We all know the things to avoid while shaving, like going against the grain (ouch) or shaving dry skin (ouch again). But what about the things to avoid before or after shaving? What should you never do in the lead up, and what should you stay away from once your skin is silky smooth?
It turns out there are several little pre- and post-shave habits that can cause a few problems. (Think along the lines of razor bumps, irritation, and maybe even infections.) It is pretty easy, however, to do things the right way and keep your skin feeling great. It just takes a little planning.
"Prepping your skin before shaving is so important," says Lisa Dolan, licensed esthetician and founder of Lark Skincare. "Before you start shaving, you want to have a clean slate so be sure to always use a great exfoliating scrub...It is vital to slough off dead skin cells." She recommends then applying a shaving cream or oil, and following up the whole process with a solid moisturizer. (Preferably one that doesn't contain water.)
Those are the things you should do. Now on to the things you shouldn't. If you shave your legs, bikini line, armpits (or even your arms), read on to find out how to prevent razor burn, ingrown hairs, and other common shaving mistakes.
1. Don't Share Razors With Your Roommate
If you're about to shave your legs, don't even think about grabbing your roommate's (or anyone else’s) razor. "Sharing razor blades is a major no-no as bacteria can be transferred from one person to the next and cause an infection," says Dr. Shereene Idriss, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. Even if you’re desperate, know that it’s better to be safe (and maybe a little hairy) than sorry.
2. Don't Skip The Shower
The best time to shave is when you have the time to take a proper bath or shower (in other words, don’t shave during a super quick or rushed cleanse.) The moisture and steam will soften hairs and make them easier to remove, says Dr. Ronald D. Blatt, MD, FACOG, a board-certified gynecologist at the Manhattan Center for Gynecology.
3. Don't Exfoliate Again
That delicious-smelling sugar scrub might be calling your name, but after shaving, do not exfoliate again. "It can lead to increased irritation," says Dr. Neal Schultz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Park Avenue Skin Care in New York. Since shaving already does an excellent job exfoliating, any additional sloughing will just be overkill. “You do not want to break the skin barrier too aggressively,” says Dr. Angela Lamb, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Mount Sinai. “The key is to soften the top layer of the skin so that the razor glides easier”
4. Don't Forget To Lube Up
If you want a close, smooth shave, don't forget to apply some sort of lubrication to the skin first. "I love coconut oil... before you shave to help the razor glide smoothly," says Dolan. For extra protection, you can also use a shaving gel while taking the razor to your skin. (Or even a drop of hair conditioner for a quick fix.)
5. Don't Use Products That Contain Alcohol
When you're finished shaving, avoid applying any products or lotions that contain alcohol. "Many women try to resolve ingrown hairs and razor burn with alcohol-based products that promise to soothe, but instead end up burning the skin and prolonging healing by weeks," says Karen Young, founder of Oui Shave. Not good.
6. Don't Jump Into A Pool
If you're about to slip into a bathing suit and take a swim, then shaving will probably cross your mind. But please, try to resist: "The pool [and chlorine] aren't skin-friendly," says Blatt. "The open pores are not ready for that yet." It's much better to shave a day or two beforehand, or just jump in with your hairy self. NBD.
7. Don't Head Off To The Beach
The beach is another place to avoid post-shave. According to Blatt, the sun and sand can cause redness, ingrown hairs, and even irritation that can lead to infection. Follow the aforementioned pool rules and shave a few days before your trip to the beach, and you should be good to go.
8. Don't Stay Up All Night
If you're going to shave, the best time to do it is right before bed. Since our bodies heal while we sleep, Blatt says it's best to get all smooth then slip into bed. Your skin will definitely thank you.
9. Don't Let Your Skin Get Hot
Avoid getting anything hot on the shaved area for several hours after shaving, says Blatt. So say "no" to baths or saunas and don't give into the siren song of a steamy jacuzzi. It can wait for another day.
10. Don't Forget To Moisturize
To prevent irritation, make sure you take time to apply lotion after you shave. "Always look for a moisturizer that does not contain water," Dolan says. "It helps your shave last longer and your legs feel smoother."
11. Don't Avoid Shaving Cream
Razor blades will glide much easier over smooth surfaces, so apply a shaving cream to your skin right before shaving. “[This] will protect your skin and avoid irritation,” says Lamb. Her pick? Malin + Goetz Vitamin E Shaving Cream, which “provides that much-needed barrier to help guide the blade over the rough surface of skin.”
12. Don't Even Think About Shaving Again
Once you're done shaving, be done. "Resist the temptation to go back and shave the hairs you missed," Blatt says. "Simply trim those down." It may not be perfect, but it'll save you a bad case of razor burn.
13. Don’t Start Shaving As Soon As You Step Into The Shower
According to Sabeen Mian, senior vice president of personal care brand Refreshments, it’s ideal to stay in your shower or bath for at least 15 minutes before shaving the hair. This will help soften and open the follicles. Remember, she adds, shaving is best as the final step in your routine — after shampooing, conditioning, and body cleansing.
14. Don’t Use Single-Blade Disposable Razors
If you can, try and invest in a good razor with multiple blades — and maybe even a soothing strip. Single-blade razors can drag against the skin, Mian says, preventing a close, smooth shave. She suggests the five-blade razor from Refreshments; another good option is Venus ComfortGlide White Tea Razor, which you can find at your local drugstore.
15. Don’t Dry Shave
Missed a spot? Or just in a hurry? Dry shaving can seem like an easy and quick solution, but avoid a moisture-less shave at all costs. Doing so can lead to nicks and cuts, says Mian.
16. Don’t Shave Before A Pedicure
Because shaving can lead the skin immediately vulnerable and prone to irritation, don’t do it right before your pedi appointment. This will help you “avoid any potential infections from tools that are not properly cleaned,” says Mian.
17. Don’t Rinse With Hot Water
After your shave, rinse the area — or areas — with cold water to close and seal the pores, Mian says. Although it feels good, that warm water you were showering in just won’t do the trick.
18. Don’t Use Your Razor For Too Long
It’s important to keep your razor clean and sharp for maximum effectiveness. To do this, make sure you refresh your blades (if you’re using a razor that comes with a detachable head) every two weeks, or at least every five to seven uses, says Mian. If you’re shaving daily, try and replace it weekly.
19. Don’t Leave Your Razor Dirty And Wet
In between shaves, make sure your razor stays clean and dry, says Mian. This can help prevent bacteria from growing or the blade from becoming dull. Give it a good rinse in warm water to remove any clogged hairs, and dry with a clean towel.
20. Don’t Skimp On Aftercare Products
According to Lamb, applying some sort of protectant to the skin right after shaving will help promote skin cell turnover and decrease the formation of ingrown hairs. She suggests a product like Malin + Goetz’s Ingrown Hair Cream, which includes salicylic acid plus chamomile to minimize any redness.
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