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Hands up if your first leg-shaving experience looked nothing like a pink and sparkly razor commercial, but, rather, it was a hurried and kinda bloody mess with your dad’s razor behind a locked bathroom door.
Your shaving skills have probably improved since then. But we’ll tell you how to master a next-level, holy-crap-that’s-smooth shave.
Blame it on fashion and the acceptance of varying levels of nakedness.
Until the early 1900s, hair removal was reserved for the skin that showed, which in old timey times was the face, neck, and sometimes — gasp — the forearms.
Fast-forward to the 1920s: Hemlines moved up to the knees and hair removal made its way below them. The hairless leg trend waxed (ha!) and waned over the next few years.
By the 1940s, hair-free legs were the norm for “ladies” (hard air quotes there, because it’s not just women who shave their legs).
There’s an endless array of gadgets for shaving your legs. Since straight razors and safety blades take some getting used to and aren’t typically go-tos for shaving beyond the face, we’ll focus on the usual suspects: cartridges, electric shavers, and disposables.
Cartridge razors are the most popular choice for shaving legs, because they often provide the closest shave. They have disposable ‘heads’ — aka cartridges — with three to six blades.
Maneuverable cartridges are popular, because they’re able to glide over contours.
When choosing a cartridge razor, the more blades and the closer they are together, the better for a close shave with fewer nicks.
Electric razors can be corded or cordless, battery-operated or rechargeable. They’re no longer like the bulky and loud AF shavers your grandad used, but they’re definitely beefier than manual razors.
If speed is your goal, an electric razor wins. The hidden blades cover more ground with each pass and with little chance of cutting the skin.
Just keep in mind that no direct contact between the blades and skin means that, even with multiple passes, you’ll never get the close shave you will with a manual razor.
Disposable razors were once the option du jour, but, now, they’re best reserved for no-other-option situations — like shaving in a gas stop restroom during an impromptu trip to the beach.
They’ll do the trick, just not nearly as well as cartridge razors. They have fewer blades that are made to be chucked after a couple of uses.
All that said, if disposables are what you prefer or can best afford, using the right technique (see below) will help with a better and less ouchy shave.
Googling “how to shave legs” turns up over 51 million results. Wowza! The answer to which direction to shave your legs is split. Some people are #TeamWithTheGrain and others are #TeamAgainstTheGrain.
So, which is right?
We reached out to Maggie Sullivan, MD, a dermatologist and the advisor to body care company Royal, to set the record straight. Turns out: Both directions are right, depending on a few things.
“Technically, you can shave your legs either with or against the grain. However, there are some important factors to consider in your decision, like the thickness of your hair, the texture of your hair, and how your skin normally reacts to a razor,” Sullivan says.
“While shaving against the grain can be more effective, the trade-off is often skin irritation and ingrown hairs. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who doesn’t experience these, you’ll probably want to go with the grain.”
Ready to have legs as soft and smooth as a baby’s tushy? Let’s get to it!
What you’ll need
- shaving cream (if you’re going cartridge)
How to shave
- Wet your skin with warm water to open your pores and soften your skin and hair.
- Exfoliate with a loofah or body scrub to slough off dead skin that can clog up your razor.
- If you’re using a cartridge razor, apply shaving cream to help the blades glide over the skin smoothly.
- Shave down the leg in the direction the hair grows first, then go in the opposite direction if you wish.
- Rinse the blades after each pass to prevent skin and hair from clogging them.
- Rinse your legs with warm water to remove any traces of shaving cream and hair. Then follow with cool water to close your pores. (A must if you’re following with self-tanner, which can settle into open pores and look speckled. Yikes!)
- Pat or air dry your freshly shaved legs to avoid redness and irritation.
- Lotion up, ideally with a soothing moisturizer, like aloe vera.
Here’s how to navigate those tricky spots where the skin’s thinner or harder to reach.
Knees aren’t typically hairy spots, but they’re notorious for infuriating post-shave stragglers and cuts.
Bend your knee just enough to make the skin taut, so you get a closer shave and avoid creases that the razor can snag.
Backs of thighs
Your mirror will do you more of a solid than Pilates when it comes to shaving the backs of your thighs.
Stand in front of a mirror or use a hand mirror to see where the hair is and the direction it’s growing, which, let’s be honest, is usually every direction.
Next, stand or sit — as long as you’re firmly planted to avoid a leg or razor slip. Then start shaving with the hair growth.
Effin’ ankles. They’re easy to nick, and they hurt and bleed when it happens.
Prop your foot up on the side of the tub or shower bench for balance and easier access. Then go sloooow as you shave the area, being especially careful at the ankle bone and around back.
Take a deep breath, and do this:
- Spend a few extra minutes soaking the area to soften coarse pubes.
- Slather on shaving cream and then shave in the direction of the hair growth — not against it.
- Use slow and steady strokes.
- If you have balls you’re trying to shave or work around, gently pull the skin taut to avoid nicks.
- Apply a post-shave serum or oil to prevent redness and bumps, like the Fur Ingrown Concentrate.
FYI: There are tools made specifically for your bikini zone, like the Schick Hydro Silk TrimStyle Razor and Bikini Trimmer.
A few more tips to help you say buh-bye to missed hairs and potentially painful mishaps:
- Replace your razor often. If your razor is dull, rusty, or filled with gunk that doesn’t rinse out easily, there’s a higher risk of irritation, cuts, and infection.
- Trim long hair before shaving. If you have long hair, trim it with an electric trimmer first before going in with a cartridge razor.
- Don’t shave first thing in the morning. Nighttime fluid retention can make hairs retreat into their follicles, making it harder to get a clean shave.
- Rinse and store your razor properly. To prevent bacteria and rust, always rinse your razor immediately after use and store it upright in a clean and dry place.
The right tools are key for getting any job done right.
To step up your shaving game, try one of these top-rated cartridge razors:
Here are our top electric picks:
If you decide hair removal is for you, a sharp razor, shaving cream, and a little elbow grease to exfoliate dead skin beforehand will get you a smoother-than-mashed-avo shave. Top off with some moisturizer, and you’re good to go.