Before you dive in... If you want to find out exactly how to deforest any part of your body with amazing results, check out Dave's awesome guide to choosing the best safety razor and the notorious full guide to hair removal for men!
For a black man, shaving can be a real nightmare:
Ingrown hairs, razor burn, inexplicable bumps that just won’t go away- the issues are relentless.
This is made even worse by the fact that black skin enhances the look of blemishes and scars, which means if you’re someone who’s suffering from the problems above, the effects can last a long time.
In this ultimate guide, I’m going to go through exactly what you need to do to combat the problems that you’ve been experiencing.
By first explaining exactly why these problems are occurring, we’ll then be able to identify what it is that needs to be done to solve them.
Next, I’m going to tell you step-by-step how to prepare your skin for the ultimate shave; I’ll also reveal my tried and tested techniques during a shave that make all the difference.
Finally, we’ll go through the best creams, lotions, potions, and razors for black man:
Let’s get started!
Problems with shaving for black men: the WHY it happens
The problems that black men experience during (and after) a shave can be broken down into two simple sections:
Skin, and hair.
Skin-wise, sensitivity plays a big role. It often goes overlooked because the obvious culprit is the thickness and curliness of Afro hair, but in fact, black skin is highly prone to sensitivity.
Sensitive skin can be a real pain when it comes to shaving. You’re more likely to experience razor burn and discomfort, and the likelihood of accidentally getting nicked with a blade goes way up, too.
But that’s just the beginning.
The real villain is the type of hair black men have: thick, curly, and extremely dense.
These factors are the main reason we’re so prone to ingrown hairs, bumps, and razor burn.
Ingrown hairs occur when a hair is cut below the surface of the skin. Sometimes the hair gets “lost” on the way back up, and (especially with really curly hair) it ends up looping back around under the surface of the skin and continuing to grow there.
This leads to inflammation, itchiness, soreness, and sometimes infection...
...but I guess I don’t have to tell you that.
As if that wasn’t enough of a problem on its own, black skin also suffers the effects of these skin problems because the extra melanin in our skin enhances the appearance (and duration) of scars and blemishes.
At least that’s all the bad news out of the way- now let’s get to the good stuff:
Prep, practice, and post-shave care: the recipe for a perfect shave
Just because we’re prone to these issues doesn’t mean that we just have to live with them and “that’s that”.
Achieving a perfect shave is completely within your grasp- it’s just a matter of getting a few things straight:
Preparing your skin properly
Arming yourself with the right shave cream
Choosing the right razor for you
Getting your shaving technique down
Caring for your skin post-shave
Keep reading to find out exactly how to do all 5:
How to prepare your skin before shaving for black men
If you’ve been wondering things like:
How to get rid of razor bumps on black men
How to avoid ingrown hairs
How to get a really smooth shave
Then this section is for you.
First, you’ll want to gently cleanse your skin. The best way to do this is to either take a good hot shower, or fill up the sink with steamy warm water.
We do this for three reasons:
To remove dirt, oil, and grease from the surface of your skin (think of it as priming your skin for a shave)
To open the pores and make your hairs more ‘available’ to the razor
To soften the hairs so that they’re easier to shave
Using a clean washcloth that’s been soaked in the warm water, gently massage your skin upwards in circular motions. Apply just enough pressure that you remove the dead skin cells on top of the surface, but don’t rub too hard- it’s not a piece of sandpaper.
The knock-on effect of manually exfoliating like this is that your hairs get lifted up from the roots and become freed of any dead skin that may have been trapping them (which otherwise could be the beginnings of an ingrown hair).
Indeed we know by now that for black men, razor bumps are rampant. So just to help further combat them, use a mild face wash with a chemical exfoliant such as glycolic acid.
I swear by the glycolic cleanser from Instanatural, packed full of organic aloe, witch hazel, and vitamin C. It also comes with a hyaluronic acid treatment and hydrating night cream (both of which I use religiously). These make a really great addition to any shaving kit for black men.
While many people ask questions like:
What is the best razor bump removal for African Americans?
Where can I find the right razor bump treatment for African Americans?
These questions miss the point.
With the right preparation, you won’t need treatment or removal procedures; you won’t even have the problem in the first place.
What’s the best shaving cream for black men?
When it comes to picking the best shaving cream, the biggest factors to way up are convenience and cost.
That said, if you really do want to find the best shaving cream for a black man, you should be willing to make some sacrifices when it comes to penny pinching and time saving.
Let’s look at the facts:
Commercial shaving creams (you know, the ones with the pump top and foam canister) are the most widely available these days. They’re stocked in every pharmacy, supermarket, drug store- you name it.
But what’s really in that bottle- and what impact does it have on your shave?
Commercial shaving creams usually come in pressurized aerosol cans and the foam that comes out of them is laden with air pockets. These kinds of products- while smelling nice and being easy to use- do very little to protect your skin from the effects of a razor blade during your shave.
