MOST MEN HAVE SUFFERED from ingrown hairs or razor bumps at one point or another, and a large percentage of men must deal with the condition on a regular basis. This is especially true for African-American men. Because black men have body hairs that are predominantly curly and wiry, shaved hair follicles tend to curve back and re-enter the skin as they grow, causing irritation and razor bumps. Ingrown hairs can also occur when hair doesn’t fully emerge from the skin’s surface and instead sits coiled underneath, leading to bumps and possible infection.
This reoccurring condition causes major discomfort in the beard and neck area and can affect black men for years and years at a time. The best course of action seems to be to give up shaving altogether—by not shaving the hair, it obviously doesn’t have a chance to grow back improperly and cause razor bumps. But in a society that prizes clean-shaven appearances, this is not an option for most black men. Instead, follow these simple men’s grooming tips to keep African-American skin smooth and refreshed, and correctly treat ingrown hairs.
• Always use a sharp razor blade and discard old blades after 4-5 uses. You might think this is excessive, but dull blades force black men to go over the same area of skin again and again, increasing the chances of irritation and improperly cutting hair. This goes for electric razors, too: replace the blades after every few months of use.
• Reduce your number of shaves by shaving every other day. Giving the skin time to heal will allow hairs to grow straight through the skin’s surface, without forcing too-short hairs back into the skin. Frequent shaving too close to the skin will trap hairs inside the follicles.
• Exfoliate! Exfoliating with a gentle scrub like Microfine Face Scrub removes the top layer of dead cells and allows hairs to grow out more easily. It also helps soften skin, clears pores and evens out patchy skin tones.
• Many African-American men benefit from using a single-blade razor, or a DE razor. Dr. Joely Kaufman explains, “I highly dissuade patients who suffer from razor bumps from using triple or quadruple blade razor systems. The closer the shave, the worse the razor bumps will be.”
• Always shave in the direction of hair growth. While shaving upward seems to give a closer shave, shaving in the hair’s direction reduces irritation and the likelihood of hairs growing back into the skin. Don’t pull skin taut when shaving since this can also cause ingrown hairs to form.
• Soften hairs before shaving by massaging warm water into the beard area and then applying a professional-grade, highly-lubricating shave cream. Allow it to sit on the face for a minute or two to completely coat hairs before shaving.
• Follow a shave with an after-shave solution that contains hydrating ingredients like aloe, witch hazel and tea tree extract like Post-Shave Repair to cut down on redness and discomfort. Stay away from products that contain alcohol since this can dry skin out and provoke an ashy appearance in black skin.
• Resist the urge to simply pluck ingrown hairs out. A new hair will just grow again, and you’ll be facing the same exact problem.
• Most importantly, take your time when shaving. Everyone’s been guilty of the 30-second shave on Monday morning, but shaving slowly and with care can dramatically reduce nicks, cuts and abrasions that can aggravate razor bumps.
• If you find that you are suffering from severe cases of inflammation or razor bumps, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. You may be a candidate for electrolysis (a low-level current is used to destroy follicles) or skin depilatories (chemical creams that soften and minimize growth).
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