Q: Jamin, as an African American, how do you remove chest hair without bumping up and having in-grown hairs turn dark spots. Help me out bro.
A: This is a very popular and frustrating issue for not only black guys, but for any guy that has coarse, curly hair. As a fitness model it is VERY important for me to show up to my shoots and gigs with great looking skin. Sure some minor skin flaws can be edited out, but photographers generally want their models to show up with radiant, spot, and bump free skin. But even if you don’t work in front of a camera, you still don’t want to have ugly bumps, dark spots, and red rashes all over your face and body…so I’ve posted a few of my best tips below to help you out.
So what exactly are razor bumps?
Razor bumps (aka Pseudofolliculitis Barbae) are basically a foreign body inflammatory reaction involving papules and pustules.
This annoying problem happens to many people with curly hair because of the curvature of their hair follicles…and sometimes, even regardless of your hair type, you can develop painful ingrown hairs via extrafollicular or transfollicular penetration from shaving improperly.
Here’s what happens: Right after you finish shaving the hair begins to grow back. If you have curly hair, as most African American’s tend to have, the hair can curl back into the skin instead of out of the follicle which causes irritation. So when this happens you will develop red skin irritation, bumps, or even hyperpigmented papules (unsightly dark spots).
Back in the day I used to be one of those guys who used clippers to shave my face and chest because I was too afraid to use a real razor. This was cool I guess but I still got bad clipper burn as well as painful cuts from the sharp clipper blades. The other problem I had with clippers is that I never really got a close shave with them so you I had to shave all of the time which sucked.
Before we go any further let me just say that there is a big myth going around that black guys can’t use real razors of they will get razor bumps.
I used to believe this myth myself, but these days I use a real razor to shave my head, face, and body all of the time.
And no I’m not one of those “lucky brothas” that has great hair or never gets razor bumps, I used to get them all of the time on my neck and got clipper rash so bad on my chest once that I could barely wear a shirt.
But it isn’t the razor that is usually the problem, it is a variety of other factors which I will discuss below.
But back to my story.
After I got sick of torturing myself shaving with clippers I just said ‘screw it what do I have to lose’ and then went out and bought a Mach 3 (they were in back then).
It took a few months of experimenting with various shaving methods, shaving creams, and other stuff but I think that over the years I’ve finally mastered the art of shaving and rarely get razor bumps or rashes anymore.
Here’s how it is done.
1. Figure out what type of skin you have. Just because you are a certain race does not mean that you have the same type of skin as everyone else in that particular race. You may have light skin or you may have dark skin, and you may have oily or dry skin, more pigmentation, or various combination’s of each, etc. Sometimes just by visiting a dermatologist and figuring out what type of skin you have and/or if you have any underlying skin issues you can fix your shaving problems right then and there.
2. Don’t hate, exfoliate. Yes you may be thinking, come on Jamin exfoliating is for girls! Slow your roll brochacho, just because you are a dude doesn’t mean you need to walk around sporting leathery alligator skin. Skin is the largest organ in your body and that means you can’t slack taking care of it. Every night your skin sheds and creates brand new skin cells so exfoliation is a great way to speed up this nifty little rejuvenating process along. Exfoliating daily will help remove dead skin, stimulate more blood flow, encourage skin elasticity, and keep your skin looking nice. So get on it.
3. Try to keep your skin clean. I can’t emphasize this enough. Every single day your body excretes all sort of nasty toxins via the skin and if you don’t properly cleanse & purify the you skin these toxins can cause a variety of skin issues and make shaving almost impossible. You don’t need to use anything expensive, but the most important thing is to make 100% sure you wash your skin each morning.
4. Don’t be an Ashy Larry. It is paramount that you keep your skin moisturized. It may not sound very manly but you definitely want to keep your skin soft and smooth. With that being said, you need to use a good moisturizer regularly, especially after you shower, and every night before you go to sleep. One of my personal favorites is Spectrum Organic and Unrefined Coconut Oil. You can find it a Whole Foods for about $10.
5. Don’t use a cheap razor. This should be a no brainer but seems like many guys still want to test the waters of trying to save $2 and risking shave fail. The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ definitely holds true here so if you use a cheap razor you will get cheap results. You’ll end up spending all of the money you saved on razor bump cremes anyways so just save yourself the trouble. If you want a good shave, however, you should try to use the best razor you can find. You want your razor to be sharp and not irritate your skin like most cheap razors tend to do. I use a Gillette Fusion personally and it is the best store bought razor around in my opinion.
6. Shave in the shower using very hot water. You don’t have to use scalding hot water just fire it up to a temperature you can stand. The hot water as well as the resulting steam will help soften your hair and skin while simultaneously opening up your pores helping you get a much less irritating shave.
7. Never shave first thing in the morning. Always wait about 30 minutes after you get up so that any fluid trapped under your skin will have time to disperse. This will help you get a much cleaner, less irritating shave.
8. Don’t rush your shave. Don’t just hit up the bathroom, bust out your razor, and start hacking away at your chest or face without properly preparing. Get the skin wet and lather the entire area you want to shave with a good shaving cream. Allow the water and shaving cream mix to soak in for a few minutes before you start shaving to help soften up the hair.
9. Always clean your razor before using it. I always give my razor a good rinse with hot soapy water before I use it…who knows what kind of residue and germs have collected on your razor since you used it last? I sure don’t…so I don’t want to take any chances of cutting those germs into my face and creating inflammation and irritation. Another good tip is to also clean your razor with rubbing alcohol after your shave.
10. Don’t use a cheap shaving cream or soap. I shouldn’t even have to tell you this but saving two or three dollars on a bottle of shaving cream (or even worse using soap) is NEVER worth getting razor rash over. I like to use Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel because it is somewhat natural and has no added fragrance. Sometimes fragrances can irritate your skin so I generally avoid using products that contain them. But never ever ever use soap to shave with. There is nothing manly about using soap and it is just bushleague.
11. Don’t go against the grain. Always shave with the grain of your hair and use short, precise strokes. I try to never go farther than one inch per stroke because the longer the stoke the harder you will press against the skin which can cause razor burn.
12. Rinse & repeat. After each stroke you will need to rinse off the razor blade with hot water. If your razor is full of hair you won’t get a close shave and you will likely end up pressing down too hard to compensate and end up getting razor burn.
13. Clear the pores & moisturize. After you finish shaving, give your face a good rinse with cold water and then towel dry. After that apply some sort of aftershave or moisturizing lotion to minimize the chance of razor burn. I’ve tried a bunch of post-shave creams for this purpose but the only one I have ever found to be effective at preventing and curing razor rash is Moore Unique Razor Rash Relief. This stuff only costs about 8 bucks but if you have razor bump issues it is well worth it. It is hands down the best razor rash/razor bump healing cream I have ever used and trust me I’ve used them all.
14. Don’t be a cream junkie. When you do everything right and all else fails, you may have a more serious skin issue that needs professional attention. If this happens to be you, don’t look for a miracle on Google…go see a dermatologist.
So there you have it…that is the shaving lesson for today. Remember, you can use these tips for shaving your face as well as your body if you so choose. Good luck.