Author Bio: Dr. Sanusi Umar MD is the author of this article.
The shaved head has long been a pinnacle of high fashion. It’s a statement hairstyle that often conveys a bold attitude and confidence in oneself. However, anyone who has shaved any part of their body is familiar with razor bumps. If you shave your head, you may notice bumps on your head and neck. Often, these are dismissed as just a barber’s rash on the neck– but in some cases, these itchy red bumps may be a symptom of a more serious skin condition known as acne keloidalis nuchae (AKN).
What Are Those Itchy Bumps on the Head?
AKN bumps on the back of the head and neck are a form of folliculitis. The exact cause is still unclear to the medical community. However, the bumps are formed when the body mistakes its own hair for an invading pathogen and attacks, triggering an immune response. Thus, the reaction creates those hard bumps on the back of the neck. Due to the position of these bumps, along with the fact that many individuals notice them after a close shave, they are assumed to be a barber’s rash on the back hairline.
Why Haven’t I Heard of AKN Before?
If you’ve never heard of AKN before today, you’re not alone. This skin condition is little understood and therefore little talked about, both by the individuals experiencing and also by many in the medical community. The silence around this issue is especially troubling when considering the prevalence of red AKN bumps on the head in youths. According to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, high school players are 15.5% more likely to experience AKN than their collegiate and professional counterparts. The silence on this issue, therefore, effects the youngest demographic the most – a highschooler has significantly fewer resources to seek medical treatment than an adult might, and the added difficulty in finding credible information can impede the course of taking proper measures.
AKN in Pop Culture
While it is important to acknowledge the younger demographic that is affected by AKN, it is not just high school athletes who suffer from this condition. Ving Rhames, best known for his portrayal of Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction (1994) has also been associated with AKN lesions. Rhames’ character in the iconic American film is seen with a large band-aid on the back of the neck, which director Quentin Tarantino has stated in interviews as having nothing to do with Marcellus’ character or storyline. Rather, the actor reportedly cut himself shaving. This area on the back of the neck can provoke itchy bumps associated with AKN in predisposed men due to its concentration of mast cells. This prompts another question – who is predisposed to this condition?
Are You Predisposed To Getting Bumps on Your Head?
Some people are more prone to developing AKN bumps – namely, ethnic men, typically of Afro-Caribean and Hispanic descent. There are several theories for the increased likelihood of developing AKN within these ethnic groups. One observes that men in these groups often have hair that is curled underneath the skin. This, as well as the popularity of close head shaves, such as sleek bald looks or undercuts and fades, may irritate the skin, prompting the condition to develop.
Since the condition is not always treated right away, either due to mistaking it as a barber’s rash or not knowing what to do about it, the AKN bumps can progress. In fact, in later stages of the condition, the hard little bumps on the back of the head and neck, which Dr. Umar classifies as “nodules”, can join together and form a larger mass. This can take the form of a tumor-like growth, or thickened skin in the shape of a flat plaque.
How to Treat Red Bumps on Head
There are several ways to treat red bumps on the head. If addressed early enough, there are non-surgical options, such as laser treatment for AKN head bumps. Medications are also sometimes prescribed, and steroid injections can be administered as well. However, medication as a sole route of treatment is not guaranteed to get rid of bumps on the head, especially if the condition has progressed significantly.
Another option is surgical removal of the bumps on your head. This option is a curative treatment that removes the AKN bumps by excising the affected area and then either stitching the wound close or enabling a staged closure of the wound. Los Angeles dermatologist Dr. Umar is a pioneer in this field of treatment, as he has developed a surgical AKN method that takes cosmetic concerns about scarring into account.
Video – Treatment Procedure For Itchy Bumps on Back of Head
Watch the video below to see how a Chicago native found the right surgical treatment for his flat bump on the neck with Dr. Umar in Los Angeles. The patient expresses in his own words how it feels to be rid of this condition, and how certain aspects of his life have changed as a result.
If you think you may have these AKN bumps on your head and want to get an opinion, use the button below for a free online consultation with Dr. Umar.
FAQ – Bumps on Your Head
What do you do when you notice bumps on your head after a haircut?
If you see bumps on your head after a haircut that was not there before, consult a dermatologist near you for help in monitoring the bumps. In the event that your physician makes a diagnosis, a course of treatment can be discussed.
Are there natural remedies for red bumps on head?
Due to the combination of factors that influence AKN, such as hormones, genetics, and follicular inflammation, there are no known natural remedies for the condition. It would be beneficial for individuals who believe they may have AKN to seek an experienced physician to discuss medical treatment.
How can I get rid itchy bumps on the head for good?
Surgical excision of the red itchy bumps associated with AKN can eliminate the condition. However, if the bumps are caught early enough, laser treatment may offer a curative course of treatment. Every case has several factors that influence the approach taken, which is why Dr. Umar develops a treatment course that takes the patient’s unique needs and concerns into account.