Does racial equality extend to personal grooming?

Like most men, I hate shaving. My skin is still recovering from its oil-drenched adolescence; therefore, it absolutely recoils at the tough love a razor can provide. Whenever I’m in the toiletries department at any grocery store, I always peruse all the other kinds of health and beauty products in anticipation of finding something I might be able to use. I then am drawn to the shaving accessories, looking for anything new that might bring any comfort to my never-ending chore. I noticed (on one of these trips) something interesting called “Shaving Powder”. It says on the can that it is actually a depilatory powder that is applied to the face in lieu of shaving. What a good idea, I think.

Then the kicker: It seems to be designed for black men to relieve the trouble of hair bumps resulting from shaving.

Well, I’m white, but these “hair bumps” sure sound similar to the problem I face whenever I shave. I also notice other products designed with avoiding hair bumps in mind. They look like something to try, in my opinion.

I suppose my question is something like this: Are shaving powder, depilatory cream, or razors with serrated blades as well as other “anti-shaving” preparations okay for someone who has Caucasian skin to use? Is mankind that different in that certain H&B products are to be avoided by those with fairer skin? Also, what exactly is this problem called “hair bumps”?

I’m a girl, but sometimes I have the same problem on my legs.

The “hair bumps” may be a build up of dead skin in the hair folicle. It’s possible that if you used an exfoliating pad to gently scrub your face in the evening, you might have an easier shave. Putting on an oil-free lotion in the evenings might help as well.

I remember a product a few years back which was basically sandpaper for the skin. Rather than shaving, you simply “sanded” the hair off. Worked like a charm (except the papers wore out quickly) and left the skin incredibly soft and smooth. I’ve never heard of shaving powder, but maybe it works on the same principle: you’d basically erode the hair (and dead skin) away. I would not, however, use such a product AFTER shaving: the skin is already pretty scraped, and an abrasive might hurt.

I would not suggest dipilatory cream on the face: it tends to be harsh and stinging even on the legs. On the much-more-sensative skin of the face, it would probably be like liquid fire.

I think you’re talking about folliculitis. I’m sure the products are safe for all men to use, but they are being marketed to blacks because they tend to have that problem more than other ethnic groups due to short, curly hair.

The formal name for razor bumps is Pseudofolliculitis Barbae. Although it is more common in black men, it can occur in anyone with curly hair. The linked article from the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology has some advice on dealing with it, or just search for Pseudofolliculitis Barbae and you’ll find plenty of pages suggesting treatment. Although the treatment shouldn’t be different for people of different races, certain treatments are not recommended for black men because they have a greater tendency toward keloid scarring.

Boy, great replies so soon!

Has anyone here ever tried any sort of facial depilatory?

I tried one of those things a few times since although I am not of African American extraction I am prone to skin irritation. The facial depilatory irritated my skin far worse than any razor has plus it didn’t give me that good of a shave.

I’m a white boy. I was having problems with razor burns some years ago, and an African-American friend suggested that I try “Magic.” It didn’t irritate my skin (although the fragrance, when it was on my face, was–indescribable!) and it got rid of my beard until I could use a razor again.

Ahh, Magic Shaving Powder. This was being touted as the best thing to happen in hair removal since the Lady Gillette on a beauty board I was on a while back. It’s completely fine for each and every hairy nationality, but it’s a bitch to use (as it’s powder, you have to add water and mix it into a smelly paste). I went back to Nair-type stuff, couldn’t take it (“odourless” is anything but), and now wax as much as possible.

I forgot to add, while we’re on the subject, a lot of bleached blonds pick up hair products in the section for African-type hair because, while a lot of it’s too heavy for fine hair, it’s intensely moisturizing for damaged tresses and won’t break the bank. Fade creams and cocoa butter there are good, too, for age spots. Can’t we all just get along- cosmetically, at least?

I roomed on a job with the sound man, who was of African descent. He went off to ‘shave’, and the room was filled with acrid sharp vapors. He walks into the room from the bathroom, with his wristwatch in his hand and his face covered with a thick creme.

