Shaving, in general, presents a few challenges, and what those specific challenges are changes from person to person, depending on skin type (dry, oily, normal) and hair type, whether that be dry, or oily, but also curly or straight and thick or thin.
Men of African descent — or anybody with facial hair that is tightly curled and thin — may end up experiencing painful ingrown hairs, razor bumps, and skin infections if they are not careful about their shaving techniques. Of course, all of these issues can be avoided by following some pretty basic steps.
Shaving Tips and Tricks for Black Men and Men of Color
Start by prepping the skin. When you’re over the sink, liberally splash warm (not hot!) water on your face to relax hair follicles, and soften facial hair. If you prefer, shave in the shower! That’s where your skin will stay warm, moist, and relaxed throughout the cleansing and shaving process.
Cleanse and Exfoliate
The next step is to get that skin clean. You’ve heard this from us before, but the difference here is in the product itself. Clean with a good exfoliator that combines both “mechanical” and chemical methods.
A mechanical exfoliator just means that there is something that is used as a tool to remove dead skin cells. You can get a specific brush or sponge to do the job, but another “tool,” is the material in many scrubs; like sugar, sand, pumice, crushed up olive stones, whatever it takes to physically slough off the dead skin. Think of it like using fine sandpaper on a woodworking project. The chemical action, on the other hand, involves acids or enzymes (like glycolic or salicylic) that actually dissolve away dead skin build-up. Combine those two for a win-win solution that includes a cleanser, too, to strip away dirt and oil. The result will not only be a clean and smooth surface to start shaving but also letting your face’s natural glow shine through, even on non-shaving days.
After cleansing, use a pre-shave oil to prepare your skin and soften those hairs. Yeah, yeah, we just had you clean your skin to get rid of oil, and now we’re saying add more? The difference is that the oil that’s already there has trapped dirt and impurities that we don’t want around. This oil, which you apply post-cleansing, will function as a lubricant to keep that razor gliding smoothly across that freshly cleaned skin. The oil also helps to lift the hair up and away from the skin, providing your blade a closer pass. You can also apply the oil after shaving to moisturize and soften your beard.
When it (finally) comes time for the shaving itself, we recommend using a shaving brush with shave cream. It may seem old-fashioned, but on that super close-up level, the brush (much like the pre-shave oil) actually helps lift the hairs up and away from your skin for an easier shave. Then use a softening shave cream that not only provides further lubrication for the process itself but helps maintain hydration levels. Just like you wouldn’t want to spend a day at the beach or hike through the desert without water, don’t let your skin get dehydrated while shaving.
Now, to get really old school on you, many professionals recommend using a straight razor, because the blades on “traditional” multiple blade razors may actually cut curly facial hair too close. They are, therefore, more likely to lead to those uncomfortable bumps and ingrown hairs. Because a safety razor (which requires a little practice) only does one pass, it means the hairs are more likely to stay above the surface of the skin.
Another alternative is a good electric razor, which can leave a bit of stubble (in a good way) but don’t forget to cleanse first, and still use that beard oil before shaving.
In either case, follow up with a beard oil or a traditional aftershave to keep the skin moisturized and to further target those bumps and ingrown hairs.
Finally, give your beard a break. Shave every other day, so those hairs really do get a chance to grow a bit before the next shave, and therefore be less likely to curl back below the surface of the skin.
Grooming Goods for a Perfectly Smooth Shave
Environmentally friendly and effective, V76 contains something called polylactic acid microbeads, a starch-based exfoliant to do that mechanical part of the job; as well as papaya fruit extract to provide a natural enzyme for the chemical action we want.
Yes…primer. Yes…like you’re preparing your walls/car/bicycle to be painted. In this case, you’re preparing something a bit more precious to be carefully shaved. We like that this one contains all the right natural oils like avocado, grapeseed, and olive.
OK, yes, you can get a synthetic hair brush that costs less money and keeps your vegan friends happy. Badger brushes are more traditional, however, and as the bristles themselves start to break down a bit and get “split ends,” they get better and better at whipping the shaving cream up into an effective foam.
We’ve always loved The Body Shop’s high standards on the environment and sourcing. This shaving cream doesn’t disappoint: The aloe vera is Community Trade sourced from Mexico and the maca root (a relative of the radish) comes from its native Peru. Of course, maintaining the brand’s standards, it has also been tested on men, not animals.
Get that old school, safety razor in a clean, modern package that weighs nicely in the hand. Comes with five blades: change the blade for each shave for maximum effectiveness and comfort.
It’s practically a Roomba for your face. Braun’s ActiveLift technology lifts the hairs before cutting them. This electric shaver shaves super close to the skin without leaving potentially irritating hairs that are too short, and it’s completely waterproof, so you can easily clean it right under the tap.
OK, we added the “aftershave” description. Use The Shavior to soothe irritated skin after a shave, but it goes way beyond that to treat razor burn, breakouts, or ingrown hairs. The product is formulated to purge your skin of unwanted bacteria, while glycolic acid further exfoliates to release any ingrown hairs and it also reduces the appearances of fine lines and hyperpigmentation.
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