What is the role of chemical depilatories in the treatment of pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB)?

Updated: Feb 07, 2019
  • Author: Thomas G Greidanus, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Chemical depilatories work by breaking the disulfide bonds in hair, which results in the hair being broken off bluntly at the follicular opening. [9]

Barium sulfide powder depilatories of about 2% strength can be made into a paste with water and applied to the beard area. This paste is removed after 3-5 minutes.

Calcium thioglycolate preparations come as powder, lotions, creams, and pastes. The mercaptan odor is often masked with fragrance. In rare cases, this fragrance can cause an allergic reaction. Calcium thioglycolate preparations take longer to work and are left on 10-15 minutes; chemical burns result if left on too long.

Chemical depilatories should not be used every day because they cause skin irritation. Every second or third day is an acceptable regimen. Irritation can be countered by using hydrocortisone cream. A lower pH or concentration, or a different brand, may also prove less irritating. Several products are available; therefore, trying a different product is encouraged if one depilatory proves to be unacceptable.

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