As with shaving any body hair, shaving your arms is simply an aesthetic preference much like growing a mustache or cutting bangs. There’s no health benefit to shaving your arms, though some people may choose to do so because they like the look or feel of smooth arms.
If you’re thinking about shaving your arms, it’s a good idea to know the potential benefits, risks, and best methods for shaving to avoid razor burn, nicks, and skin irritation.
Contrary to popular belief, hair does not grow back thicker once it’s been shaved. The color, coarseness, and speed of growth aren’t affected by shaving.
It’s possible that it may feel more coarse, because shaving gives the hair a straight, blunt edge (what you probably think of as stubble) but the hair itself hasn’t changed.
During phases of intense hormonal shifts (puberty or pregnancy, for example) the thickness of hair may change. Androgens, male sex hormones that are found in both sexes during puberty, may cause a change in hair thickness and texture, but the onset of shaving doesn’t change the hair.
If done safely, there’s nothing wrong with shaving your arms.
Some people aren’t bothered by the hair on their arms, and some people prefer how their arms and armpits look hair-free. For those that like the feel of smooth, hairless arms, shaving will be beneficial.
Because hair holds onto moisture, shaving your armpits may result in less sweating, or at least less noticeable sweating (sweat rings on your shirt sleeves, for example).
Shaving may also cut down on the odor associated with sweat. Most hair is porous, meaning it’s able to absorb and hold onto sweat.
But there are plenty of other options besides shaving that can be used to reduce armpit sweat, including antiperspirants and deodorants, and even certain diet changes like drinking more water and limiting alcohol and caffeine.
Shaving arms and armpits (any part of the body, really) can result in unwanted side effects.
Shaving with a dull blade may result in ingrown hairs, razor burn, nicks and cuts, and skin irritation. Additionally, rough patches of skin, such as on the elbow, are especially prone to cuts and nicks from shaving because it’s hard to see and the skin is uneven.
Razor burn can be caused by:
- using an old or clogged blade
- shaving without lubrication (cream or gel)
- shaving too quickly
Ingrown hairs — painful, red bumps on the skin — are caused when a shaved hair grows back into the skin instead of straight out.
Skin irritation may also occur in the form of folliculitis, an inflammation of the hair follicle. It can be caused by many things including:
- wearing tight clothing
- shaving with a dull blade
It usually appears on the skin in a cluster of small, red dots that cause an itching or burning sensation.
Folliculitis caused by shaving may result in keloids, which are dark, raised scars on the skin that are likely to be permanent.
Societally speaking, it’s less common for men to shave their arm or armpit hair, but the benefits and side effects of shaving are the same for both genders.
Men with shaved armpits may notice a
Some men find that having less armpit hair feels airier and less itchy. Men’s hair typically grows faster than women’s hair, so if men do elect to shave their arms, they’ll likely have to do it more often.
There are ways to shave your arms and armpits that will help reduce side effects and make for the smoothest shave possible.
If you’ve never shaved your arms before and the hair there is particularly curly, thick, or coarse, you may consider trimming the hair with scissors and an electric razor before going in with a manual razor blade. This will keep your blade sharp, which is important for a smooth, nick-free shave.
To shave your arms:
- Make sure your arms and armpits are wet and clean (shaving in the shower is a good idea for this reason).
- While not necessary every single time you shave, exfoliating beforehand will help remove dead skin. This will make your arms and armpits feel smoother, and removing dead skin and oil will also help with skin irritation. If you’re shaving regularly, be careful not to over-exfoliate.
- Before using the razor on your skin, be sure your arms are lubricated. A shaving gel or cream is ideal, but lathered soap can work in a pinch.
- First, shave from the wrist up toward the elbow crease. Some people only shave their forearms, but it’s also fine to shave your full arm if you prefer. Put your hand on the shoulder of the same arm (right hand on right shoulder, for example) and using your other hand, shave over the delicate skin of the elbow.
- Armpit hair grows in all different directions, so it’s best to shave the armpits upward, downward, and side-to-side. This will help you achieve the smoothest shave.
Shaving is a quick and easy option for removing body hair, but it has to be done frequently because the process removes hair from the surface of the body and not at the root.
If you’re looking for a more permanent or less time-consuming option (razor blades also get expensive over time) consider these alternate methods for hair removal:
While there are no true health benefits to shaving the arms, some people prefer the look and feel of hair-free arms and others find that having hairless armpits minimizes body odor associated with armpit sweat.
Shaving anywhere on the body, including arms and armpits, comes with the potential for ingrown hairs, razor burn, and skin irritation. If you exfoliate and lubricate the delicate skin of the arms and armpits, you’re less likely to experience irritation associated with shaving.