I watched him, as he timed it out, then used the small hard plastic 'scraper ’ to slowly and carefully scrape off all of the creme. His face was incredibly smooth. He said he hasn’t shaved in years- the bumps mentioned above. It was clearly a lye-based depilatory. He swore by it. Sadly, I can remember the guy’s name, but not the name of the product.


There are numerous topical products to help reduce pseudofolliculitis barbae:

Here’s a discussion forum on it:;f=26

Some preliminary data suggest that super long pulse Nd:YAG laser may help in clearing up this issue, but laser must be used with EXTREME caution on darker skin to avoid serious burns and permanent scarring.

There are currently clinical trials underway with the prescription topical Vaniqa, which may assist in reducing the pervalence of PFB.

Careful with the shaving powders-- use exactly as instructed and do a test patch in an our of the way place before using it on facial hair. Male facial hair is much more resistant to depilatories than other types of hair, so you have to do a little trial and error to determine how long to leave it on without burning your skin.

Wire-wrapped blades or electric shavers remain the safest way.

My wife (who happens to be black) talked me into trying Magic hair depilatory on my face once.

  1. The smell is actually quite describable. It smells like a wet dog on fire in an aluminum can factory.

  2. Now imagine smearing a paste the consistency of latex paint on your face, said paste smelling like the aformentioned flaming wet dog, and leaving the paste on your face for several minuted.

  3. Your mileage may vary, but it didn’t work for me. My face was smooth but I still had visible shadow immediately after treatment, and the hair grew back in about the usual time plus one day.

  4. Worst of all, my face felt weird. That’s the part I can’t descibe. It was most unpleasant.

I’ll stick to Gillette Mach 3 Turbo. Expensive as heck, but they do the job.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart. As a woman, I don’t need to shave my face (that might change as I get older) but I do need to exfoliate my face, gently. What I do is use a wash off cleanser and baking soda once or twice a week. I wash my face with the cleanser. Currently, I’m using Johnson & Johnson Baby Wash. It’s cheap and rinses off completely. About two to three times a week, I mix about a teaspoon of baking soda with the same amount of cleanser, making a paste. I work this paste allover my face, neck and upper chest. Don’t get aggressive with the exfoliation, think of polishing marble and use a light touch. Rinse THOROUGHLY in the shower; baking soda is a salt and will irritate your skin if left on. After getting out of the shower, pat dry and apply moisturizer. Make sure to apply sunblock 30 minutes before stepping outside. This routine is quick, cheap and easy and I’ll bet it’ll work for men as well. You should exfoliate your skin often enough to keep dead skin cells moving, but not enough to irritate your skin. You should see definite results within two weeks. I hope this helps.

I don’t shave, so my initial suggestion is, why don’t you grow a beard? I haven’t shaved since I left school and simply give myself a once-over every fortnight with a trimmer on the #3 setting.

If you insist on shaving :smiley: many of my friends swear by King Of Shaves, which is actually (apparently, I’ve never tried it) a shaving oil.

Do you remember the name of this product?

I tried the shaving powder and it was so bad and irritating. I once tried Nair on my face. No good either.

I think it depends on your face. I can use Nair anywhere else on my body without irritation.

Ribbon shaped instead of round.

This also seems to help the acne itself. I do shave the neck every couple of days and the mustache under the nose and along the cheek bones… Looks better. Like your growing a beard and not just too lazy to shave. You’ll find no acne under your beard.

Oh yeah, the best thing to soften your whiskers before shaving is hot water.

No, I don’t, unfortunately. It was sold as one of those “impulse” products in the checkout lane at our local K-Mart. The sandpaper was shaped into a mit in which you could slip your hand. I remember that the packaging was purple, but that’s all the help I can be. Sorry!

Not exactly related, as it’s not to do with shaving, but slightly similar. As a white high school sophomore years ago, I got a perm. It was a Bad Idea. Eventually it had about half worn away, but I wanted my hair straight again for a dance I was going to. (Why nothing was done about it sooner: As a general rule, every single person in my family, including me, is cheap.) After trying several products, the only thing that worked was a hair relaxer designed for black women. I experienced no adverse affects.