Regardless of your skin color, recurring razor bumps and razor burn can impact any shaving man. Unfortunately, razor bumps are not an equal opportunity infliction. The vast majority of men inflicted with razor bumps are African American. Consequently, black men often require more vigilance in both what they use to shave and the techniques they implement in their regular shaving routine in order to prevent razor bumps and razor burn. What follows is a discussion as to why black men are more susceptible to razor bumps than other ethnicities and a few tips on how to prevent razor bumps in the future or deal with existing razor bumps.
Curly Hair = Razor Bumps
In its most simple description, curly hair is much more likely to become ingrown, creating the razor bumps more frequently seen in black men. White men with tightly curled hair will also experience a higher propensity toward razor bumps.
Razor bumps are most often the direct result of hairs that have been cut too close (or even below) the surface of the skin.
For those with naturally curly hair, hairs cut too close to the surface are more likely to grow back toward the surface of the skin. When this occurs, razor bumps form. For those with naturally curly hair (like black men), the hair is more likely to grow inward, resulting in uncomfortable and unsightly razor bumps, pustules and burn on the surface of the skin. If not properly treated, these blemishes caused from improper shaving combined with naturally curly hair can create lasting scars on the face.
The Journal of Investigative Dermatology has found that curly hair is some 50x more likely to become ingrown than straight hair. Furthermore, the study found that not only is the susceptibility toward ingrown hair and razor bumps higher as a result of having curlier hair, but that there is actually a gene present in those susceptible to razor bumps that is not present in those who do not regularly experience the discomfort of razor bumps. Unfortunately, the natural probability of having razor bumps is included in the genetic code, which just happens to occur more regularly in black men above most other ethnicities.
Scarring from Razor Bumps on Black Skin
When hairs are cut both at or below the surface of the skin, the likelihood of seeing those hairs become ingrown is much greater on a black man than his white or Asian counterparts. If not properly treated, the body has its own defense mechanism for dealing with razor bumps: it produces collagen. Collagen is produced to aid the body in the healing process. Unfortunately, however, the production of collagen can also lead to keliod scarring later. Keliod scarring occurs when collagen expands into tissue outside of the area of the razor bump itself. This type of scarring can spread far beyond the initial area where the razor bumps first occurred, which can be devastating for aesthetics.
Worse still is that keloid scarring is often more noticeable and unjust on men of color than those with lighter pigments. These facts should make the prevention and cure of razor bumps for black men a top priority.
Razor Bump Prevention and Treatment Tips for Black Men
Regardless of the genetic hand dealt when it comes to the susceptibility toward razor bumps, there are some simple steps that can help prevent the onslaught of razor bumps before they have lasting scarring effect on the face and neck. The following basic steps should at least be initially helpful in preventing razor bumps as well as getting black men on a track toward long-term shaving that prevents skin irritation from resurfacing for years to come.
- Grow a Beard. This may not be the most desirable option for every African American man, but it’s certainly the most simple. Luckily, beards are back in fashion these days.
- Avoid Shaving Close to the Skin. The closer the hair is cut to the surface of the skin, the more likely you are to continue to see razor bumps. Luckily, some stubble is less noticeable on black men than on men with lighter skin with dark hair. In most cases, this means only performing a one-pass shave.
- Ditch the Cartridge Razor. Switch from your multi-blade cartridge razor to a safety razor or straight razor. Cartridge razors are notorious for cutting hairs below the surface of the skin. They also give everyone the same close shave. Based on #2 above, you will be able to use your safety razor to customize the length of your facial hair when you shave. For instance, you may only opt to take a single pass when you shave. Your hair may not be baby-butt smooth, but that sure beats bumps and scars.
- Avoid Shaving Against the Grain. Shaving against the grain can irritate the hairs and typically cuts the hairs much closer to (if not below) the surface of the skin. In order to know how the direction of your hair growth, I would suggest mapping out your facial hair growing patterns to know what direction your facial hair grows. We are all very different in this regard. Once you know which direction your facial hair grows, you can simply avoid shaving in the opposite direction. It’s a super simple fix, really.
- Practice Proper Shave Preparation. The best and most comfortable shaving experiences come from proper preparation. Prepare well and prepare wisely.
- Moisturize Post-Shave. Proper hydration after you shave can help prevent the irritation that can cause the onslaught of razor burn. Get some good post-shave lotion.
Perhaps the best advice for black men looking to avoid razor bumps is this: do a single pass shave using a safety razor, only shaving with the grain.
If you continue to see razor bumps forming after taking some of these simple steps, stop shaving immediately and consult your dermatologist to see if there are other measures that may be advised and helpful for you in your path toward more flawless skin.
Luckily, we help provide many of the products that help prevent razor bumps from forming. Take a look at our wet shaving products and start shaving like a real man 🙂