On top of this, commercial shaving creams are often loaded with unwanted chemicals that actually do more harm to your skin than anything else.
Old school shave creams have made a big comeback in recent years, thanks to the slew of men around the world who are demanding more from their shaving experience.
And rightly so.
Traditional shave creams come in compact form, and need to be lathered and loaded up with a shaving brush (I use Perfecto’s badger brush for this). It takes a bit more time, but trust me when I say the results are completely worth it; it’s easily one of the most important shaving products for black men.
Traditional shave creams form a really thick, protective lather that acts as a shield between your skin and the blade that you’re shaving with- think of it as a safety barrier.
The positive effects of this are endless:
Basically, your razor won’t pull your skin anymore; it will just glide over the top, slicing hairs as it goes. Your skin will be smoother. You won’t suffer from rashes or burns anymore.
Try it out; the results speak for themselves.
I’m still experimenting with different shave creams right now, but so far I’ve found a handful that I would easily rate 5-star:
Taylor of Old Bond Street: These guys set the bar for shaving cream, if you ask me. It’s sandalwood scented- not overpowering, but definitely strong enough that you wouldn’t need a scented aftershave. It’s also incredibly moisturizing- easily the best shaving cream for black men with dry skin.
The Art of Shaving: Loaded with coconut oil and essential oils, this shave cream creates a super slick lather that always delivers a smooth, nick-free shave.
Proraso: A subtle blend of refreshing and cooling, this product is a best seller- and for good reason. It also comes in a handy little squeeze tube (like a tube of toothpaste), which fits nicely into a wash bag if you need to bring it with you on the go.
African American beard grooming techniques & shaving tips
This is where the ‘practice’ part of the package kicks in:
It might seem rudimentary to some, but you’d be surprised how many people get this wrong.
Shaving isn’t just a matter of dragging the razor over your face and hoping for the best:
There’s a pretty specific technique to it- and once you get it right, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t do it this way the entire time.
If you regularly suffer from itchy, painful regrowth, ingrown hairs, and razor bumps, the best thing you can do is to shave in the same direction as your hair growth- not against.
Shaving against the grain is much more abrasive and greatly increases the likelihood of causing nasty skin issues afterwards.
Use short, measured strokes with the razor- and pace yourself. There’s no need to rush.
Taking your time during the shaving process is key to ensuring you don’t slip up and accidentally cut or nick the skin.
How to pick the best razor for black men
When it comes to picking your weapon of choice, you first need to decide whether you’re going to go for a manual or electric razor.
Manual razors (also known as cartridge razors) are a popular choice. They’re versatile. They’re convenient. They’re cheap. They require little to no maintenance, and they give a seriously close shave.
Keep reading to see my detailed review and recommendations for the best razor for black men.
Manuals come in all shapes and sizes- and with anything from one to five blades.
Speaking of which, what’s the deal with these 4 and 5 bladed razors?! Are they really that good? And if so, at what cost?
Here’s the low down:
Multi blade razors use a pull-cut-pull-cut technique. The first blade- which is slightly duller- snags the hair and lifts it up for the second (sharper) blade to slice. 4 bladed razors repeat this pattern twice.
This gives a really close shave, but this technique can often cause problems for black men.
Multi blade razors shave over the same area more than once which is firstly very abrasive on the skin, and secondly often results in hairs being cut below the surface of the skin- a recipe for ingrown hairs, bumps, and other nasties.
Much like the recent trend back towards traditional shaving creams, we’re also seeing the market shift its interest back towards single blade safety razors (you know, the ones your grandad probably used).
Typically made from stainless steel, safety razors use a single replaceable razor blade. They’re extremely durable, environmentally friendly, and (once you get used to them) give the closest shave one can possibly get.
The only thing is:
There’s a bit of a learning curve when you first start to use them.
You need to learn to get the angle of the blade exactly right on your skin, otherwise you either won’t get a close shave or you’ll get a little too close and end up cutting yourself.
Sounds tough, I know, but it’s really worth it in the long run.
Manual razors aren’t for everyone.
If you’re someone with really sensitive skin, or you’re prone to a lot of the issues we’ve listed above, manual razors will most likely make the problem worse, due to the fact that they’re quite tough on the skin.
That’s where electric razors come in:
2. Electric (and the best electric shaver for black man)
Available as foil or rotary clippers, electric razors pick up where manual razors leave off.
Electric razors are great for people with sensitive skin and problems with ingrown hairs and such, because the blade of an electric razor never comes directly into contact with your skin during a shave.
The skin and the blade are separated by a protective foil, which acts as a barrier.
The effect of this is two-fold:
You won’t get as close a shave as you would with a manual razor, but it could be the difference between you walking away with a great shave or a face full of cuts.
Electric razors are also a great choice if you’re not too pushed about achieving a really close shave, but more of a “groomed” look.
