Shaving is a quick and inexpensive method for hair removal but it can pose problems for those with darker skin or with curly or coarse hair. Shaving cuts hair at the surface and can cause irritated skin and ingrown hairs. In addition to ingrown hairs, improper shaving techniques can lead to dark pores and dark spots on the skin.
Here are a few tips to help you achieve a smooth shave without skin irritation and the formation of ingrown hairs.
Don’t Shave First Thing in the Morning
Legs can be puffy due to reduced circulation and blood flow. Do a few stretches, or sun salutations or simply move around for about 15 minutes to get your system going.
Shave After a Bath or Shower
- In the bath: Bathe with warm (not hot) water so that hair can be easily removed when the pores soften. Bathing softens hair and makes it easier to cut. Soak for only 2-3 minutes and no more than 10. If you soak too long, the skin will begin to wrinkle and swell, making it more difficult to shave.
- In the shower: A quick shower might be your best bet if you plan to shave, that way you won’t be tempted to soak too long. The steam from the shower will soften the pores and the hair for a better shave. Again, don’t use hot water on your skin—it will be too drying.
Exfoliate to Remove Dead Skin and Blockage
Exfoliation helps reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs. It unclogs pores by removing excess sebum, dirt and grime on the skin. Regular exfoliation will help ingrown hairs grow out of the hair follicle instead of curling back into the skin and help loosen any hairs that might get trapped beneath dead skin. Dead skin can also clog razors and lead to an uneven shave.
If you are a regular shaver, you only need to exfoliate once a week. This is to avoid irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin. Shaving in itself actually exfoliates the skin.
Pick the Right Shaver and Features
Use a multiple blade razor with helpful features like spring-mounted blades, ergonomic handles, and something to protect the skin while lifting hairs, like moisturizing strips. A disposable razor like the Gillette Venus Embrace is a great option.
Don’t Shave With a Dull Blade
This can cause the razor to drag on the skin and cause irritation.
Always Use a Fresh, Clean Razor on Clean Skin
If you shave regularly, it will probably need to be replaced after five or six uses. You can also tell if your razor needs to be replaced if you're finding yourself applying too much pressure in order to get a close shave. With a good razor and shave cream, you needn’t press too hard.
Use Shaving Gel or Cream
Always use a shaving gel or cream. Never shave dry skin. A shaving gel or cream will help the blade glide along the skin and reduce irritation and nicks. Irritated and inflamed skin can lead to blockage of the hair follicle leading to ingrown hairs. Shaving cream and gel also helps skin retain moisture as you shave. Which should you use? Gels are better at helping the blade glide along the skin as you shave. Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel is a great option for sensitive skin and also helps prevent razor burn. Creams are great to use if you need extra moisture. Skintimates makes a great moisturizing shaving cream that leaves legs smooth and soft.
In Which Direction Should You Shave?
Shaving against the grain does give a closer shave, but when you shave too close the regrowth can curl back, breaking the skin surface and becoming ingrown, causing an infection in the follicle, redness, and inflammation. Shave with light pressure, with long, gentle strokes, taking your time to avoid nicks and scrapes.
Shave gently in the direction of hair growth to avoid ingrown hair. Hair on the leg usually grows downward.
- Clean razor while shaving: Rinse the razor often while shaving for a cleaner and more even shave.
- Apply moisturizer: Rinse skin thoroughly to remove shaving gel or cream. Then apply moisturizer within five minutes after shaving to seal in moisture. The moisturizer should have soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients, nothing with potential irritants. Opt for aloe vera or shea butter.
- Use natural antiseptics to treat ingrown hairs: If you have ingrown hairs, you can use olive, almond, or jojoba oil directly on the affected areas. Also, use tea tree oil or lavender essential oil as long as they are diluted to help reduce inflammation.
- Rinse and air-dry your razor. Don’t dry with a towel or tissue, which can damage the blade.
Cleveland Clinic. Q&A: expert explains best way to handle your ingrown hair. Updated February 10, 2020.