Black men shaving: how to avoid razor bumps & ingrown hairs
Ah, razor bumps. There’s no man on earth who welcomes the sight (and feel) of them. Way to ruin the usual pleasure of grooming yourself properly…
Unfortunately, black men have it especially bad with ingrown hairs and bumps.
I’ve mentioned before that I worked as a barber for a few years. Most of my African American clients suffered from razor bumps. Sometimes the issue was lack of any prep work before shaving. Other times they had tried various methods, but failed to reduce the irritation.
In this post I’ll do my best to bounce some ideas off the wall. Proper shaving for black males can be a bit more demanding and tricky. Let’s explore the issue and its possible solutions:
Why black men suffer from razor bumps so much?
How to improve shaving for black males
Helpful African American shaving products that can help you out
Advice on picking a proper razor for black men
Why do black men suffer from razor bumps?
The answer is simple: these beautiful curly locks a lot of black men have. While inspiring awe in straight hair people like me, curly hair can be a real pain.
The reason? Coarser or curly hair doesn’t grow out as easily as straight hair once it’s been cut/trimmed. Instead, it curls back into your skin, growing underneath. As you can guess, the follicle doesn’t like this, so it gets infected.
It is exactly this irritation that leads to the frustrating inconvenience we call a razor bump. Even worse – if you repeatedly shave after the inflammation has set in, the issue escalates. If you’re not careful, a bump can turn into a scar.
There’s a few things you can try out to improve your shaving experience as a black man.
How to prevent razor bumps for black males?
You need to follow a strict routine if you want to minimize or even fully prevent these pesky boys. If you haven’t done anything yet, here’s a basic take on shaving for black males:
1. Prepare your skin
You have to clean and soften your skin up to reduce possible inflammations. You can either take a hot shower, or go for the hot towel technique.
The latter involves grabbing a clean towel and pouring hot water from your faucet over it. Apply the towel to those areas you’ll shave or areas where you have especially bad razor burns. The goal here is to open your pores for a smoother shave.
Don’t forget using a gentle soap and conditioner. The soap will clean your skin so there’s no dirt risking further inflammation. The conditioner makes your hair soft, thus allowing for any razor/trimmer to glide through it easier.
In case you have longer facial hair, like a beard, you should also properly comb through it.
2. Keep the basic rules of black men shaving in mind
Alright, you’re ready for action. However, don’t think you can just hack your way through your curly/coarse hair. Even if you did the prep work flawlessly, it’ll be in vain if you don’t follow a few important things.
The first thing is the foam. Yes, foam. I recommend you either use a shaving foam for black men, or get a special shaving gel for sensitive skin. Aveeno’s skin relief gel from Amazon.com should do the job properly.
The second thing: never, ever shave against the grain! Black men’s ingrown hairs are very frequently caused by this. Instead, go with the grain, shaving downwards with careful, slow motions.
Why? Going against the grain gives a closer shave on the first try for sure. However, it also leads to hair ends digging below your skin’s surface. A sure way to get yourself quite a few razor bumps!
Not applying too much pressure is an equally crucial point. That’s right, let the razor slide smoothly across your skin, resting on it. Not digging into it!
Note: An exception would be you using a straight/safety razor and being on your third pass or so. In this case you can shave against the grain, as you’ve already cut enough of the hairs on the first and second passes.
The legendary Larry the Barber Man also puts an emphasis on how important shaving direction is as a treatment for razor bump prevention for black males.
3. Don’t forget the aftercare
Shaving is basically inflicting quite the few cuts on your skin. Think of it as a gentle wound, ready to get irritated/infected any time if you’re not careful.
What does this mean?
You got it: you should take a few precautions. There’s three types of products you can use to calm down your skin and prevent inflammation:
Aftershave (the standard approach)
An astringent like Witch Hazel from Amazon.com
An alum block like Gentleman Jon from Amazon.com
It’s honestly up to you which one you pick. However, please don’t mix all of these! Pick one and stick to it or use them on separate shaves, never together.
While my situation differs as I don’t have that curly of a hair, I enjoy the witch hazel solution:
If you have especially serious razor burn/razor bump issues, consider Bump Patrol from Amazon.com. It’s essentially an aftershave specifically produced to reduce ingrown hairs in black men. Once you apply it, wait for 1-3 minutes so it dries out.
After waiting on either of these African American shaving products drying out, apply your moisturizer. This further ensures your hair will grow softer before the next cut and reduces risks of irritation.
Important note for people with acne!! No doubt, acne is yet another nightmare for any black male who just likes to keep himself properly groomed.
The key point here would be gentle exfoliation! You can either do it manually or by using a chemical agent (like the popular Salicylic acid solution.) I can’t stress how important that is.
At the same time, I have to admit I’m far from an acne expert. I can, however, recommend you an incredibly in-depth, scientifically researched guide on understanding and battling acne.
Quite a few takeaways from this guide and you can apply them to make your shaves a smoother experience in the long-term.
Consider a good safety razor for black skin
Here’s the thing: multiple blade razors are sometimes a very poor fit with the sensitive skin of black men. Why? Because they’re very prone to putting the cut below the skin. If you remember, that’s exactly how a razor bump forms.
What might work better for you is a safety razor for black men. Safety razors are more gentle to sensitive skin, cut smoother and while they require a bit more work, will reduce your bumps for sure.
Why? Because they don’t cut below the skin. Instead, they cut parallel to the skin, ensuring exactly the safety more sensitive black skin needs.
A very good community to start your journey would be Reddit’s Wicked Edge subreddit. Quite a few of my clients were fans of Merkur straight razors. The brand’s MK 23C safety razor from Amazon.com for black skin should be a good beginner pick for you.
Perhaps you’re not only looking for bump-free grooming on your face? In case you’re looking for shaving for black males – but on your head, we’ve got you covered.
Check out our list with the best hair clippers for black men’s hair. All of them should take proper care of your scalp (or face if you want to beard trim!) without causing you issues.