My go-to electric shaver is the Braun Series 7, simply because it’s so versatile (it’s cordless, can be used wet/dry, and it comes with a compact travel case which is a big bonus for me since I’m on the road for work a lot). Its ‘autosensing’ function is especially designed to deal with super dense beards, which is why it’s a top contender for best electric shaver for black men.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for the most comfortable electric shaver for black men, you can’t go wrong with the Philips Norelco. It’s got a ‘flex’ head system that adapts to the shape of your face and neck, which makes it possibly the best electric razor for black men that often find themselves walking away from a shave with a ton of nicks.
While we’re on the subject, beard trimmers are another great option if you’re just looking to maintain a certain length- as opposed to a totally baby faced clean shave. In that case, I can highly recommend this one from Remington which- no hyperbole- does it all. With 8 attachments and surgical steel self-sharpening blades, it’s my top pick for best beard trimmer for a black man.
The importance of post-shave care in black men’s shaving rituals
Caring for your skin post-shave is just as important as any other step of the shaving process.
Using a high quality aftershave or toning lotion will keep your skin feeling supple, fresh, and moisturized (I’m a big fan of this one from Solo Noir).
Secondly, it’s important to give your skin time to recover between shaves- especially if you’re prone to blemishes and ingrown hairs. Though the temptation can be to whip out the razor as soon as the 1 day beard kicks in, it can be really beneficial to wait a couple more days.
Now that we’ve got the bulk of the shaving process nailed down, let’s look in detail at what I can safely say are the top contenders for best razor for black males:
5 Best Razors for Black Men
1. Vikings Blade Chieftain Safety Razor
Known best for its high end design and heavy weight, the Vikings Blade Chieftain model is crafted from Swedish platinum and coated with chrome. It’s heavy duty composition makes it extremely durable (as in it’ll probably last you your entire life kinda durable).
The guys behind the design put a hell of a lot of thought into it: it’s “weight optimized” to encourage you to get the right 30 degree angle and short, sharp strokes (like we talked about earlier) exactly right.
If you’ve been buying 5-blade disposables all your life, the Chieftain promises to change everything you ever thought you knew about your beard. As far as safety razors go, this is (in my humble opinion) the best shaver for black men.
Merkur’s classic 3-piece double edged safety razor is just about as good as it gets in the DE world. A household name for many years now, Merkur has designed this particular razor to be lightweight (unlike the Vikings Blade we just spoke about)- which makes it incredibly handy to slip into a wash bag and travel with.
Despite its light weight, Merkur haven’t left anything out. The body is coated with chrome to give it a great shiny finish and to prevent rusting; it’s also got a non-slip grip on the handle which makes it extra easy to hold and maneuver during a shave.
In quality British fashion. Edwin Jagger’s double edged safety razors sit somewhere in between the heaviness of the Vikings Blade and the lightness of the Merkur. That said, the Edwin Jagger is by no means undecided in its performance:
Its medium weight and comfortable handle make it a great choice for first time safety razor users (as well as the seasoned shaving pros). The closed comb head is ideally suited to thick, dense facial hair and promises to leave skin smooth and unblemished after every shave.
4. Gillette Mach3 Turbo Men's Razor
If you really value convenience and speed above all else, you may still be inclined to go with a standard disposable razor. You have been warned: disposables can wreak havoc on black men’s skin, particularly if the razor in question has multiple blades.
As far as my experience goes, however, the Gillette Mach3 is a good compromise. It has 3 blades, and they’re spaced far enough apart that you don’t encounter the same issues you would with a 4 or 5 blade razor. It’s easy to clean in between the blades, and best of all it makes shaving a quick job.
Initially I didn’t plan to include any electric shavers in this list, but I decided to make an exception for the Norelco, as it’s really more of a razor than a ‘shaver’- if you will. It’s got a narrow head just like any other manual razor, and it comes with a range of attachments to help you achieve whatever look you’re going for- be it a close(ish) shave, a short beard, or a longer groomed look.
This is easily the best electric shaver for a black man in my experience, simply because its smaller head size and diverse attachments mean it can be used for so many jobs. It’s also got a precision edging function, which is ideal for shaping up those sharp corners.
On top of all that, it’s also rechargeable- so no extra batteries needed. Great for the environment, and not bad on the budget either. Overall, I can safely say this gets my pick for best electric razor for black men.
Round-up & winning razor
To say that there is one clear winner would be remiss of us, as the ‘winner’ can only be decided by you- the person who understands exactly what your needs are. It could be cost, convenience, comfort, or perhaps environmental consciousness. Whatever your main motivation is, use that to influence your choice.
If you’re still a bit stuck, I’d be keen to push anyone in the direction of the Merkur safety razor. With years of stellar reputation in the shaving world (and from my own years of positive experience with their double edge razors) I can easily call them one of the best African American shaving products out there.