Words by Marques Harper
So one morning you’re in a hurry to get to work and nick a bump on your face as you shave. You’re thinking, “No sweat, right? It’ll heal.” Well, think again. Trauma can cause your body to have a natural inflammatory response. A few days later, you might notice that little cut has become a full-on blemish, a dark mark on your face, a noticeable reminder of your rushed shaving moment.
While some men might dismiss blemishes, these dark spots can cause anxiety or depression for others. These blemishes might fade over time, but there are options, including topical creams, for treating these dark spots on your calling card, your face, or other parts of your body.
Lessening the Visible and Psychological Scars of Skin Blemishes
“It’s a real common phenomenon we see in darker skin tones,” says Dr. Carlos Charles, a New York-based dermatologist who founded Derma Di Colore, a practice specializing in skin care for people of color.
So what are these dark marks anyway? In general, they are pigmentation caused by skin issues such as acne lesions, psoriasis, burns and certain skin care treatments. They also can be caused by liver spots or hormonal changes.
“The cells that produce pigment are stimulated and produce pigmentation,” Charles says. “It’s a natural response from inflammation.”
Charles says this natural response to trauma happens to all ethnicities. However, the end result isn’t always cosmetically pleasing. In other words, our bodies don’t necessarily match the blemish to the varied colors of our skin, and these marks can be more visible on the skin of people of color.
Save Face and Prep Before You Shave
Charles says the best way to minimize shaving blemishes is to make sure you lessen the chances for an inflammatory response. That means doing prep work before you pull out your razor and stocking up on quality shaving products.
First, make sure you thoroughly lubricate your beard with a pre-shave product such as Bevel’s Priming Oil, a mix of lavender, olive and castor oils that helps lessen irritation, nicks and tugging while you shave.
Avoid using an old razor, which can cause skin pulls or a rough shave, and make sure you change your razor blades on a regular basis prior to shaving.
After shaving, apply an alcohol-free aftershave to your face and neck or the area you shaved. Bevel’s Restoring Balm includes vitamin E, aloe vera, tea tree oil and witch hazel to cool and moisturize your skin.
How to Treat Existing Scars
If you have noticeable blemishes and want to lessen them, Charles says there are topical skin creams as well as in-office procedures that can help fade blemishes over time.
Before you visit a drugstore for over-the-counter products, he says it’s important to make an appointment to see a dermatologist to determine the best strategy for treatment.
“Any dermatologist can help,” Charles says. “Seeing a dermatologist, in general, is better than winging it.”
Charles says retinoids, vitamin A-derived creams and gels used for decades to treat skin problems such as wrinkles, psoriasis and acne, can exfoliate the dark areas of a blemish and cause a blemish to fade.
In addition to retinoid creams, there are other over-the-counter creams available, but Charles says to be cautious with them because some can thin the skin or cause other skin problems.
“These fading creams are helpful and better used under the care of a doctor,” Charles says.
Also pay attention to how much time you’re spending in the sun without sun protection. That can cause existing blemishes to darken or later cause other skin problems.
“The first thing we recommend is that everyone uses a broad spectrum sunscreen,” Charles says.
Another possibility for lessening the chance of future blemishes is laser hair removal, which would thin or get rid of unwanted hair. For some patients, Charles will recommend using other laser procedures or chemical peels to help even pigmentation and the overall appearance of blemishes.
“See your dermatologist if this is a big issue,” Charles says. “People get discouraged, but a lot can be done.”