Rough, bumpy, and red: Three words we never want to use to describe our legs, but alas (and much to our dismay), we find ourselves acquainted with this painful trio of symptoms time and time again after we shave. And don't even get us started on ingrown hairs. The fact that hair can grow out of the follicle and then back into the skin is mother nature playing some kind of sick joke—we're convinced. How is it that the women in those shaving cream and razor commercials always have the smoothest legs? Is this false advertising, or are we just doing something wrong? Before waving our white flags and booking our first laser hair-removal appointment (admittedly something we won't ever completely write off), we decided to consult some skin experts to figure out what these shaving mistakes are and how to fix them.
Keep scrolling to read what they had to say!
"Stop using foaming shaving creams, especially if you are prone to bumps, sensitivity, and ingrown hairs, and switch from a foam to a gel to avoid irritation," says celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. "Foams have too much air in them, so they don't really protect the skin." Rouleau says to look for gel-based shaving creams, which create good "slip," providing a protective barrier between the razor and the skin. She recommends her Gentle Gel Cleanser ($37), which serves as both a wash and a shave gel.
"Too much may cause the razor to skip and clog, and too little can cause irritation," says Vermén Verallo-Rowell, MD, dermatologist and founder of VMV Hypoallergenics. "Let it sit for two to three minutes to really soften skin and make shaving easier."
Heather Wilson, esthetician and director of brand development for InstaNatural, says your best bet for a close shave is in the shower, not the bathtub. "Although a warm bath does soften the hair and make your shave feel more comfortable, the water also makes skin swell—think of a dry sponge versus a wet sponge. This swelling makes achieving a close shave more difficult, and you might notice stubble a few hours after you've dried off," she explains. Your shave gel will take care of the hair-softening aspect on its own, so save the soaking for a time to relax instead of a time to groom.
Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care, says that especially if bumps are a common issue, be sure to switch out your razor with a fresh one. Or you can purchase a quality razor and switch out the blades as they dull. Says Wilson, "Dull blades no longer cleanly cut the hair, but rather tug and pull, which can cause discomfort, skin irritation, ingrown hairs, and stubble." We'll pass, thanks.
"Dry and flaky skin makes it difficult to achieve a clean, close shave. To get the smoothest shave possible, be sure to exfoliate frequently. Look for an exfoliating cloth to use in place of your loofah, or use a body scrub in place of your bodywash a few times a week," says Wilson. She adds that you also need to be sure to be gentle while exfoliating since being too rough can cause irritation when coupled with shaving.
"Dry skin can become irritated more easily than moisturized skin, and skin that is irritated is more prone to ingrown hairs and redness," says Wilson. See? It really is a vicious cycle. To combat this, Wilson suggests using a lightweight lotion or body oil (her favorite is rosehip seed oil) after you shower. Verallo-Rowell also recommends using coconut oil since it provides "anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits to repair and soothe the skin."
Have you found any secrets to getting a smooth shave? Please tell us below!
This post was originally published January 2016.