Grooming & Style

How to Avoid Razor Bumps

If you ask 10 different people how to avoid razor bumps, you’ll probably get 10 different answers. And you know what? All 10 solutions may be effective -- for them -- but not for you! So how do we get a more consistent solution to what seems to be an everyday challenge for most men? We start before the shave.

That’s right. Long before you even pick up the razor, there are three basic points that must be understood:

1. How your beard grows (the angles)

2. What direction your beard grows in

3. How to control your beard growth in order to prevent ingrown hairs

No. 1: Understand how your beard grows.
The way your beard grows can determine where, how often and even how long a razor bump (otherwise known as an ingrown hair) will stay on your face.

Check out the above illustrations. Most men who suffer from ingrown hairs have curly or wavy beards that grow at angles very low to the skin (0 to 45 degrees). Why does that matter? Because these beard types have the tendency to curl into the skin instead of straight out of the follicle.

This valuable piece of information should help you to understand why it’s important to shave with the grain of the beard -- not against it -- and also why it’s important not to shave your beard too close to the skin. Let’s continue.

No. 2: Learn what direction your beard grows in.
The best way to know what direction is “with” or “against” the grain is to study your own beard’s growth pattern. Allow your beard to grow for three to five days so you can take note of what directions the hairs grow in. Once this is understood, make a mental note or, even better, draw an illustration of the directions on paper as a reference guide.

Armed with this knowledge, you can now reduce the frequency in which each hair is shaved against the grain. The less the beard is shaved against the grain and the more the beard is prepped for shaving, the better the face will look and feel.

No. 3: Control your beard.
African-American men who are susceptible to getting razor bumps should avoid shaving against the grain at all times. Shaving against the grain cuts the hairs so close that they fall below the skin line. And, as you can see from those illustrations, once your hairs fall below that line, they’re going to have a difficult time growing out of the skin.

So if you want to get a close shave and significantly reduce the possibility of razor bumps, keep your beard hair slightly above the skin line. And again, the most effective way to achieve this on a consistent basis is to shave with the grain. The only possible drawback to this method is an earlier 5 o’clock shadow. In my opinion, however, a shadow without razor bumps means a man with better-looking skin and greater confidence!

So there you have it. Three principles that will change the way you approach shaving, and, in the process, change the way you feel about yourself. And that, my friend, is priceless. Happy shaving!


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Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.

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