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Can’t remember the last time you changed your razor blade? No judgment here.

Most people have probably shaved with a razor that sat unchanged for longer than they care to admit.

But no matter what body part you’re removing hair from, the key to getting a close shave lies in a sharp blade. And over time, razor blades can get dull, not to mention a little nasty. An old, dull blade could rob you of a smooth shave and potentially set you up for nicks and even infection.

Below, get the details on how often to change razor blades for a smoother, safer shave — whether you’re shaving your head, legs, or anything in between.

It actually depends on a few variables, according to Jessie Cheung, MD, a board certified dermatologist and founder of Cheung Aesthetics & Wellness.

“The quality of your blade and the amount and thickness of hair will all contribute to how quickly your blade dulls. If your razor sits in the shower, it will also rust and collect more bacteria. So, try to switch out your razor at least after every 5-7 shaves, but sooner if you see buildup that doesn’t rinse clean,” says Cheung.

Even if you lose track of the days or the number of shaves, some telltale signs can help you recognize when a blade change is in order.

Your razor doesn’t ‘glide’ over your skin anymore

You know how a fresh-from-the-pack blade glides over your skin with ease? That’s the feel of a sharp blade effortlessly cutting through hair.

As the blade begins to dull, the razor won’t cut through your hair as easily. Instead, you’ll begin to feel it dragging along your skin, even tugging at times.

You won’t get as close a shave

A clean, close shave leaves your skin feeling baby-smooth, even if you have hair that’s thicker and coarse AF.

With a dull blade, your skin won’t feel as smooth and you may be able to feel and see the stubble it leaves behind.

You get more ingrown hairs

Shaving with a dull or damaged razor blade can irritate your skin, causing razor burn and upping the risk of ingrown hairs or “razor bumps.”

These happen when a hair grows into your skin after shaving or another method of hair removal.

Razor burn and bumps can happen on any part of the body you shave. That goes for the usuals, like the face and legs, to the less-discussed spots like the balls and butt.

If you notice redness, irritation, and bumps on your skin after shaving, it’s time to change your blade.

It’s started to rust

If you see rust, it’s definitely time to replace your razor blade.

Contrary to popular belief, a rusty razor won’t give you tetanus, even if you cut yourself with it. Rust itself doesn’t cause tetanus — bacteria called Clostridium tetani does. This type of bacteria lives in organic matter, like dead leaves and soil.

That said, if your razor has sat in a wet environment long enough to rust, it could very well have bacteria on it that could cause infection if introduced into your body while shaving.

The blade is damaged

Shaving with a damaged blade is a cut waiting to happen.

If your razor blade has obvious signs of damage, like dents or jagged edges, you’ll want to replace it right away.

If you don’t change your razor blades, they become dull, and they may begin to rust.

As mentioned above, both dulled and rusted blades can increase your chances of experiencing skin irritation, razor burn, and ingrown hairs.

If you nick yourself, you also face also a higher risk of infection, due to the buildup of bacteria over time.

In short, old blades will more than likely lead to an unpleasant post-shave experience.

The cost of razor blades can add up, especially if you’re swapping them out every few shaves.

But you can take a few steps to make your razor last longer:

  • Avoid putting unnecessary mileage on your razor blade by trimming long hairs before you shave.
  • Take some of the stress off the blade when you shave by softening hair and skin beforehand by soaking first or applying a hot, damp towel, then using shaving cream or balm.
  • Rinse the razor every few passes to remove hair, dead skin, and other gunk as you shave.
  • When you finish shaving, rinse your razor thoroughly and gently pat it dry.
  • Store it in a cool, dry place to keep bacteria and rust at bay.

The way you change a razor blade varies depending on the type of razor.

But no matter what kind of razor you have, keep in mind that safety always comes first.

To change your razor blades safely:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which typically come included with your razor and blades.
  • Never grasp the blade or cartridge on the sharp edge. Hold it by the dull, covered edge or the plastic sides of the cartridge.
  • To prevent slipping, always dry your hands and the device before you change the blade.
  • For safe disposal, replace the cap on the used razor or put the used blade in a puncture-proof container.

Not to state the obvious unnecessarily, but razor blades are sharp, and accidents can happen.

It never hurts to keep a few safety tips in mind:

  • Inspect your blade before use to make sure it’s not damaged or clogged.
  • Use minimal pressure and short strokes to reduce your risk of cuts.
  • Avoid shaving against the grain to minimize the risk of razor burn and bumps.
  • Apply pressure to cuts with a clean cloth or tissue to stop the bleeding.
  • Pull skin taut with one hand to create a smooth surface, especially when shaving over skin folds or areas of loose or uneven skin, like your genitals.
  • Always keep razor blades out of reach of children and pets.
  • Put the safety cap back on disposable razors and cartridges after use.
  • Dispose of razor blades and disposable razors with the blade portion covered with a puncture-proof cap or container.

Aiming to change your razor blades every 5 to 7 shaves is a good guideline to follow for a smooth, safe shave.

That said, taking good care of your razor blades may get you an extra couple of shaves out of your razor.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.