New laser promising for shaving bumps

June 1, 2005

Orlando — A device to treat pseudofolliculitis barbae will permit users to avoid developing the condition as well as reduce their frequency of shaving, according to a small study presented here at the meeting of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.

Orlando - A device to treat pseudofolliculitis barbae will permit users to avoid developing the condition as well as reduce their frequency of shaving, according to a small study presented here at the meeting of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.

"You would initially use the device on a daily basis and be able to avoid shaving everyday," said Dr. Edward Victor Ross, a staff physician in the dermatology department at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, director of the laser section of the department, and one of the study's investigators.

"You would not permanently prevent hair growth, but you would retard or temporarily prevent hair growth," he says.

"The hair would be impacted by multiple, low-grade treatments," Dr. Ross tells Dermatology Times. "Rather than using few high-powered treatments, the subject is exposed to repeat low-grade applications. The emphasis would be on temporary hair removal in terms of growth. You would not need to shave everyday, but every three or four days by using the device. It would decrease the likelihood of shaving bumps."

Common condition Shaving bumps, or pseudofolliculitis barbae, is a common condition of the beard area occurring in black men and other people with curly hair. Highly-curved hairs can grow back into the skin causing inflammation and a foreign-body reaction. Keloidal scarring that looks like hard bumps of the beard area and neck can develop over time.

The study recruited 10 subjects, of skin type V and VI with moderate pseudofolliculitis barbae to test the efficacy of the prototype device, developed by Palomar Medical Technologies. To ensure safety and maximum power that could be used in the application, the device was first tested on the subject's back. The device has selectable discrete power settings to ensure comfortable treatment.

The device provides approximately 3-10 J/cm2. Subjects were treated over a two-week period and received 10 treatments. Each treatment began at 60 percent of total power, followed by a gradual increase in the power until either maximum power of 72W or the subject's pain threshold was reached.

"No numbing creams were required," Dr. Ross says. "Subjects had some discomfort, but the pain was manageable. Sometimes currently available high-powered laser reduction can result in severe pain."

Digital photography and lesion counts were performed at each treatment and at follow-up visits, which took place at two, four and 12 weeks after the final laser session.

There was a 69 percent average reduction in the number of lesions, the range being 48 percent to 80 percent, at the end of the treatment period. The majority of subjects indicated improvement in shaving bumps and said there was greater ease of shaving after three to five treatments, expressing desire for continuing treatment in the future. No adverse events were reported. Researchers concluded long-term resolution of the condition might require maintenance treatments with the device.

Downside One of the arguments against using the device is that a threshold of energy is never reached to permanently prevent hair growth, Dr. Ross notes.

"Skeptics might argue that if you don't apply sufficient power, you won't reach a point that will permit permanent hair removal," he says.

Existing recommendations are that men with pseudofolliculitis barbae let their beard grow for 30 days to eliminate ingrown hairs and use a moisturizing shaving foam. Another recommendation is that men shave in the direction of the follicle and not against it and avoid stretching their skin. Current treatments include electrolysis and applications of glycolic acid lotions to the skin.