NORFOLK, Va. — The Navy is updating its beard policy when it comes to Sailors who suffer from pseudofolliculitis barbae, or PFB, more commonly known as razor bumps.
The painful condition is exacerbated by shaving because tightly curled beard hairs are sharpened by shaving and then grow back into the skin, which can result in bumps, infection and inflammation.
The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology says the problem is common in up to 60% of Black men.
In 2019, the Navy scrapped permanent waivers that allowed some Sailors who suffered from PFB to grow their beards through their careers. That change was prompted by safety concerns that a beard could interfere with the seal of a face mask.
Under a NAVADMIN released Wednesday, the Navy will soon allow Sailors diagnosed with PFB and authorized facial hair to optionally outline/edge their beards.
It also no longer requires Sailors with diagnosed PFB to keep a copy of their facial hair wavier on them.
Sailors with PFB treatment failures will no longer be considered for separation from the Navy, but they may face a required designator or rating-specialty change.
The Navy is also changing a policy regarding laser hair reduction treatments for PFB.
"Laser treatments are now optional and not mandatory," noted Rob Carroll, director of the Navy Uniform Matters Office.
PS2 Willie Hatten and PS2 Raheem Richardson are both Sailors with documented PFB waivers. In a round-table virtual discussion with reporters this week, both expressed optimism about the changes.
"Being forced to shave over the bumps that occur from the PFB is one of the harshest things I think I have I ever had the experience," Richardson commented. "Now that this policy has changed, I feel like is really going to help Sailors as far as not only being comfortable in their skin, but being able to feel confident in their job."
"On the laser surgery, I'm glad that they added the option of the Sailor having a choice on if we'll be able to get it or not, because it kind of gives the Sailor a step in being a part of their medical situation," Hatten told News 3 anchor Todd Corillo.
The temporary waiver for PFB medical treatment periods has also been expanded from 60 to 90 days.