DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a black woman writing on behalf of my boyfriend. He has a crop of little bumps on his face. I asked him if they are pimples, and he laughed. He said they’re shaving bumps. How does he get rid of them? — R.C.
ANSWER: Men of any race can develop shaving bumps. Black men’s hair is more tightly coiled, and they, therefore, are quite susceptible to them. If a man cuts his facial hair too closely to the skin, it can spring back toward the skin and penetrate it. Tightly coiled hair is especially prone to this. The sharp end of the hair pushing back into the skin acts like a foreign body. It irritates the skin and inflames it. A little bump forms.
It must be a chore for your boyfriend to shave. To get rid of the bumps, he has to stop shaving until they go away. He also has to dislodge all the hairs that have penetrated the skin. He can do this by taking a clean needle and slipping it under the loop that the hair makes. Then he pops the end of the hair out of the skin. When he frees all the ingrown hairs and stops shaving, his skin will clear.
To prevent new bumps when he resumes shaving, he has to adopt a different shaving style. He must soften his beard with soap and warm water before using a razor. He will do himself a favor by buying an electric razor and putting it on a setting that doesn’t shave the beard too closely. With either a blade or an electric shaver, he should shave in the direction of hair growth, and he shouldn’t pull his skin taut.
If he goes through all this and doesn’t meet with success, he’ll have to see a doctor. In fact, if his shaving bumps are crusted with dried pus, he should start out by seeing a doctor.
The pus indicates infection, and he’ll need an antibiotic cream to get rid of any infection.
If your boyfriend is squeamish about freeing the ingrown hairs with a needle, you can do the job for him. You’re the one who set all this in motion.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I wonder if you will answer my question, which concerns our medical records. Are we, as patients, entitled to request our medical records in order to deliver them to a new doctor?
We have had to change to a new doctor and would like him to know our past medical history. He hasn’t received the complete file, including tests. Since our insurance pays for these tests, it seems to me that we should be able to request the originals or copies. — P.S.
ANSWER: Laws regarding the ownership of medical records vary from one state to the next. However, in most states, the doctor and hospital own the medical records.
However, you are entitled to get a complete copy of your records. The doctor or the hospital can charge a reasonable fee for copying them.
If the doctor or hospital refuses to comply, contact your county or state medical society.
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