Q: I've had an issue with shaving for as long as the little beards sprouted out! Hence the fact I haven't wet shaved for more than 10 years. Every time I shaved, I'd get the most hideous bumps so I now only shave by an electric shaver, which is fine but the bumps are reappearing. Problem is I find with black skin (blokes) is there's not much out there catering for us, unless I havent looked properly?!
A: Our expert Ahmed Zambarakji answers your questions below:
Yup, shaving bumps are a pain and are very, very common among black men. In fact, I’m kind of surprised that there aren’t (any?) products marketed towards black skin here in the UK like there are in the US.
You’ve probably figured out that it’s the hair curling back under the skin that’s causing the bump. Sometimes you may even get pimples or pustules if the follicle gets infected. The technical term for the condition is Pseudofolliculitis barbae but I’ll just call them razor bumps. The good news is there are several things you can do.
Let’s start with the basics. Get exfoliating on a regular basis. This will help release trapped hairs and remove any dead skin cells that are preventing the hairs from growing out properly. Provided you don’t have sensitive skin, I find really grainy and abrasive face scrubs great for releasing the ingrown hairs. I really like Dr Brandt’s Microdermabrasion (£64 for 50g from spacenk.com) because the formula is so dense and has loads of skin polishing crystals. It is pricey, though.
Less expensive options include the Instant Retexturising Scrub by Strivectin-HD (£37 for 150ml from spacenk.co.uk), Ole Henriksen’s Walnut Complexion Scrub (£26 for 50g from feelunique.com) and even Clinique’s Face Scrub (£16 for 100ml from clinique.co.uk) - all great options. Aim to exfoliate 2-3 times a week. paying particular attention to the problem spots.
If you don’t want to scrub, you can also use a chemical exfoliant containing salicylic acid, which will basically just burn away the top layers of skin (not nearly as harsh as it sounds). A US brand called Shaveworks (the same guys behind Anthony Logistics, as it happens) make something called The Cool Fix Ingrown Hair Treatment (£8.80 for 60ml from mankind.co.uk). It contains both Glycolic and Salicylic Acid - all you need to do is dab it onto the bump and let it work over 24 hours. I sometimes use it instead of an aftershave balm if I've got a bad case of razor bumps.
If you can treat any infected spots with an acne treatment containing benzoyl peroxide that would be ideal. Something like Menscience’s Acne Spot Repair (£20.50 for 21g from mankind.co.uk) contains 10 per cent of the stuff and will help zap the bacteria that are causing all the redness and inflammation.
I’m guessing the reason your electric razor is now causing bumps once again is because the blades need changing. I don’t know which brand you’re using but replacement parts can be expensive - sometimes it’s cheaper to just buy a whole new unit. It’s coming up to Christmas so there will be some huge discounts on the high street.
A rotary blade will be best for you and I usually recommend Philips’ 3D shavers (philips.co.uk). They’ve got a new model – the AquaTouch AT750 – that you can use in the shower too. Be sure to use a pre-shave solution designed for electric shavers too (check out Lab Series and Kyoku) as a completely dry shave might be a little too traumatic for your skin.
One other thing I do – and I really wouldn’t recommend this unless you've got a steady hand – is get one of those magnifying mirrors and see if you can spot the hairs that create a ‘loop’ above the surface of the skin. Not all hairs will do this, but if you do see one, you can get a pair of sharp, clean tweezers and simply flick the hair back out of the skin. Don’t pluck the hair, just release the tip back out of the skin. Be really careful and don’t start hacking away at your face as you’ll scar / discolour your skin really easily.
Find Ahmed on theexfoliator.com