Although razor bumps affect every skin type, two characteristics may make them more of a troubling issue for women of black ethnicity. First, the individual hairs may be thick and densely curled, making it more likely that they will get caught beneath the skin’s surface. Secondly, darker skin types tend to create pigment in areas of skin that are injured. When there is a red razor bump, it’s more likely to turn brown and stay excessively pigmented for a long period, making the area look worse even after the actual bumps have healed.
Exfoliate the skin in your bikini area, using a sugar or salt scrub, 24 hours before shaving to remove any dead skin cells on the surface.
Dampen hairs in the shower only briefly prior to shaving. Don't shave at the end of a long, hot shower. Long exposure to moisture and heat causes the hairs to swell extensively as they absorb water, which lengthens them temporarily. While this may seem preferable -- it creates extra-smooth skin when the hairs dry and shrink back under the skin surface level -- it wreaks havoc the next day when these now-subterranean hairs try to find their ways back out to the surface. Most people have curly pubic hair, but the curl in black women's hair tends to be tighter, making the pathway to the surface harder for the hairs to find. If the hairs cannot easily access the surface, they push against the skin and cause razor bumps. Help them out by letting them settle closer to the surface.
Apply shaving cream or gel -- not soap -- before shaving. Shaving creams and gels are formulated with agents that make the skin slippery and help the hairs to fluff up. This allows you to shave with less pressure, and to avoid scraping the skin, which risks deep nicks, but also causes microscopic cuts, roughness and inflammation of the skin. This swelling of the skin may close off the follicular openings, causing the hairs to get stuck beneath the surface, which results in razor bumps.
Shave the bikini area in the direction of the hair growth using a sharp, single-blade razor to avoid shaving too closely -- a close shave means that the hairs have settled further beneath the skin surface. Replacing blades frequently will ensure sharpness and a more gentle glide over your skin to protect the sensitive surface from microscopic scratches that can cause inflammation.
Apply an over-the-counter 1-percent hydrocortisone cream at the first sight of a growing red bump. Spot application for a few days can reduce inflammation and break the cycle of an ingrown hair forming, but do not apply it daily to your entire bikini area because it will cause skin damage and stretch marks if overused.
Apply a light, unscented moisturizer to keep the skin soothed and protected if the surface seems dry. Dryness and itching are also signs of inflammation.
Don't shave daily; this will give the skin time to heal.
If you regularly feel itchy after shaving, make sure your shave gel or cream is free of irritating fragrances and mentholation.
For larger, painful ingrown hairs, a dermatologist can do a small injection of cortisone, which is an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid that works to decrease inflammation and soften the skin so the trapped hair may be removed.
Wear looser clothing the first day or two after shaving to keep pressure off the involved areas.
Topical antibiotics or mild anti-inflammatories are sometimes helpful to apply after shaving to prevent inflammation in the skin as the hairs regrow, but consult your dermatologist about which product might be right for you. The wrong product can cause unwanted side effects in the skin of this sensitive area, such as rashes or thinning of the skin.
Tricia Chaves began her writing career after working in advertising and promotions for entertainment publisher "The New Times." In 2005, she earned her real-estate salesperson license from the state of Ohio and certification for leasing and property management from the Northeast Ohio Apartment Association. She was certified as a life and weight-loss coach and master practitioner of neuro-linguistic programming in 2011.