Posted on: May 25, 2008 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 0

A nicely-done mustache can do wonders for a man. Look at Timothy Dalton in “The Rocketeer”, or Tom Selleck (whose mustache seems to have already been a trademark part of his face). In fact, some famous (or infamous) people are almost always defined by their mustache as much as the contribution they made to history. Charlie Chaplin and Hitler, for example. Can you imagine them without their semi-trademarked lip hat? Or how about Einstein, with his upper lip bush that seemed to defy physics laws. The same goes for beards and five o’clock shadows. Bad boy antiheroes in movies are almost always portrayed with rough, grizzled stubbles that make them look like they can take you and your army any day of the week. To say that facial hair attracts the ladies is not an understatement at all.

Unfortunately, girls are not the only things facial hair attracts. Bacteria and fungus occasionally get into the hair follicles giving rise to a skin disorder called folliculitis. Folliculitis can either be superficial (affecting the upper part of the hair follicle) or deep ( affecting the deeper area in the skin surrounding the hair follicle). Superficial folliculitis have different types, but the most common are barber’s itch, pseudofolliculitis barbae, and tinae barbae. They differ primarily by what causes them in the first place, but almost all types of folliculitis exhibit the same symptoms: rash, itchiness, redness on the skin, and sometimes, the formation of pus-filled blisters.

Barber’s itch is the more common term for staphylococcal folliculitis, a form of superficial folliculitis that is caused by a staphylococcus aureus bacteria (commonly known as staph bacteria). Normally, staph bacteria live on your skin all the time and they are relatively harmless until they enter your body through a cut or a break on the skin. When staph bacteria gets into the hair follicles, they cause pus-filled bumps that are usually white and itchy. Most often, the staph bacteria gets into cuts made when a man shaves his beard or facial hair. When that happens, it is called barber’s itch.

Tinea barbae, on the other hand, is caused by a fungus rather than a bacteria. Like staphylococcal folliculitis, this type is also commonly found in the men’s beard area and occurs almost exclusively among adolescent and adult males. The fungi that causes tinae barbae is called a keratinophilic fungi (also known as dermatophytes), the fungi that is also responsible for most of the fungal skin infections people usually contract. In tinae barbae, the fungi get into the hair follicles, producing red, inflammatory pus-filled nodules that eventually become crust for the more serious cases and tiny, white bumps with reddish skin area for the more common ones.

Pseudofolliculitis barbae is an inflammation of the skin that is caused by highly curved hair growing back into the skin. As such, pseudofolliculitis barbae affects men with curly beards and hair. The problem happens when, after shaving, some hairs that are pointed and curved grows back into the skin, resulting in the familiar inflammation result. Most men who suffer this kind of folliculitis are those who use razorblades for shaving instead of the electrical ones as razorblades tend to make the hair ends sharpen. Medically, this type of folliculitis doesn’t pose any risk. However, it may leave you with some keloid scars that might give you unsightly appearance, leading to probable emotional distress.

Barber’s itch can easily be prevented. You just have to be careful when shaving or sharing face towels with other people. However, if by some unfortunate circumstance, you contract the disease, there are ways you can do to get rid of the annoying condition.

    • Take antibiotic or fungal medications. For common barber’s itch, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream or ointment that can be applied on the affected area. If you’re adverse to topical applications, you can opt to ask for antibiotic tablets or drugs that can be taken orally instead. However, before you prescribe to any over-the-counter drugs, make sure that you consult your doctor. You might have any other conditions that might result in health complications like an allergic reaction to certain medicines.

For tinae barbae, anti-fungal medications should do the trick. Again, make sure you consult your doctor before prescribing to any medicine, oral or topical.

  • Avoid shaving the affected area until it heals. Shaving an area affected by barber’s itch will only worsen the irritation and might cause more harm than good. Barber’s itch is usually accompanied by little nodules filled with pus; the pus is composed of bacteria, dead skin cells, and dead white cells that try to combat the invaders. If the nodules are broken by shaving, you take the risk of spreading the infection to other parts of your face (or even body). Wait until the condition is healed, or at least until the nodules and bumps are gone before resuming your shaving routine. If you really have to shave, then try using electronic razors, which do not cut as closely as razorblades do.
  • For pseudofolliculitis barbae, shave properly. Since pseudofolliculitis barbae is not caused by any foreign organism, you can shave without having to worry about spreading any infection. However, when you do, shave properly. Use electronic razor as opposed to razorblades. Moist your skin first with warm water using a facial sponge or washcloth. Doing so will lift your facial hair out so you can easily cut them without having to stretch your skin. Instead of shaving cream, use shaving gel. Shaving gel allows a smoother shave due to them being more slippery than cream, which tends to get absorbed. When shaving, shave in the direction of the hair growth, not against it. After shaving, rinse your face thoroughly with warm water and then apply some aftershave moisturizers to refresh the skin.
  • Use anti-itch cream or lotion to relieve the itchiness. There are several anti-itch lotions and creams that are available over the counter to treat skin itches and rash. Some of these medications work by killing the bacteria or fungi or just numb the nerve endings on your skin so the itching sensation will be deadened. However, before you buy any of these medications, be sure to consult your dermatologist to make sure that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients they may contain. You can also use a cold compress to relive itching. The cold compress works very much like deadening creams by numbing your skin to the itching sensation. Before doing so, though, protect your skin by putting cloth between it and the cold compress.
  • Avoid sharing washcloths or towels. Bacterial and fungal infections are contagious. Make sure that you do not worsen your condition by contracting another dose of them when your current one is healing nicely. Alternately, you will be able to prevent spreading the infection to other members of your household, thereby stopping the cycle of contamination in your family. Launder your towels and cloths in plenty of hot, soapy water—if possible, after every use. If you have clothes which came in contact with the affected area, wash them too, as well.
  • If your infection turns serious and you develop a boil or carbuncle, drain it properly. If the nodules become serious, don’t randomly burst them with your fingers. Instead, apply a warm washcloth soaked in salt water over them for about 30 minutes each day. One teaspoon of salt on a quarter of hot water, preferably boiling, should be enough for the preparation. Let the concoction cool until it becomes warm. Better yet, have the boil or carbuncle be drained by a doctor. Doing so will minimize the spread of infection and leave visible scars.

Click here for more information on how to get rid of Barbers itch.

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