Sycosis, schmycosis. It’s actually no laughing matter
– but what is it then?
Itching, redness, razor bumps, ingrown hairs – could it be sycosis?
We all know the symptoms. But what causes it?
Is it infectious? And what’s the best way to treat it?
What's beard plague?
First, you’ll be happy to know that most cases of red and itchy discomfort related to shaving are not serious.
The dermatological condition called sycosis requires medical treatment, but fortunately it is not very common. The condition appears as pus-filled blisters that develop in the hair follicles, and it can spread to infect larger areas of the skin. Other symptoms, such as irritation, razor bumps and ingrown hairs, are indications of shaving rash, which can potentially develop into sycosis, but generally doesn’t.
Shaving rash develops after shaving, but goes away with time and doesn’t spread.
What causes shaving rash?
Shaving rash, as the name suggests, is caused by shaving with a razor. However, it can also develop with other types of hair removal. Shaving causes tiny little abrasions where staphylococcus bacteria from your razor or the surrounding skin can get in and cause localised infection under the skin.
The infection appears initially as little red bumps around the hair follicles and can subsequently develop into tiny little pimples or pustules that can become abscessed if you are very unfortunate.
What causes ingrown hairs?
When the hairs start to grow out again after shaving or other types of hair removal, they can have trouble breaking through the skin because of the infection and therefore begin to grow inwards.
This is called an ingrown hair.
Who’s to blame?
The bacteria that cause the infection can come from two sources:
- Your shaving kit
This is especially true if your razor is dull or not cleaned properly. A razor that has been used many times will be full of bacteria from previous shaves and is more likely to damage the skin.
- Your skin
Staphylococcus is a very common and very mild strain of bacteria that lives on the skin of most people. Shaving causes tiny abrasions where bacteria can get in and cause localised infection under the skin.
Does it matter if I shave with the grain or against it?
Your shaving technique actually does play a role.
Shaving rash is more likely to occur if you shave against the grain, because it makes it easier for bacteria to get into your hair follicles.
Does shaving rash only occur on the face?
Shaving rash doesn’t just occur on the face. The most vulnerable areas are the throat, the pubic area, the buttocks and the underarms, depending on where you shave.
And you can actually develop a similar rash in areas where you haven’t shaved if the hair follicles are particularly susceptible to bacteria.
Can anyone develop shaving rash or is it just me?
Shaving rash is a very common and widespread condition, and most men who shave or trim their beards have experienced it.
Is shaving rash infectious?
Shaving rash and sycosis can be transmitted to others through direct or indirect contact. Because everyone has staphylococcus bacteria on their skin, which is the cause of the problem, it’s important that you never share your razor or towel with others and that you maintain good personal hygiene.