Shaving your face can help clean up and brighten your skin, making it easier to apply makeup. But it could also cause damage and lead to ingrown hairs. It’s also good to see a doctor to rule out a medical cause for your facial hair.
Legend has it that some of history’s most beautiful women, including Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, shaved their faces. While this can’t be substantiated, many of today’s beauties are open about the benefits of shaving.
Every woman has facial hair. There are two types, vellus hair and terminal hair.
Vellus hair is the near-invisible peach fuzz that covers much of your face and body. Its role is to regulate temperature and evaporate sweat.
Vellus hair is very fine and translucent. If you scrutinize your face, especially in bright sunlight, you may be able to see vellus hair on your cheeks, forehead, upper and lower lips, neck, chin, and side burn area.
Terminal hair is darker and thicker. Some women have terminal hair along their upper and lower lips, sideburns, neck, and chin.
Facial shaving can be used to remove both vellus and terminal hair.
We go over the pros and cons of facial shaving for women, plus provide info on terminal hair growth and the conditions which might cause it.
In addition to removing hair, facial shaving can also be used as a mechanical (physical) exfoliator to remove dead skin cells. This can be a “pro” for some woman, but a “con” for others.
Sensitive skin, or skin that has red, irritated patches for any reason, may also not respond well to shaving.
If your skin is clear and can handle exfoliation, there are definite pros — but also potential cons — to shaving:
Pros of face shaving for women
- Clean canvas. Shaving your face removes hair, debris, excess oil, and dead skin cells, which can brighten the look of skin. This helps makeup go on smoothly and last longer.
- Self-confidence. Some people are self-conscious about facial hair. If you’ll feel more confident and better about your appearance by shaving, it probably makes sense for you to do so.
Cons of face shaving for women
- Five o’clock shadow. If you’re shaving to remove terminal hair, you may need to shave more often in order to keep it in check. If you have a lot of dark hair, you may see a shadow under the skin after shaving.
- Ingrown hairs. Shaving off vellus hairs will not cause ingrown hairs, but shaving terminal hair can cause these painful bumps to erupt.
- Damage to skin. Shaving carries the risk of nicks and cuts that may bleed and sting. Shaving can also cause razor burn.
- Dryness and itching. If you have dry skin, shaving may dry it out further and feel uncomfortable. It may also cause flaking and itching. Moisturizing immediately afterward should help you to avoid this “con.”
Shaving blunts the edges of hair, making it feel stubbly and coarse. This may create the illusion that hair has become darker or thicker.
Shaving facial hair, however, doesn’t thicken it or change its color. It may make terminal hairs feel harder to the touch, until they grow out completely.
Facial shaving for women should be done differently than facial shaving for men. It also differs from the way you shave your legs and underarms.
To effectively shave your face:
- Clean your skin first and dry it completely. Facial shaving is typically done on naked skin, without shaving cream or product of any kind. Some women may find dry shaving irritating to their skin. If you do, you can use shaving gel, moisturizing lotion, or cream on your face before shaving.
- Use a straight edge, single-blade razor designed specifically for women’s facial shaving. These products are sometimes referred to as eyebrow shaving razors or dermaplaning tools.
- To avoid nicking or irritating your skin, never use a dull razor.
- When shaving, hold the skin taut with one hand. Hold the razor at a 45-degree angle and gently graze the skin with short, light strokes, while applying as little pressure as possible. Always shave with the hair’s grain rather than against it.
- Rinse the razor after each stroke.
- Don’t shave near your eyes unless you’re completely confident in your ability with the razor.
- After shaving, rinse your face and moisturize immediately.
Other ways of removing facial hair include:
Unlike shaving which removes hair at the skin’s surface, waxing removes hair from underneath the skin, at the root.
It lasts longer than shaving, but carries some of the same risks — such as causing ingrown hairs and skin irritation.
Waxing can be done at home, or in a salon by a professional. It can be uncomfortable or even painful for some people.
For waxing to work, hair has to be at least 1/4-inch long or else the wax can’t grip it. If you have obvious terminal hair that you’re self-conscious about, this may make waxing challenging to use on the face.
Laser hair removal
Laser hair removal is a long-lasting, semi-permanent solution for facial hair removal. It must be done by a professional, such as a dermatologist or licensed esthetician.
Laser hair removal can be expensive, but may provide many hair-free years for women with terminal facial hair, making it worth the expense for some.
Laser hair removal works by absorption of the laser within the hair’s follicle. The pigment in hair attracts the laser beam to it, which is why it’s most effective in people with hair that’s darker than their skin.
Since vellus hair is lightly pigmented and translucent, it can’t be removed by laser.
Excess or dark facial hair can sometimes be the result of genetics. For example, certain ethnicities may include women that have more facial hair than others.
Medical issues and hormonal irregularities can also cause an overgrowth of facial hair to occur in women. These include:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal condition that’s earmarked by insulin resistance. Women with this condition often have more facial and body hair than they would like. PCOS can also cause irregular menstrual cycle, infertility, acne, weight gain, and hair loss.
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). CAH is a group of inherited disorders that affect the adrenal glands, altering production of two hormones, cortisol and aldosterone.
- Cushing’s syndrome. Cushing’s syndrome is caused by too-high levels of cortisol.
- Menopause. Perimenopausal and menopausal women may see new hair growth on their chin, upper lip, ears, and sideburns. This is caused by hormonal changes, including a reduction in estrogen.
If you have more than your fair share of facial hair, talking to your doctor may help provide additional insight and possibly medical solutions that will help alleviate the problem.
Facial shaving in women is more common than you might think. It’s done to remove vellus and terminal hairs from the cheeks, chin, upper lip, and side burn areas.
Facial shaving also provides mechanical exfoliation, which can help skin look brighter and cleaner.
In order to shave your face effectively, you should use a tool designed specifically for this purpose.
If you have excess, dark hair on your face, there may be a medical or genetic reason behind it. In these instances, seeing your doctor may help to provide long-lasting solutions.