News Branch Air Force

Air Force special operators must take class before getting shaving waivers

The class is meant to help airmen deal with facial skin conditions.
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Air Force beards
FILE: An airman holds his position during a field exercise in England on Aug. 17, 2022. (Staff Sgt. Eugene Oliver/U.S. Air Force)

Airmen with the 1st Special Operations Wing are required to take a class on how to shave before they can request a waiver for medical conditions exacerbated by shaving, said wing commander Col. Patrick Dierig.

“The intent of the course is to improve the process for those members who need a legitimate shaving waiver,” Dierig said in a statement to Task & Purpose. “I intend to remove any unwarranted stigma with the waivers by improving the process.”

Dierig announced the required class in a March 12 memo about shaving waiver guidance that has been shared on social media.

The memo mentions that if an airman in the wing has a medical condition that prevents them from being clean-shaven under the Air Force’s instruction on dress and personal appearance, they will have to keep their facial hair trimmed at 1/4 inch long.

But before they can be issued a shaving profile, airmen in the wing are required to attend the Shaving Patient Education Course at the Hurlburt Field Health and Wellness Center, and their attendance must be noted in their Aeromedical Services Information Management System record, the memo says.

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The class will provide information about skin problems that can be caused or worsened by close shaving, including strategies on what steps airmen can take before, during, and after shaving to minimize skin irritation, razor burns, and ingrown hairs, Dierig said.

“Individual cases in which the Airman is not able to control symptoms with the strategies learned in the class, are referred to their primary care manager for prescription treatment and, in some cases, a long-term shaving profile,” Dierig said. “For members who require shaving waivers, the class also provides guidance on the maximum length requirements and professional grooming standards while in uniform.”

In recent years, both the Navy and Marine Corps have started to issue no-shave chits to service members diagnosed with pseudofolliculitis barbae, also known as “razor bumps,” a chronic condition in which facial curved hair grows back into the skin.

Up to 60% of Black men suffer from razor bumps. Shaving only makes the condition worse because it sharpens the hairs that grow into the skin.

“A 100% effective treatment is to let the beard grow,” according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. “Once the hairs get to be a certain length they will not grow back into the skin.”

Other service members belonging to certain religious groups, including Sikhs, Muslims, and Pagans, have requested religious exemptions to U.S. military grooming standards to allow them to wear beads.

“We are fully supportive of shaving waivers for both religious and medical purposes, and I support the class because it educates Airmen on proper shaving techniques and skincare routines to both address and prevent skin conditions,” Dierig said.

The shaving class is meant to provide airmen with the education and tools they need to deal with facial skin conditions without having to make an appointment to see a doctor, Dierig said.

“If we can help one person with a temporary medical condition learn a new technique to reduce facial skin problems, then I think it is worth the effort,” Dierig said. “Especially for members who are more susceptible to skin conditions.”

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