The Black Girls' Guide To Shaving

photographed by Brayden Olson.
Shaving or hair removal is hardly a requirement — it's your body (and, uhh, body hair), so do with it what you please. But for those who opt for it, shaving can be really annoying to keep up with... especially since body hair grows back so fast. Sometimes, a wax appointment or a couple of laser hair removal sessions aren't in our schedule — or, tbh, our budget — and it's much easier to grab that old three-blade.
But, when you've got melanin, special care must be taken to protect your skin when you shave. People of color know the pains of dealing with dark underarms, ashiness, and in-growns — among other common issues that arise during hair removal. Now, dermatologists Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, MD, and Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton, MD, are giving us a cheat-sheet on how to get skin even and smooth just in time for the first day of summer. Check out their tips, ahead.
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photographed by Nicole Maroon; produced by Sam Nodelman.
Prep Appropriately

Before shaving, Dr. Ingleton recommends lightly exfoliating your skin. This doesn't necessarily have to be with a fancy body brush — your washcloth or an all-natural sugar scrub will do just fine. Then, choose a cream that's thick and moisturizing. "Avoid strong fragrances and look for soothing ingredients like glycerin, aloe, and oatmeal," Dr. Ingleton says.

As far as razors go, don't be tempted to pick up that five-blade. "A single blade is actually safer," says Dr. Ingleton. "Multiple blades can cause razor bumps." Oui Shave's Rose Gold Safety Razor looks pretty and dainty, but its single, sharp blade gets even the coarsest of hair off in no time.

Finally, always be sure to plan your shave after a warm shower; that's when your pores are open and the hair has softened a bit. Shave in the direction of your growth, avoiding pulling or tugging or shaving repeatedly over the same area, which leads to irritation.
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photographed by Ashley Armitage; produced by Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez; modeled by Lorlei Black; produced by Megan Madden.
If You Have Discolored Armpits...

Dark pits can be caused by a number of issues: genetics, allergies, underlying health problems, or hyperpigmentation. And shaving makes them darker. "Friction is also a factor," says Dr. Ingleton. "Whether it be from constant shaving, waxing, or even the fabric of clothing you're wearing."

Dark pits are no big deal, but if you want to even out the skin under there, Dr. Woolery-Lloyd suggests switching to laser hair removal. If that's not in your budget, Dr. Ingleton says to make an appointment with your dermatologist to find a brightening topical cream that's safe for your skin.
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Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
If You Have Ingrowns...

These pesky bumps pop up when your hair gets trapped beneath the skin — and for those with curly hair, it's especially common. If you have dark skin, those bumps typically appear black, which makes them tough to conceal. To avoid them, try not to shave too close to the skin and consider switching up your regular blade for an electric razor or a beard trimmer, Dr. Woolery-Lloyd says. Dr. Ingleton also suggests asking your derm for a topical antibiotic to avoid those hairs from popping up. And if you can't make it to a derm, there are plenty of over-the-counter options to choose from, like Bliss' Bump Attendant Ingrown Eliminating Pads, or the editor-favorite Anthony Ingrown Hair Treatment.
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Photographed by Brayden Olson.
If Your Legs Get Ashy...

Dry skin is caused by a number of things — your environment, eczema, psoriasis — and shaving can exacerbate the issue. To banish the ash, ditch any shaving creams that have a high alcohol content, which is drying, and look into a new body cleanser that doesn't have suds or bubbles. "I always tell my patients with dry skin that their skincare routine starts in the shower or bath," Dr. Ingleton notes. "That’s the moment where using a mild and hydrating cleanser comes into play." Dr. Ingleton, who's a Dove partner, recommends the brand's Beauty Bar with a quarter of moisturizing cream inside. We also like Laura Mercier's Almond Coconut Milk Soufflé Body Crème, which contains plenty of nourishing ingredients like Vitamin E and honey.
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Photographed by Nicole Maroon.
If You've Got "Chicken" Skin...

Keratosis Pilaris, or more commonly known as "chicken skin," are small, hard bumps caused by a build up of keratin (the protein that protects skin from infections). "This buildup causes a closure in the opening of a hair follicle, which is how the bumps form," Dr. Ingleton says. You'll find them on your upper arms and on the back of your thighs — AKA, areas where you might shave frequently. Daily or weekly shaving causes these bumps to nick, which leads to scarring.

As tempting as it might be, do not scratch or pick at the bumps. Dr. Woolery-Lloyd instead recommends using an exfoliating cleanser with glycolic acid, or a good ol' loofah to slough away at your KP. And if you can avoid hot water, Dr. Ingleton says to opt for a cooler temperature and to take shorter showers altogether.
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Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
If You Have Dark Spots On Your Legs And Arms...

These can happen as a result of in-growns and razor bumps. While the swelling will go down over time, the spots tend to remain as a result of hyperpigmentation. And sun exposure does nothing to help the cause, either. "This one is one of the top concerns that I hear from my patients," Dr. Ingleton says. "Dark spots and melasma tend to occur on sun-exposed areas." Once the skin is inflamed, the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes turn on and produce more melanin, which is why the spots become darker, Dr. Woolery-Lloyd notes.

To even them out, Dr. Woolery-Lloyd suggests sweeping on her own Specific Beauty Advanced Dark Spot Corrector Pads, which contain green tea, arbutin, and bearberry extract to brighten. But of course, the best way to avoid sun overexposure is sunscreen. If you're hitting the beach, be sure to also protect your skin with hats, umbrellas, and sunglasses. "I strive to break the stigma around the importance of sunscreen among people of color," Dr. Ingleton says. "We need more awareness on how to prevent these skin issues because they do affect us, and sunscreen is a pivotal tool in helping prevent them."

Once you start treating your spots and wearing sunscreen religiously, you should see results in as little as two weeks. Your skin, on the other hand, will thank you for a lifetime.

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