Want a Smooth, Safe Shave Every Time? Try These 10 Tips

How you shave and which products you use matter

Young woman shaving her leg

For some of us trying to get a good shave, it can seem like hit or miss. You might wonder why you don’t always get a smooth result.

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There are some ways to get a smoother, safer shave, says Sondra Powell, manager of Cleveland Clinic’s Aesthetics Program. She says of all the ways to remove unwanted hair, razors are ideal. “Using a razor represents the easiest and most convenient way to remove unwanted hair,” she says.

10 tips for a closer shave

Many men and women don’t like shaving and view it as a necessary evil. Ms. Powell shares these tips to help make your shaving ritual more enjoyable and effective:

1. Never dry shave. Dry shaving increases the risk of cuts and irritation, Ms. Powell says. It also keeps you from making the most of one of shaving’s benefits: exfoliation. You’ll get a more effective exfoliation if you soften your skin first, which is why she recommends shaving near the end of your bath or shower time. She says your skin needs a minimum of 10 minutes in the warm water to soften adequately.

2. Exfoliate. “Don’t forget that you can use the classic exfoliation products like loofahs and bath scrubs prior to shaving,” says Ms. Powell. Exfoliating first helps keep the razor from getting overloaded with dead skin cells, which reduces its efficiency.

3. Use cooler water. If you like very hot shower or bath water, make sure to cool the temperature down a bit before shaving. Your skin may become too soft and therefore more prone to cuts if it’s in very hot water too long, Ms. Powell says.

4. Use shaving cream instead of soap. Many men and women think soap and water provide a great lubricant for helping the razor glide along the skin, but it may have an astringent effect, leading to dry, flaky skin after drying.

Instead, use a foam or gel formulated specifically for shaving – or even hair conditioner or body oil – to help the razor glide along more easily, Ms. Powell says. And these products will keep your skin soft and supple well after you dry it off.

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5. Ladies, stay away from your man’s razor. Women can use a man’s shaving foam or gel, but it’s not a good idea to use his razor. Men’s razors are designed for the hair growth characteristics of a man’s beard.

Use a razor made especially for women because they are designed to work on body hair and its specific growth pattern. The same goes for men – avoid using your lady’s razor if yours has become dull.

6. Pay attention to the direction of hair growth. For a closer shave and more effective hair removal, shave against the way the hair grows. For example, hair tends to grow downward on the legs. Shave upward to get the smoothest results.

When it comes to underarm hair, Ms. Powell says to first shave upward to get the exposed shaft, and then reverse direction to get the root.

7. Close your pores. The warm water of a shower or bath opens skin pores. After you shave, rinse thoroughly with warm water to remove all traces of foam. Then rinse with cold water to close the pores. You may want to apply a hydrating moisturizer immediately after drying off to prevent flakiness and drying. If you use self-tanning lotion, this is the time to apply it.

Ms. Powell adds that the process of wax hair removal leaves pores open. If you then apply self-tanning lotion, the product can enter the pores and give you a freckled look rather than a smooth tan.

8. Ignore myths about thicker hair regrowth. Stories abound that shaving stimulates hair growth and makes it return thicker and faster than ever before. This simply isn’t true, according to Ms. Powell.

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“Hair may appear thicker when growing back in after a shave, but it’s just an illusion. New growth of about an inch per month is normal,” she says, adding that hair growth rate and volume is controlled from inside your body and has nothing to do with the external act of shaving.

9. Protect skin from the sun. Use sunscreen at all times, not just when lounging at the pool or beach. After shaving, your skin becomes more sensitive and the sun’s damaging rays can cause more damage than ever.

“Ideally, you should wait 24 hours before exposing freshly shaved skin to extended periods in the sun,” Ms. Powell says. When you do venture out to enjoy the warmer weather, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 and reapply after swimming in water or after sweating.

10. Replace razors regularly. If you notice an accumulation of gunk or waste in your razor, don’t try to clean it out with a brush or other tool. If the waste doesn’t rinse out easily with a stream of water, this is the first sign that you need to replace your razor.

Even if it still cuts well, a razor with impacted waste can introduce bacteria into open pores or cuts and cause an infection.

Following these tips every time you shave can help you keep your skin in tip-top shape for summer or any weather.

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