While you certainly don't have to overthink the whole hair removal process, there are situations where you might
want to avoid shaving for the sake of your comfort, as well as your health. This goes for shaving your legs, armpits, bikini area, or any other place you may feel like shaving — if that's something you like to do.
And here's why. "When we shave we create tiny micro-nicks in the skin that disrupt the skin barrier and leave the skin more vulnerable to irritation and infection,"
dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, tells Bustle. "Because of this it's important to not expose freshly shaved skin to situations that could lead to irritation or infection." Of course, you can't always time it right, and may end up shaving right before an unexpected turn of events. But if you can time it right, your skin will thank you.
Shaving correctly can be a big help, too. "The best time to shave is at the end of a warm bath or shower. The moisture and steam soften the hairs and make them easier to remove," Dr. King says. "Apply a shaving cream, gel, or oil and use a sharp razor blade. Shave with the grain and make only one pass. And afterwards apply an emollient to soothe the skin and keep it moisturized." With that in mind, read on for the
times you may not want to shave, according to experts.
While you might be tempted to shave before placing your feet in the hands of a stranger, shaving before a pedicure isn't always a good idea. "Sometimes the pool and the tools used in a pedicure aren't properly cleaned and there have been plenty of cases of
bacterial and fungal infections following pedicures," Dr. King says. "Don't increase your risk by having just shaved."
Before Going To The Beach
"If you are planning to go into salt water (ocean, salt water pool, etc.), you wouldn’t want to shave right before, because the salt will sting any tiny cut you might have sustained,"
board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, tells Bustle. The salt can also cause itchiness and irritation, which all have the potential to ruin your good time.
"Shaving before sex can contribute to potential irritation and even increased
risk for contact dermatitis (possibly to saliva, lube, or latex) because shaving removes the hair and exfoliates the top layers of skin cells, both of which form a protective barrier against friction and irritants," Dr. Shainhouse says.
This is especially true if you're shaving in a hurry before a date, for example, which "can make you a little less careful and at risk for cutting yourself," Dr. Shainhouse says. "These cuts increase your risk for contracting infections from your partner." It's OK to
shave down there, but give your skin time to heal.
Before Going In A Hot Tub
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You might also want to avoid shaving if you plan to soak in a hot tub any time soon. "The hot water and chlorine can be irritating to freshly shaved skin and if there is bacteria in the hot tub [...] then [you] will be more susceptible," Dr. King says.
"Although [you may want] to remove [...] body hair before swimming, it’s important to recognize that some viruses and bacteria spread easily in swimming pools or contact with wet surfaces," board-certified dermatologist
Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, tells Bustle, such as the virus molluscum contagiosum.
Freshly shaved skin can also sting when submerged in chlorinated water, so give it 24 hours to heal before jumping in.
Before Surgical Procedures
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If you have an upcoming surgical procedure, go ahead and let your hair grow. "The nicks and cuts introduced by shaving or
potential ingrown hairs can increase your risk for infection afterwards," Dr. Ilyas says. "Leave the hair removal to your surgeon!"
If You Have An Active Skin Infection
"When you shave, you exfoliate some of the protective skin layers, and you can create
tiny nicks in the skin (even if you don’t bleed!)," Dr. Shainhouse says. "Together this creates an easy portal for pathogens to get into the skin, and if you shave [...] you can spread that infection right into the new area."
If there's an active infection on your skin, such as
a staph infection, avoid shaving over the area until it's fully healed.
Before Applying Antiperspirants
"You shouldn't shave before applying certain prescription antiperspirants as this can cause a burning sensation," board-certified dermatologist
Susan Bard, MD, tells Bustle. "Freshly shaved skin has a compromised barrier which allows for irritants to penetrate." Instead, consider shaving in the evening, so you can apply deodorant in the morning pain-free.
Before Playing Contact Sports
"Freshly shaved skin can be more prone to chaffing and during contact sports may be
more susceptible to infection," Anya Stassiy, a physician assistant at Khrom Dermatology, tells Bustle. Again, you'll want to give your skin time to heal by shaving the day before a game. Abai Bekenov/Shutterstock
And the same is true before going for a run or hitting the gym. Since shaved skin is more
prone to chaffing, Stassiy says, it's better to go about your hair removal routine afterward.
"Warts are caused by the
human-papillomavirus, which is an infection that is easily spread to other skin surfaces with a razor," Brundha Balaraman, MD, board-certified dermatologist, tells Bustle.
While warts are nothing to be ashamed of, if you spot warts on your skin, you may want to avoid shaving over or around them "until these issues have been completely treated," Dr. Balaraman says.
White bear studio/Shutterstock
Using an old, dirty, or dull razor is never a good idea. So if yours has seen better days, you might want to skip the shave.
"It's very important to replace razors regularly," Dr. Balaraman says. "You also shouldn't share razors with others." Dull razors
can cause razor burn, and sharing one with someone else can spread infections.
If You Have Ingrown Hairs
"Ingrown hairs or shave bumps happen when the hair follicle is occluded and inflamed/possibly infected," Dr. Purvisha Patel, board-certified dermatologist and founder of
Visha Skincare, tells Bustle.
If you have razor burn or ingrown hairs, wait until the area is fully healed before shaving again, so you don't spread an infection, or
make that razor burn worse. Photographee.eu/Shutterstock
Ever get goosebumps when you're standing in the shower, possibly while waiting for the water to get fully warm? That's
not the time to shave.
"When you are cold, the hair follicles are raised, your shave will be tighter to the skin, and you could have razor burn [or even] shave the top layer of skin off the follicles," Dr. Patel says. "The best time to shave is when your body is at room [temperature] or warmer, probably when you are in the shower or taking a bath."
Shaving and then exfoliating — say, with a sugar scrub — may be overkill for your skin. So it's best to pick one or the other.
"In people with overly sensitive skin you don't want to shave
prior to exfoliation because it may cause irritation," Stassiy says. "Shaving in itself is exfoliating — it doesn't just remove hair, but also dead skin. Additional exfoliation right after can be just abrasive."
If you like to shave, keep these situations in mind so you can avoid irritation, infections, and painful moments. Because there are definitely moments when it may be
better to embrace the hair, than risk any negative side effects.