Pseudofolliculitis barbae, better known to us many as, “razor bumps”, occur on the faces of men with coarse, wiry, curly hair. Between fifty and eighty percent of black men live with the problem of ingrown hairs and razor bumps, daily.
These razor bumps appear when beard hairs, most likely around the neck area, curl as they grow and burrow into the skin adjacent to the hair follicle. Shaving sharpens the hair ends, making it easier for them to penetrate the skin.
Razor bumps itch, burn, can cause scarring, and make shaving virtually impossible. Many Black men have taken to depilatory creams which seem to work significantly better than blades. However, some depilatories, if not used correctly, may irritate the skin.
Cortisone-based creams have also been available for some time, but many cannot be used long-term due to blood stream absorption and other adverse effects.
How Ingrown Hairs Start
Both men and women suffer from ingrown hairs. But men tend to suffer the most because of the coarseness, or thickness of the hair follicles on the face and neck. Ingrown hairs form after the hair has been cut or otherwise removed below the skin surface. As the hairs grow, they curl over within the follicle and fail to exit to the surface. The result is an unsightly, “bump” on the skin.
Some razor bumps also form when a growing hair exits the follicle and bends back towards the skin surface. When these sharp, shaved edges of coarse hair touch the skin surface, they burrow back into the skin causing puffy, pimple-like bumps to appear.
Fighting Ingrown Hairs
Many men have found that the only way to remove these irritating bumps is by tweezing their faces. While this isn’t very comfortable, most Black men haven’t discovered a better solution.
Below are 8 shaving tips that may help ease some of the pain and more importantly, save your face:
- Applying a shaving lotion after shaving will reduce the appearance of redness. This is also great for women after shaving legs, bikini lines and underarms.
- Be sure to always use a clean blade when shaving with a razor. This can be best achieved by only using new blades and discarding ones that have been previously used thrice.
- If you use an electric razor, replace the rotary blades or foil after a few months. Of course if you’re required to shave daily, you may have to replace them sooner. This can be a headache since many rotary blade components cost more than half of what the entire razor is worth.
- While shaving with a handheld razor, always shave in the direction of hair growth. Most hair on men’s faces, slant downward, so be sure to shave in that direction. This is also important around the neck areas since shaving against the grain is one of the main causes of pointy, sharp hairs that can burrow back into the skin.
- Don’t stretch your skin while shaving. Pulling your cheeks, chin or neck while shaving in order to get a closer shave, can cause darkness and discoloration of underlying skin tissue. This is especially true for light and fair-skinned Black men who have dark, coarse hair.
- Watch what you eat. A lot of skin irritations may subside if certain foods are avoided. Fatty foods, foods containing oils, cholesterol and sodium, can make your skin more susceptible to damage while shaving.
- Give up on razors and use a depilitory. Depilatories work well on most skin, but not on all. They can remove facial hair in a matter of minutes, but just like blade shaving, can cause a bit of irritation and redness. Be careful not to use alcohol-based aftershaves or creams immediately after using a depilatory. Mixing the two is like throwing flames onto your face.
- Grow a beard. This may not be the best solution for those required to shave daily, such as the military and other business professions. But if you can swing it, why not? You will totally eliminate the razor bump worries and ingrown hair issues. Even better, you can get rid of those sharp blades!