’s Itch?
In-growing hairs are the root cause of barber’s itch. And the hairs that
cause the problem are curly. When men shave highly curved hair the
hairs are sharpened and they tend to grow back into the skin instead of
away from it. The push of the tip of the hair into the skin causes
inflammation, and can lead to bacterial infection - damaged follicles
become infected with Staphylococcus (staph) bacteria. Close shaving is
a particular problem and often causes barber’s itch.
Who Suffers from Barber’s Itch?
Barber’s itch is extremely common among black men – up to 80 percent
of adult black men in the United States have barber’s itch, according to
2003 research from the Marine Corps Air Station, Branch Medical Clinic,
The condition is a particular problem for men in the military who must
always have a clean-shaven face. Women with a lot of facial hair may
also develop the condition, although this is less common.
If untreated, mild cases of barber’s itch may resolve on their own.
However, prolonged incidences of barber’s itch can lead to permanent
scarring and disfigurement so it is important to take the condition
We looked at the most recent research into bacterial skin infections and
barber’s itch to bring you seven natural remedies to ease the condition.
1. Shaving Solutions for Barber’s Itch
If you want to completely cure barber’s itch, stop shaving. When you
let the beard grow the hairs become too long to reenter the skin, thus
removing the risk of inflammation and infection.
How long should you stop shaving? The best way to cure barber's itch
is to stop shaving for at least four weeks.
If you cannot do this, shaving every other day helps barber’s itch.
Certain shaving habits increase the risk of barber’s itch, according to
2011 research from Howard University College of Medicine,
Washington, DC, and should be avoided – specifically, pulling the skin
tight when you shave, using double- or triple-blade razors, shaving
against the hair growth, and plucking hairs from the face with tweezers.
Using an electric razor helps as it does not cut so close as a manual
2. Washing and Cleansing Barber’s Itch
Help to relieve the discomfort of ingrown hairs by softening the skin
with a warm, damp washcloth two or three times a day.
You can wet the cloth with a solution of salt in clean water to help drain
the bumps and prevent further infection. Always use a clean cloth and
do not share cloths if the skin is infected.
The Staph bacteria that can turn a simple inflammation into a raging,
painful bumps actually lives on the surface of your skin. When you are
in your mother's womb, your skin is sterile, completely free of bacteria.
But, from the moment of your birth, your skin become populated with
staph bacteria of many types. You must clean your face and beard each
day simply to control the levels of staph bacteria and prevent infection.
Choose a mild soap and gently scrub your face daily. Here is a daily
grooming routine to prevent staph infection on your face.
3. Tea Tree Oil for Treating Barber’s Itch
Tea tree oil has the power to destroy many bacteria on contact with the
skin, which makes it of potential use for treating barber’s itch where
the skin has become inflamed and infected.
In a 2005 study from Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup, Kent, UK and a
2004 study from Royal Hampshire County Hospital, UK tea tree oil was
discovered to be as effective as standard antiseptic oil for getting rid of
staph bacteria on the skin. Tea tree oil is generally safe for topical use
on the skin but some men have experienced allergic reactions to the oil.
4. Barber’s Itch Cure - Oregon Grape?
Substances from the roots and bark of the Oregon grape, or the
Mahonia aquifolium shrub, have traditionally been used to treat skin
problems like acne, skin fungal infections and inflammation.
Could the plant be useful for treating barber’s itch? The evidence from
studies like a 1994 report from the University of Munich, Germany is
preliminary, and further investigation is required.
5. Use Goldenseal to Treat Barber’s Itch
Goldenseal root contains a substance called berberine that is said to
kills microorganisms like bacteria.
As barber’s itch is often linked to a bacterial infection from ingrown
hairs, goldenseal applied topically could help treat the condition.
Findings from research like a 2001 study from Ain Shams University,
Cairo, Egypt into berberine’s antibacterial action seem to suggest it can
help treat the condition, but further research is needed. Goldenseal
ointment or cream should be applied to the infected beard area once a
6. Essential Oils for Anti-Bacterial Action Against Barber’s Itch
Studies have shown that peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil have
antibacterial and antifungal properties, and may be useful for treating
the inflammation associated with barber’s itch. A 1997 study from the
Regional Medical Research Centre, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India shows
the antibacterial activity associated with these essential oils.
7. Treat Barber’s Itch with Neem Oil
The neem tree has a long history of medicinal use in India as its sap,
oil, fruit and seeds have been used to treat everything from fever to
According to the Neem Foundation, the seed and kernel oil of the neem
tree can be used to treat skin conditions and bacterial infections.
No studies have directly taken place on its effectiveness for treating
barber’s itch but neem oil is deemed safe and could be an effective
relief for itchy beard skin.
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