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Shaving tips for Black men: Best products and practices

Here's how to avoid razor bumps

Man shaving
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Creating the perfect shaving routine is both an art and a science. Not only do you have to find the products that work well for your skin, but you also have to perfect your technique to prevent nicks, irritation, and unsightly (and often painful) ingrown hairs.

For Black men, a special set of challenges often exists with shaving. Most notably: Ingrown hairs (also known as razor bumps). Although men of all ethnic backgrounds can get razor bumps as a result of shaving, Black men are disproportionately affected, with roughly 60% experiencing razor bumps, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. 

Man shaving with cream
Visual Ideas / Nora Pelaez / Getty Images

Step-by-step shaving guide for Black men

First, prep the skin

If you’re not taking the time to properly prep your skin for shaving, now is the time to do so. This may be a step that a lot of men are skipping out on, but taking the extra time to show your skin some TLC will give you a better shave experience and help limit razor bumps and irritation. Properly prepping the skin for a great shave experience includes using a combination of warm water, exfoliation, and a pre-shave oil. I know a lot of you are probably scoffing at the idea of taking extra time to prepare your skin for a simple shave but trust me, your skin (and confidence) will thank you.

Every Man Jack Charcoal Face Scrub
Every Man Jack

Exfoliate the skin: Every Man Jack Charcoal Face Scrub

Repeat after me: Exfoliate. If you’re not already exfoliating your face before shaving, we recommend adding this step; we promise it’s a true game changer. Exfoliating (or a simple face wash) with warm water and gentle exfoliating face scrub will help to soften the facial hair, open up your pores, and scrub away dead skin cells. Removing dead skin cells beforehand will give you a smoother shave that will lessen the chance of irritation and reduce hair snags from the razor. Because the skin on your face is more delicate than the rest of your body, we recommend a mild scrub. Simply apply the scrub to your fingertips and gently massage your skin in a circular motion.

Art of Shaving Pre-Shave Oil
Art of Shaving

Apply a pre-shave oil: Art of Shaving Pre-Shave Oil

This may be a new one for a lot of you, and that’s applying a pre-shave oil. Pre-shave oils have gained a lot of popularity in recent years and for good reason — most notably because they soften coarse curly facial hair and allow for a closer shave. Adding in a quality pre-shave oil is a must for Black men to reduce irritation and the chance of ingrown hairs developing. Not only will it soften the hair itself, but it allows for a smoother glide from the blade. 

Bevel Razor

Switch to a safety razor: Bevel Razor

Probably the most crucial step in your shaving is using the right razor blade that works with your skin — not against it. What a lot of these shaving companies don’t tell you when they are marketing these multi-blade cartridges is that they’re not made with sensitive skin in mind. Sure, multi-blade razors will give you a close shave, but that’s because they cut hairs below the surface, which is a red flag for developing razor bumps.

So what makes the safety razor a better choice for Black men (and men with sensitive skin in general) rather than your traditional multi-blade razor? Simple — the safety razor enables you to cut your hair above the surface with fewer passes, effectively thwarting the development of ingrown hairs, according to dermatologists. 

Nivea Men Sensitive Shaving Gel

Ditch the traditional shave cream: Nivea Men Sensitive Shaving Gel

If you’re just grabbing any shaving cream that’s in your view and think it all works the same…think again. Dump the foamy shave cream and switch to a shave gel for sensitive skin. Often, these traditional go-to shave creams are not formulated to provide sufficient lubrication between the blades and your skin. Shave gels often contain ingredients that soothe, calm, and prevent irritation, in addition to providing a smooth glide for your blade. 

Shave with the grain

Repeat after me: thou shalt NOT shave against the grain. For this tip, it’s all about technique. Although shaving against the grain might give you a closer shave, it increases the chances of developing irritation and razor bumps. Try shaving in the direction of facial hair growth, but just make sure to avoid multiple passes in one concentrated area.

Bevel after-shave balm.

Apply a soothing balm: Bevel After Shave Balm

The cherry on top of the proverbial cake is adequate shave aftercare. ALWAYS moisturize your skin after shaving. When looking for a post-shave balm for sensitive skin, skip out on the alcohol and instead look for products that will soothe and calm the skin with ingredients such as aloe vera or chamomile. 

Wahl Bump-Free Rechargeable Foil Shaver

Optional trim: Wahl Bump-Free Rechargeable Foil Shaver

This step is optional but a great alternative for those who prefer to skip shaving altogether OR those who prefer to user a beard trimmer or electric shaver to trim down the hair as a first step before wet shaving. This also receives an honorable mention because this line from Wahl was created with the grooming needs of Black men in mind.

Man shaving with shaving cream and razor
PeopleImages / Getty Images

Why are Black men more susceptible to razor bumps?

Well first, let’s back up and explain what causes razor bumps. Razor bumps are ingrown hairs that develop after shaving when the hair starts to grow back into the skin. Curlier facial hair curves back into the skin causing inflammation and skin irritation. Over time, this can cause a host of skin problems, most notably scarring.

One of the best ways to prevent ingrown hairs is to simply let your hair grow, but we are aware that might not be an option for a lot of gents. This compiled list of tips and tricks for Black men will help minimize ingrown hairs, skin irritation, and nicks.

Man looking at his neck in the mirror
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Is razor burn the same as razor bumps?

The terms razor burn and razor bumps are not interchangeable. As we said earlier, razor bumps are ingrown hairs that have started to grow back into the skin. Razor burn is the term for an irritation of the skin caused by shaving. Sometimes, small bumps are associated with razor burn, but they are not the same as razor bumps. Razor burn can cause your skin to become tender, itchy, and sometimes even warm to the touch. There are several possible causes of razor burn where the skin becomes irritated from:

  • An old or dull razor
  • Shaving against the grain
  • Saving too quickly
  • Shaving without using some sort of moisturizing product such as gel or shaving cream.

Fortunately, even though razor burn and razor bumps are two different things, using our tips will help you avoid both. So happy shaving!

Editors' Recommendations

Wasani Probasco
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Wasani is a Digital Marketing professional and freelance writer with a passion for men's grooming and self-care. Based in Los…
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