For some of us, trying to get a good shave can be hit or miss. Cuts. Bumps. Itchiness. You might wonder why you don’t always get the smooth result you see in those razor commercials.
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But of all the ways to remove unwanted hair, the old standby remains some people’s preferred method, says dermatology resident Taylor Bullock, MD.
“Using a razor is simply the easiest and most convenient way to remove unwanted hair for many of us,” he notes. “You can do it quickly, at home and it’s inexpensive.”
It’s not uncommon to battle razor burn and other unwanted effects of your shaving routine, though. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks to get that smoother, safer shave from your trusted razor. Dr. Bullock shares them with us.
Tips for a smooth shave
Whether it’s on your face, underarms, legs or more intimate areas of your body, no one wants cuts, ingrown hairs and other undesirable effects of shaving. And according to Dr. Bullock, you don’t have to.
1. Shower before shaving
Shaving dry skin increases the risk of cuts and irritation. And shaving dry skin can prevent you from removing dead skin skins (aka exfoliating). Dr. Bullock says exfoliation is one of the top benefits of shaving. Removing those dead skin cells helps improve the texture and strength of your skin, by stimulating collagen production.
You’ll get a more effective exfoliation if you soften your skin before shaving. Save your shave for the end of your bath or shower time. After at least 10 minutes in warm water, your skin will be adequately softened for maximum exfoliation.
2. Exfoliate before shaving
In addition to letting warm water do the trick of preparing your skin for a smooth shave, you can help things along, too. Classic exfoliation products like loofahs and bath scrubs are a big benefit. Give your skin a good rub prior to shaving to loosen up the dead skin. Exfoliating first helps keep the razor from getting overloaded with dead skin cells, which reduces its efficiency.
3. Use cooler water
A lot of people prefer their water on the steamy side when they shower or bathe. But when it’s time to shave, you’ll want to cool things down a bit. Extra hot water can soften your skin too much, leaving you more prone to cuts.
4. Use shaving cream, not soap
Many people mistakenly believe soap and water provide sufficient lubricant for helping the razor glide along your skin, but Dr. Bullock says using soap for your shave may have an astringent effect. That means it could dry your skin out, leading to flaky skin. Not the vibe you’re going for.
Instead, use a foam or gel formulated specifically for shaving. Or you can try hair conditioner or body oil. These products will help the razor glide along more easily and keep your skin soft and supple well after you dry off.
5. Shaving direction matters
For a smoother shave and more effective hair removal, you typically want to shave against the grain. That means understanding which way your hair grows and shaving in the opposite direction.
For example: Shave upward for your legs, starting at your ankle, heading toward your knee for each stroke.
For your underarms, you want to go both up and down. Start by going upward to get the exposed hair and then head downward to get to the root.
But when it comes to shaving your pubic hair, if that’s your thing, you have a decision to make. For the most part, pubic hair will grow downward. If a closer shave is the goal, you want to go against the grain. If you’re more worried about avoiding razor burn, go with the grain.
6. Rinse with cool water
Warm water opens your pores. You want that while you’re shaving, but not when you’re through.
After you shave, Dr. Bullock recommends rinsing thoroughly with warm water to remove all traces of your shaving cream. Then, rinse with cool water to close those pores back up and prevent bacteria, dirt and other irritants from getting in.
7. End with moisturizer
Right after toweling off, apply a hydrating moisturizer. That will help prevent flakiness and dry skin. If you use self-tanning lotion, this is the time to apply it.
Dr. Bullock notes that the process of wax hair removal leaves pores open. If you wax your unwanted hair and then apply self-tanning lotion, the product can enter your pores. That can leave you with a freckled look rather than a smooth tan.
8. Ignore myths about thicker hair regrowth
“Stories abound that shaving stimulates hair growth and makes it return thicker and faster than ever before,” Dr. Bullock says. “This simply isn’t true.”
Hair growth rate and volume is controlled from inside your body and have nothing to do with the external act of shaving. New growth of about an inch per month is normal.
9. Protect your skin from the sun
After shaving, your skin becomes more sensitive, so the sun’s damaging rays can cause more damage than ever. Using sunscreen at all times — not just when lounging at the pool or beach — is important.
“Ideally, you would wait 24 hours before exposing freshly shaved skin to extended periods in the sun,” Dr. Bullock states. “When you do venture out to enjoy the warmer weather, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 and reapply after swimming in water or after sweating.”
Even on not-so-sunny days, sunlight can damage your skin. That’s even true if you’re just driving in your car or going for a quick walk on an overcast day. Every day is a good day for sunscreen.
10. Replace your razor regularly
How often you need to replace your razor will depend on how often you use it.
If you notice an accumulation of gunk or waste in your razor, don’t try to clean it out with a brush or other tool. If the waste doesn’t rinse out easily with a stream of water, it’s time for a replacement.
Even if it still cuts well, a razor with impacted waste can introduce bacteria into open pores or cuts and cause an infection.