Everyone’s hair grows at a different rate — including the hair on your face, under your arms, on your legs, and other parts of your body you might want to shave.
While many believe the more often you shave your body hair, the more coarse it’ll grow back, this isn’t true. Another myth is that shaving more frequently will keep razor burn or razor bumps at bay.
Shaving correctly is the most important factor in avoiding rashes, dryness, and discomfort caused by shaving. This makes sense once you understand the hair growth process.
All of your hair grows out of “pockets” in your skin called follicles. The part of your hair that you can actually see is made up of dead keratin cells. Hair growth takes place completely below the surface of your skin.
Blood vessels surrounding the follicles feed the root of the hair. As the hair grows longer, it pushes through the surface of your skin.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how often you need to shave. It’s up to you to decide if you prefer clean-shaven skin, slightly grown-in stubble, or a more natural look. You’ll need to pay attention to how your hair grows in and how your skin feels after shaving.
You probably don’t need to shave every day. Razors don’t just cut off your hair, they take a layer of skin cells with it every time you run the blade across your skin.
Unless you’re looking to achieve a completely hairless look, you can skip at least a day or two between shaving sessions to allow your skin to heal.
Shaving according to best practices will give you a closer shave, and it’ll last longer. It’ll also prevent irritation and nicks, and even reduce your risk of infection.
Don’t share a razor
While it might seem like your razor glides across your skin, it’s actually creating tiny cuts on your skin’s surface and picking up bacteria.
Using someone else’s razor means you’re sharing their bacteria and maybe even their blood, to scrape off your own skin. This increase the risk of infection.
Hydrate your skin
Use a shave gel, shaving cream, or at the very least, wet your skin with warm water before shaving. This helps the razor work better and also reduces irritation that comes from dragging a sharp blade over dry skin.
Exfoliate before shaving
You can do this with an exfoliating product, like a skin scrub, or simply using a washcloth or loofah. Getting dead skin cells off before shaving gives you a more even surface, and helps you shave closer to the actual root of your hair follicle.
Don’t shave over a wound, cut, sore, or rash
Shaving over skin that’s been compromised in any way can make healing take longer. It can also introduce bacteria into the area, leading to an infection.
Shave in the direction of hair growth
Your first shave strokes should go “with the grain,” or in the direction that your hair goes when it naturally lies flat against your skin. This cuts down on disruption and irritation to your epidermis.
You can go over your shaved skin again with strokes that go “across the grain” and “against the grain” to clean up stray hair growth.
Replace your razor often
How often you replace your razor will depend on the shaving tools you use and how well you take care of them. Any razor blade that appears to be rusting or feels dull against your skin should be tossed right away.
A disposable razor may last 5 to 10 shaves. A safety razor needs to be replaced every week or so.
When removing hair from your face, wash your face with warm water before applying shaving cream. Shave your face slowly and in the direction of your hair’s growth. Be especially mindful of your jawline and your neck, as those areas may be more prone to nicks and cuts.
Before shaving your legs, clean the area with a washcloth or loofah to exfoliate. Then lather up your legs using a shaving gel or cream. Shave your legs one long stroke at a time, going with the grain of your hair.
After you’ve finished, rinse off any excess shaving cream, and pat your legs dry. Consider applying a moisturizer like aloe vera or witch hazel if you experience irritation from shaving your legs.
Shaving your pubic area should be done with extra care, as the skin around your genitals can be more sensitive than other areas. People who shave their pubic hair have an 80 percent likelihood of experience itching as a side effect, according to one study.
Before shaving your pubic area, spend 5 to 10 minutes in a warm shower. This will soften the hair, making it easier to shave. Shave with the grain of your hair, holding it taut as you go. After shaving, make sure to wash off any excess soap or shaving cream to prevent irritation.
The skin under your armpits is another sensitive area, so it’s important to shave carefully and slowly. Spend some time in a warm shower, and wash the skin thoroughly before shaving. Hold the skin taut and shave in the direction that your hair grows.
If you’ve already shaved and are experiencing razor burn, you have several treatment options. Wear loose-fitting clothing that won’t compress or irritate your skin while you wait for itching or burning to subside.
Consider applying a natural, unscented, and dye-free moisturizer such as aloe vera or coconut oil to soothe dryness and razor bumps. A topical hydrocortisone cream may also be used to reduce inflammation.
When it comes to avoiding complications from shaving, shaving correctly is more important than how often you shave. Following best practices for personal hygiene is the best way to lower your risk of side effects like folliculitis, razor bumps, and razor burn.