You had a haircut a few days ago, and everything seemed to be going great until you noticed a red, itchy rash on your chin. Are you having some sort of a skin infection? Did you pick it up at the barbing salon? And most importantly, how are you going to get rid of it?
Well, the answer to your first two questions might be yes. The rash you are experiencing could be Tinea barbae, also known as ringworm of the beard, or more commonly, barber’s itch. It is an infection of the beard and mustache area that is caused by several different fungi. Unfortunately, it’s a common source of concern, discomfort, and embarrassment to many Black men.
In this article, we’ll break down what causes barber’s rash, common ways they spread, effective treatment methods, and some prevention tips to ensure you don’t get reinfected.
What Causes Barber’s Itch?
Barber’s itch is a type of dermatitis, which is an inflammation of the skin. It is caused by a type of fungi known as dermatophytes which lives on the skin and feed on dead skin cells. Sometimes these fungi can also infect the hair follicles, leading to folliculitis as well.
Two species of fungi are responsible for barber’s itch, T. verrucosum and T. mentagrophytes var. equinum. These fungi are usually found on farm animals, but sometimes they find their way onto humans and can spread quickly from person to person.
What Does Barber’s Itch Look Like?
How barber’s itch look may vary based on your skin type and how severe the condition is. Most people develop a scaly, bumpy, roughly circular, reddish rash underneath the beard. This infection can also spread to the neck and lips in severe cases.
In severe cases where the hair follicles are also affected, you may notice pus-filled acne, patches of hair loss, and even mild pain over the affected areas. Some people may develop a fever and swollen glands, but this is very rare.
Barbers Itch is sometimes confused with razor bumps because the symptoms are sometimes similar. The only difference is that Razor Bumps are caused by ingrown hairs, which is often a result of how the hair was shaved and the shaving technique used. Whereas, Barbers Itch is caused by a fungal infection on the shaving device.
How Do You Get Barber’s Itch?
You can contact barbers itch directly or indirectly. An indirect way can be through human-to-human contact with someone who has this infection. So if you touch your face with hands that came in contact with another person with barber’s itch, you can be infected by the fungi. This is why washing your hands frequently is very important.
A direct way is the most common, which is usually through sharing personal grooming items such as razors, beard brushes and combs.
This is why it’s important to ensure that your barber properly disinfects all shaving tools in-between clients.
5 Factors That Increases Your Risk of Getting Barber’s Itch
Although Barber’s itch spread through personal contact, fungal infections are not very common in people. However, given the right conditions they can occur. Let’s take a look at some factors that increase your risk of getting barber’s itch:
1. Coming in Contact With the Fungus
Any sort of contact with the fungus, whether directly or indirectly, is the greatest risk factor for developing barber’s itch. Uninfected skin can always serve as a new breeding ground for the fungus. This is why it’s important to avoid touching the rash to avoid transmitting the fungi to other parts of your skin.
2. A Weakened Immune System
One of the reasons why fungal infections are not so common is that the immune system is good at fighting against them. But this might not be the case for someone with a weak immune system, because their bodies are not strong enough to effectively combat infections.
Factors that can compromise the immune system includes obesity, diabetes, thyroid issues, cancer, chemotherapy, immunosuppressant drugs, and HIV.
This is why anyone with either one of these issues stands a greater chance of not only being infected, but they’re also more likely to suffer from severe forms of the condition.
We all know that stress is bad for our health, but many people do not know that prolonged stress can affect their immune system. This is because stress causes the body to release special chemicals called corticosteroid hormones. These hormones can suppress th immune system and make it harder for the body to fight off infections.
4. Poor Hygiene
The fungi that cause Tinea barbae thrive in moist and humid conditions. That’s why it’s important to bathe regularly, wash your beard often and let it dry properly to avoid creating a conducive environment for the fungus to breed.
5. Curly Hair Types
Barber’s itch seems to be more common amongst Black men than any other race. Some speculated reason is that Black men tend to go to the barber’s salon more often for a haircut, which puts them at a greater risk of being infected.
How to Get Rid of Barber’s Itch Fast
Treatment remedies targeted at barber’s itch are aimed at eliminating the fungus and controlling the symptoms. In addition to orthodox medications, several home remedies have been said to be useful in the treatment of barber’s itch.
Home Remedies That May Help
1. Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe Vera gel is a natural home remedy that is used for its numerous skin and hair care benefits. When applied to the affected area, it has a soothing effect that reduces the itchiness, redness, and pain associated with barber’s itch.
Aloe vera gel is also said to have some antifungal properties and can help prevent fungal infections of the beard if used regularly.
It’s also a great moisturizer and helps your skin heal more quickly after the condition is gone.
Aloe vera is a popular houseplant, which means that you can easily access the gel whenever needed. But if you don’t have access to the gel at home, you can purchase the natural version of the gel from the store or online.
2. Garlic and Olive Oil Mixture
The garlic bulb is popular for its natural antifungal properties. Research supports this and proves that garlic is useful for treating certain fungal skin infections. Some people believe eating the plant is enough, but for maximum effect, it’s best to make a paste out of garlic and olive oil.
To make the paste, you need to mince a garlic clove into one-fourth of a cup of olive oil. Warm the garlic and oil at medium heat in a pan for several minutes (be careful not to let it burn). Place it in a small jar and allow it to infuse together overnight. Apply this mix to the affected area for about thirty minutes every day.
3. Yogurt and Honey Face Mask
Yogurt contains many probiotics which helps the body fight off the fungal infection. While honey is packed with anti-microbial properties that are all effective at fighting off infections.
For this mask, you will need to use half a cup of plain yogurt and about two tablespoons of organic honey. Mix both ingredients together and apply the paste as a mask over your entire face, especially the affected areas. Let this dry and wash off the paste after 20 minutes.
Some other effective home remedies you can look into include apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, turmeric, coconut oil, ginger, and baking soda.
There are many recipes online you can try one at a time, if the condition persists.
Some over-the-counter medications you can get include:
1. Antifungal Medications
These could be topical or oral medications. Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, lotions, or shampoos like Nystan, Canesten, and Daktarin are quite effective for mild to moderate cases of barber’s itch. Severe infection might require oral antifungal medications like fluconazole, griseofulvin, itraconazole, and terbinafine which you will have to take for 4 to 6 weeks.
2. Anti-inflammatory Medications
3. Antibacterial Medications
Harmful bacteria may find it easier to infect your skin when it’s already under attack from a fungal infection. So your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent this. These could be oral drugs, shampoos, or creams.
How to Prevent Barber’s Itch
This relies heavily on avoiding contact with the Tinea barbae fungi and good personal hygiene practices.
Improved shaving habits such as ensuring proper sterilization of shaving tools or using single-use razor blades for shaving can limit the chance of infection.
Always practice good hygiene and wash your beard with shampoo and water twice a day. Keep your beard dry and avoid sharing towels and other personal items with other people.
People who come in contact with farm animals regularly should always watch out for signs of fungal skin infection in animals or themselves and treat them quickly.
When to See a Doctor
You should book an appointment with your doctor if the symptoms of barber’s itch do not improve after 2 weeks of treatment or if it worsen during that time. Although over-the-counter antifungals can treat milder forms of barber’s itch, severe cases may require immediate medical attention.
Barber’s itch, although highly contagious, is treatable with over-the-counter and prescription antifungals. Effective treatment and proper hygiene measures go a long way in limiting your risk of developing barber’s itch. The condition is non-lethal but can be quite irritating and should always be treated as soon as you notice it.