By Deanna Pai. Photos: Courtesy of CNP Montrose.
The thing about hair removal is that unlike other normal rites of passage, such as riding a bike or learning how to parallel park, no one ever actually teaches you how to shave. Even once you narrow that down to the beauty world, there are few YouTube beauty influencers posting videos about how to shave your body hair. (Tutorials about shaving your legs do technically exist, but those making them aren't exactly experts.)
If we were to take a wild guess, most of us probably bought a razor, loaded our legs up with shaving cream, and got to shaving—that's it. But if you're constantly dealing with itchy legs and chasing body hair that seems to grow back in 10 minutes, you might be doing it wrong. That's why we've asked top derms to tell us where we're making mistakes—and exactly how to fix them.
Mistake #1: Sudsing Up With Soap For a smooth shave, body wash isn't going to cut it. (And let's not even go near bar soap.) Shave gel, foam, or cream may seem unnecessary, but it's vital to get a close shave and minimize bumps and redness. "Conditioning your skin before shaving will soften the hair and the hair follicle," says NYC dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. "That way, there's less irritation when a razor goes across your skin." Shave-specific products typically contain emollients that'll do the trick—though in a pinch, you could use conditioner.
Mistake #2: Shaving As Soon As You Get in the Shower No matter how tropical your shaving gel smells or how fresh your razor blade is, shaving's kind of a drag. So why put off the inevitable and save it for the end of your shower? There's a good reason: "Letting your skin sit in a wet, warm environment allows for your skin and hair to soften," says Whitney Bowe, M.D., a dermatologist in NYC. Softer hair and opened-up follicles (from the steam) make it easier to get a close, clean shave—so you're less likely to feel new stubble later that day.
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Mistake #3: Thinking More Pressure Makes For a Closer Shave Less is more when it comes to the amount of pressure you're applying on your razor. You might be tempted to press down hard to get each and every hair, but it's actually making things worse. "The harder you bear down, the more uneven the skin surface becomes, because you're essentially creating dimples where the blade falls," explains Engelman. That makes it prime time for nicks and even missed patches, since the razor isn't evenly slicing away the hairs.
Mistake #4: Not Exfoliating at All You might think that when you shave, you can skip your body scrub, which is understandable, considering you're basically scraping off the dead skin cells with your razor. This is wrong, but not entirely so. "Some people think that when you shave you’re also exfoliating your skin, which is technically true," says Engelman. "If you're prone to razor bumps and irritation, you may want to exfoliate the area beforehand to ensure that the hair can come cleanly out." Otherwise, those dead skin cells can clog up the razor blade, which is what causes razor burn, explains Bowe. Exfoliating first essentially creates a clean, even canvas for you to then remove hair.
Mistake #5: Keeping Your Razor in Your Shower Who knew razors were so high maintenance? "Not only can keeping your razor in a moist environment rust the blades, it also increases your risk of bacterial or fungal infection," says Bowe. So much nope. After you shave, rinse your razor well with warm water, pat it dry with a towel, and stash it in a spot where it won't get wet. Plus, doing this gives you an opportunity to remove stragglers trapped in the blade—which you should do with a dry blade using a towel or toilet paper (and not, we repeat, not your fingers).
Mistake #6: Rushing Through It It's like a sad law of the universe: Trying to speed through your shave can cause nicks and cuts. If that happens, though, don't bother sticking a piece of tissue on it, which will only stay put for five seconds. "Rinse the area and rub a bit of antiperspirant on it," advises Engelman. "Antiperspirant contains aluminum chloride, which can constrict blood vessels and clot a nick." You could also apply an ice cube or eye drops to the area, both of which constrict the blood vessels and help the nick to clot more quickly. Then, seal it with a balm like Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant ($22), which helps protect bigger cuts and keeps them from scabbing over.
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