When it comes to shaving, we all have different needs. Black men’s shaving needs usually begin beneath the surface as bump-causing ingrown hairs that lead to scarring, since skin with more melanin will show dark spots and scars more intensely and for a duration.
To learn more about shaving tips for Black men, we spoke with Barney A. Bishop of Fragrant Moments, a regular contributor to Bevel’s grooming blog and Men’s Health, as well as Vaughn Acord, founder of V76 by Vaughn’s, whose clients include Lenny Kravitz, Nas, Shemar Moore, and Jeffrey Osborne.
Bishop tells us that he has three P’s he lives by when it comes to avoiding ingrown hairs: preparation, practice, and patience.
Bishop says preparation means “starting with a clean slate. Use warm water to soften hair follicles making them easier to cut. Rid your face of oil and dirt, which can obstruct the razor’s glide. Using a gentle exfoliator can help achieve both of these.”
We like V76 Daily Balance Exfoliating Facial Cleanser to cleanse and exfoliate in one step. If razor shaving, Acord adds “I love a good steamy shower so skin is soft and pores are open to allow for a close shave.”
“Personally, I love the act of shaving,” says Bishop. “I enjoy shaving in the shower, as the moisture and heat are the perfect conditions. I start with an exfoliator and follow that using my badger brush and shaving cream to build a really good lather as a protective layer and ensuring a great glide from my blade.”
Use a great mechanical exfoliator before shaving and a cleanser with chemical exfoliators — AHA’s, Salicylic, and Glycolic Acids — to keep skin clean and prepped for hair growth. Adding a shave brush is a great way to help complete the process of lifting the hair away from the skin to ensure the shave is close and clean. To help further ensure minimal razor bumps in between shaves, use a treatment lotion that targets bumps both after you shave and after you wash your face, like this one from Frederick Benjamin.
“The old adage says practice makes perfect and it couldn’t be truer with shaving,” Bishop says. “Short strokes with the grain. Get your technique down before exploring.”
There has been a movement away from multiple blade razors to the old-school single blade system, like the super popular Bevel Shave System — dermatologist-approved and favored by Nas. “For men with curly facial hair,” Bishop explains, “cutting the hair so close that your face will be ‘baby smooth’ is problematic. With multiple blades, not only is the same area being cut more than once, the hair is cut so close that in most instances, it’s cut below the skin.”
That means as it grows back, the chances of ingrown hairs increase. “With a single blade, it provides a better cutting angle for a smooth shave that isn’t cutting the hair beneath the surface.”
A razor shave isn’t for every man. In that case, Acord suggests opting for an electric razor. “Electric razors are a good option for a maintenance shave since it rids the face of visible hair but leaves a slight stubble. A beard oil is great for creating lubrication so there is no pulling on the skin while you shave.”
We suggest vegan-friendly V76 Beard Oil with it’s rich oils of safflower and saw palmetto. “No matter your tool preference, prepping the skin before shaving is critical to removing dead skin and opening up the pores. Before each shave, exfoliate. Pay close attention to the beard and neck area and any other problem zones you may have with acne or ingrown hair,” says Acord.
“This is not a race, so take your time,” Bishops says. “Each layer builds upon the next to make for a great shave. Don’t skip out on aftershave to save time. Patience is a virtue!”
Bishop recommends The Body Shop’s Maca Root Shave Cream. “Pound-for-pound, it is one of the best shave creams on the market. A little goes a long way.”
Follow up your shave with a great beard oil or more traditional aftershave; just make sure it is indented to target bumps and ingrowns. Bishop suggests Grooming Lounge Shavior Remedy, which contains glycolic acid. We also like Solo Noir For Men Brave All-Natural Aftershave + Toner with natural aloe, witch hazel, and tea tree to keep skin clean and conditioned. This step helps keep pores clear and better prepped for the hair to grow.
“The hair shaft for coarse hair is usually flat, which causes it to curl and get caught underneath the skin,” Acord reminds us. Keeping the pores clean and the skin soft is the best way to keep bumps and scarring at a minimum. “Beyond product, try to get at least one day of growth between shaves so you aren’t creating too much trauma to the skin.”
One of the best things you can do to keep ingrowns at bay is to take a give the skin time to rest and the hair time to grow. By giving skin a moment to breathe, you help reduce the chances of hairs being cut below the surface and irritation from blades.
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