We know, we know, you’ve likely been shaving since you were in middle school, but sometimes trying a new technique can make all the difference. If you’ve had your fair share of nicks, razor burn, and ingrowns, you’ll want to get the full scoop or the shaving mistakes to avoid, so you’re left smoother than ever.
Meet the Experts
Dr. Rachel Day is a P.A. dermatologist.
Hysem Eldik is an N.Y.C-based dermatologist.
You’re not exfoliating
Before you even shave, you want to consider scrubbing up the day before. Exfoliation, especially if you have dry, dull, thick skin or curly hair, can be helpful to avoiding razor bumps,’ says Dr. Rachel Day. Look for ingredients like glycolic or lactic acid, which helps slough away dead skin cells while also hydrating the skin, she says. Sunday Riley Charcoal Smoothie Jelly Body Scrub gives you a spa-like exfoliating experience with a combination of clarifying salicylic and lactic acid, restorative niacinamide, and natural exfoliating powders, and activated charcoal that draws out impurities from your pores. A little goes a long way: Massage a small handful on your skin in circular motions, focusing on the areas you plan on shaving. Let it sit for up to two minutes to let the hydrating coconut water and jojoba seed oil work their magic, then rinse.
You’re not prepping the skin
The day of your shave, you want to set your skin up for success. “Shaving causes thousands of microabrasions which are like mini cuts in the skin,” says Dr. Hysem Eldik. “Bacteria that live on our skin take advantage of this and go in the cuts and create an infection, irritation, and inflammation,” says Eldik, who recommends cleansing with body washes that contain benzoyl peroxide or Hibiclens, which can reduce the number of bacteria before you shave thereby mitigating irritation.
You’re not changing your blade often enough
Razor cartridges can get pricey, but holding onto a blade past its prime can do more damage than good. “Depending on the number of areas and frequency of shaving, razor blades can last anywhere from 3 to 8 shaves. You know it’s time to change a razor when it starts to leave uncut hair in its path and especially if you feel any drag on the skin,” says Day. She also recommends avoiding single-blade razors, which will not be efficient enough. “The more blades, the more efficient and less drag (damage) to the skin during shaving,” says Day.
You’re not using shaving cream
If you’re dry shaving (ouch), you’ve probably found a trail of little red bumps that follow. “The main function and purpose of shaving gel or cream are moisturizing the skin to help loosen and lubricate the hair before shaving,” says Eldik. While there may be a chance that you won’t get irritated, it’s a gamble. “Without a protective layer for an easy glide, the razor may catch on any dry or irregular skin textures and create micro nicks that leave the skin vulnerable to water loss through a compromised barrier, furthering irritation,” says Day. So let’s lather up with some shaving cream, which speaking of…
You’re using the wrong shaving cream
Smelling like a “Tropical Paradise” might be nice, but you may want to skip the scented suds if you’re sensitive. “Shaving is already an assault on your skin barrier. Smothering potential allergens on top is not needed,” says Day, who recommends avoiding unnecessary fragrances and dyes. Her pick? Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel with Oat and Vitamin E.“The creamy formula is hydrating and wraps your skin in moisture, leaving your skin smooth and soft to touch,” she explains. Eldik recommends looking for soothing ingredients like aloe and vitamin E.
You’re shaving in the wrong direction
Yes, the pattern of hair growth is different on different body areas. You want to shave with the grain and not against it. “If you’re not sure which direction your hair grows, you can graze the surface of the skin area with your fingers, and it will feel rougher against the grain and smoother with the grain,” says Day. She explains that shaving against the grain gives you a closer shave, but it’s also more likely to create micro-nicks in the skin surface, leading to increased irritation and the likelihood of ingrown hairs.
You’re shaving too often
Try to give your skin a couple of days to recover if it’s irritated easily. “If you happen to be experiencing some skin irritation or are getting over some recent ingrown hairs, give your skin some extra time to fully heal before going back to shaving,” says Day.
You’re not moisturizing after
Post-shave, don’t just skip out of the bathroom without applying a little moisturizer. “Maintaining the ecosystem of the skin barrier is critically important for smooth, healthy, non-irritated skin. The best way to do that is through moisturizing anytime the skin endures a barrier-disrupting insult, like shaving,” says Day. Make sure to moisturize any shaved areas with a lightweight lotion that doesn’t contain any potentially irritating fragrance.
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