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Close shave is better than a close call

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Airman 1st Class Enrique Popoca, 9th Medical Support Squadron medical technician, sits as Lt. Col. David Gregory, 9th Medical Group flight surgeon chief of medical staff, visually inspects his neck and face during a shaving waiver course at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., March 15, 2018. Airmen are allowed to grow facial hair to a maximum length of one-fourth of an inch when certified to need a shaving waiver. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Colville McFee)

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Senior Airman Walid, 9th Intelligence Squadron intelligence analyst, raises his head as Lt. Col. David Gregory, 9th Medical Group flight surgeon chief of medical staff, inspects his neck and face during a shaving waiver course at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., March 15, 2018. The shaving waiver program is designed to educate Airmen on how to properly shave, avoid ingrown hairs and make sure they are within the Air Force regulations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Colville McFee)

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Staff Sgt. Antoine, 13th Intelligence Squadron intelligence analyst, raises his head as Lt. Col. David Gregory, 9th Medical Group flight surgeon chief of medical staff, inspects his neck and face during a shaving waiver course at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., March 15, 2018. The most common reason Airmen request shaving waivers is due to pseudo folliculitis barbae, which is also known as shaving bumps or ingrown hairs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Colville McFee)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – The 9th Medical Group has gathered all Airmen who are currently on file for a waiver or in need of one to revamp the shaving waiver process at Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

Medics are educating Airmen on common skin conditions, which can cause irritation when shaving.

Pseudo Folliculitis Barbae, which is sometimes known as shaving bumps or ingrown hairs, is caused by inflammation that occurs when closely cut hair becomes trapped under the skin.

“We educate service members on proper skin care and shaving techniques more thoroughly to minimize skin problems with shaving,” said Senior Airman Corey Garrison, 9th Medical Operations Support Squadron medical technician. “We ensure proper appearance while in the Air Force uniform. We will be making sure that people who have a waiver are not in a position that requires a close shave for a proper fitting seal on a face mask or other types of respirator mask.”

Once diagnosed with PFB by a provider, Airmen are instructed in how to lift and trim hair, which has become embedded under the skin. Once the skin has healed, the focus shifts to proper shaving methods to prevent recurrence. The red bumps associated with this condition, can cause a secondary infection and excessive scarring. PFB is most common in men with hair that curls when cut.  

According to Lt. Col. David Gregory, 9th Medical Group flight surgeon chief of medical staff, “at the end of February, Beale had 170 members on shaving waivers. With the revamp and the accountability, the number is expected to drop due to the course education and assessment that doctors will be providing.”

Educating Airmen and finding efficient ways to keep Airmen ready to fight are important when approaching Air Force standards.

“The standard is the same, but wing and group leadership decided not everyone who had a waiver truly needed it, and not everyone was properly enforcing the existing standard,” said Gregory, “By doing these shaving waiver classes, we can start over from scratch to review everyone who might need a waiver and make sure they are all appropriate.”

The 9th MDG has looked at this opportunity to provide classes and re-educate Airmen on standards. Leadership agrees everyone needs to get on the same page with who should get a waiver and how to properly enforce the standards.

 

“The goal of the shaving waiver is to allow the skin to heal and prevent the recurrence of PFB. In accordance with Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Appearance, the length of facial hair cannot exceed one-quarter of an inch,” said Gregory, “Facial hair must be grown out naturally, any shaping or styling of facial hair is not allowed, and facial hair cannot interfere with the wear of any personal protective gear, such as a gas mask or performance of duties. If this should happen, the member's ability to perform duties safely is compromised and they may require an evaluation to determine fitness for military duties.”

 

The next shaving waiver courses are March 22, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. and March 23, 2018, at 8:00 a.m. For more information, please contact your primary healthcare physician.