Despite how inconvenient it may be, shaving is an important part of nearly every man’s grooming routine. For many Black men, it can be a daily routine or something they do a few times a week.
No matter how often you shave, there are a few shaving problems that many men face. At the top of the list of issues are razor bumps. This is especially a common problem for Black men, due to the curly nature of their hair.
In this article, we will be taking a closer look at what razor bumps are, what causes them, how to treat them, and the best way to prevent them from recurring.
What are Razor Bumps and What Causes Them?
Razor bumps (also known as shaving bumps or pseudofolliculitis barbae) are red or dark bumps that are usually found on the face and neck of men who shave, although they can occur anywhere hair grows.
Sometimes they may be filled with pus and itch, causing significant discomfort and even leading to scarring. Razors bumps are a type of skin irritation that occurs when hair curls back into the skin instead of growing out.
The condition occurs when hair becomes trapped under the surface of the skin leading to irritation and inflammation of the hair follicle. It is more common in Black men with coarse, curly hair, affecting more than half of African American men.
This is because the curly nature of their hair makes it easy for the hair shaft to curl inside the skin instead of growing out through the hair follicle. Since up to 80% of people who are affected by razor bumps are black, it’s certainly a serious problem among this population.
How to Get Rid of Razor Bumps
Getting rid of razor bumps can be quite a hassle. They can take several weeks to heal completely and have a habit of recurring. However, there are some well-trusted ways of getting rid of razor bumps. They include:
1. Avoid Shaving for 4-6 Weeks
While this may be inconvenient, it’s an important part of dealing with razor bumps. Razor bumps usually take about 4-6 weeks to heal, and during that time, it’s a bad idea to shave or do anything which may irritate the hair follicle even more.
As long as the hair follicle is not infected and the ingrown hair is brought out from the skin, most bumps slowly heal on their own during this time.
2. Use Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids
Alpha and beta hydroxy acids are popular skincare ingredients that help exfoliate or peel off skin cells more quickly.
By removing the dead skin cells above the trapped hair, the hair shaft can be freed to grow outwards, and the hair follicle will be allowed to heal quicker. They can be found in a wide range of skincare products like toners, cleansers, and lotions.
Some effective products that are safe for black skin include LAVO’s Tea Tree Gel with salicylic acid, Estetist’s Razor Bump Stopper Solution for ingrown hair, and Serious Serum’s Face and Body Serum.
3. Use Scrubs to Exfoliate Your Skin
Scrubs are another great skincare product that helps with razor bumps by removing the layer of old skin over the hair follicle. A scrub is a slightly abrasive material that is rubbed gently on the face to scrape off dead cells.
Some people have delicate skin and find face scrubs to be too irritating. Start by using a mild face scrub once a week and see how your skin responds. If your skin is very sensitive you may want to avoid using a face scrub entirely.
4. Use a Skincare Brush to Remove the Top Layer of Skin
A skincare brush (or face cleansing brush) is a particular brush that is usually used on the face in a gentle, circular motion to remove the top layer of dead cells. You can also use a very soft-bristled toothbrush if a face cleansing brush is not available.
Some popular skincare brushes which are safe for sensitive skin include INNERNEED’s soft handheld silicone brushes, the TOUCHBeauty facial cleansing brush for men, or Naturopathica’s Ultra-Soft Facial Cleansing Brush.
5. Free the Trapped Hair Using Tweezers
Alternatively, if the affected area is not so large, you can free the trapped hair using a pair of good tweezers. First, apply a warm towel to your face to soften the skin, and then use any of the methods mentioned above to remove the top layer of dead skin. This helps expose the hair more properly and makes releasing it from under the skin easier. Remember to avoid plucking out the hair as this may cause it to simply grow back as another ingrown hair.
6. Soothe With Anti-Inflammatory Creams
Razor bumps can be quite uncomfortable due to the pain and itching they can cause. A short course of anti-inflammatory creams like topical hydrocortisone can provide significant relief. However, remember to contact your dermatologist before applying any drug to your skin.
How to Avoid Razor Bumps
The only thing better than getting rid of razor bumps is avoiding them in the first place. Let’s look at some easy ways you can reduce your chances of developing razor bumps.
1. Shave the Right Way
Most men have been shaving for years, so they believe they know the best way to handle their facial hair. Well, that might not be entirely true. If you want to reduce your chances of getting razor bumps, here are a few key tips to follow:
- Shave less often, maybe every other day instead of daily.
- Shave along the direction of the hair strand, not against it.
- Do not stretch your skin too tightly when shaving.
- Avoid shaving the hair follicle too closely to the skin; a minimum length of 1mm is advisable.
- Use single-blade manual razors like the OneBlade single-blade safety razor or the Bevel single-blade razor.
2. Try Using an Electric Shaver
Electric shavers are another great option for men who struggle with razor bumps. Electric shavers do not cut as closely as manual razors, therefore, they are less likely to cause ingrown hairs. Investing in a good electric shaver is a great idea. However, remember to always keep it clean to avoid infection and in good working condition, snagging out hair strands.
3. Prepare Your Skin and Hair Properly Before Shaving
Dry shaving is a bad idea for numerous reasons. You’re more likely to develop cuts, razor burn, barber’s rash, ingrown hairs, as well as dry and flaky skin. That’s why most men are advised to practice wet shaving with a good pre-and post-shaving routine.
This involves things like:
- Shave during or after a shower when your skin is still wet.
- Place a warm towel on your face and neck several minutes before shaving.
- Exfoliate with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or a face scrub before shaving.
- Use a shaving cream or shaving gel to reduce friction and soften your skin. A popular choice for black men is the Edge Shave Gel for Sensitive Skin, The Art of Shaving’s Sandalwood Shaving Cream for Men, and Harry’s Shaving Cream – Shaving Cream for Men with Eucalyptus.
- Always use a sharp, clean razor that you have cleaned with alcohol before and after each use.
4. Experiment With Other Hair Removal Techniques
There are other ways to get rid of hair aside from shaving. Consider other ways of hair removal like the use of laser treatment or depilatory creams like SoftSheen-Carson Magic Razorless Shaving Cream for Men or Lulanjina’s Green Tea Anti-Allergy Depilation Cream. Waxing removes the entire hair strand and which may cause ingrown hairs to occur when the hair grows back. Hence, it’s not the more reliable method in this situation.
5. You Can Ask Your Dermatologist About Retinoid Products
Retinoids are a class of medicine that can be used to treat a wide range of skin conditions, from acne to wrinkles and even razor bumps. They usually come as over-the-counter cleansers, creams, and serums. However, for more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe a stronger form of the drug.
Keep in mind that retinoids may take several weeks to work, so they may be better suited as preventive measures rather than for treating active cases of razor bumps.
The Bottom Line
Razor bumps and barber’s itch are common shaving problems that most men of colour encounter. Distinguishing between both may be tricky unless you see the ingrown hair. However, if you carefully follow the tips listed above, you can be free of razor bumps and barber’s itch in no time.