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Like all skin types, African American skin comes with its own set of rules, and a hair removal option that works like gangbusters for a pale-as-ivory lass may not be so ideal for a brown-skinned beauty. The pigments that give African American skin such gorgeous dark tones also make issues like scarring and discoloration a concern. That means that when you think about hair removal, you also need to think about the precious skin underneath.
Though it's a relatively cheap DIY method for hair removal, shaving can present some potential problems for African Americans. That's because people with darker skin and coarser hair are prone to a condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae, which is a fancy term for shaving bumps. If a shaved hair curls back under your skin and can't grow out, then you've got a real problem -- aka an ingrown hair. These suckers can be uncomfortable and painful, and unfortunately black women are also more prone to infections from ingrown hairs. (See Ref 1, 2)
Electrolysis & Laser Treatments
Electrolysis is the only 100 percent permanent method of hair removal, but if you're an African American, it's sadly a no-go. This is because electrolysis makes tiny scars on the skin, which can cause keloids and hyperpigmentation in African Americans. Laser hair removal also used to carry these same risks, until some laser-wielding genius finally came up with a "color-blind" laser that's safe to use on black skin. This hair removal laser, called the Nd:YAG, is the only one that plays nice with African American skin.
If you don't want to zap your hair with a laser, you can always try waxing, which lasts longer than shaving. Unfortunately, waxing can also lead to ingrown hairs or infections. To make sure you get waxed the right way, go to a salon or spa and let a pro handle it. That way, you can be sure that the whole experience will be hygienic. And if those waxing strips sting too much, try a topical hair removal cream.
If you're overwhelmed with hair removal options and don't know which way to turn, set up a consultation with a dermatologist. Since African American skin can be a little delicate, why not talk to an expert? A dermatologist can help you decide what hair removal method is best for your skin type, and give you product recommendations and expert advice on how best to deal with hair removal in a skin-friendly way.