After what felt like the longest winter in history, we thought this day would never come: It’s finally leg-baring season. What better time to master the art of the perfect shave?
If you, too, have suffered from nicks, razor burns, and ingrown hairs in your quest for silky gams, help is on the way. You’re probably committing some shaving faux pas that can easily be corrected with just a few tweaks.
So, can you borrow your boyfriend’s razor? And is it okay to use soap in a pinch? We have answers to those burning questions and more. Here, find six common mistakes you might be making when shaving your legs.
1. Using hot water. “Hot water mixed with harsh soaps or scrubs strips your skin of its essential oils, leaving it tight, dry, itchy and more prone to nicks and razor burns,” NYC dermatologist Dr. Marnie Nussbaum tells InStyle. Before shaving, soak your legs in warm water for five minutes instead. “It will open the pores and soften the hair for easy removal,” she says.
2. Skipping the shaving cream. Always lather up with a moisturizing shaving cream, unless you’re using a two-in-one razor with a built-in gel bar (like Gillette’s Venus Razor, $13; drugstore.com). Doing so will help you get a closer shave and eliminate skin irritation. Plus, Nussbaum points out, “it also allows you to see where you have already shaved so you won’t repeatedly go over the same area causing inflammation.” We recommend Aveeno’s Positively Smooth Shave Gel ($4; drugstore.com), one of this year’s Best Beauty Buys picks. It’s loaded with soy, which is said to reduce the growth of hair overtime.
So, no, your bar soap won’t cut it. “Traditional soap bars can have a pH of up to 9, leaving skin with a dry, tight feeling,” says Nussbaum. When your pH balances rise, your skin will be more susceptible to things like razor burns and bumps.
3. Not exfoliating. Those annoying ingrown hairs you sometimes get can be avoided with regular exfoliation. We recommend massaging your legs with Dermadoctor’s KP Duty Body Scrub ($46; sephora.com) twice a week. It will slough off dry skin flakes and work wonders on those who suffer from keratosis pilaris (or small red bumps on the skin).
4. Using a single-blade razor. The more blades you can count, the better. “Using a razor with more blades actually minimizes cuts as the blades are spaced closer together giving a smoother glide and closer shave,” she says. One disposable option we love is Schick’s Hydro Silk Razor ($14; drugstore.com), which has five blades and a moisturizing serum to keep your legs feeling hydrated even hours after shaving.
Just know when to toss it. “A dull blade can cause razor burn, as can pushing down too forcefully on the skin,” she adds. Be sure to use small strokes.
5. Borrowing from the boys. Though stealing his shaving cream is fine (we actually love Van Der Hagen’s Shave Butter, $6; drugstore.com, which is seriously moisturizing and smells amazing), using his razor won’t be as effective. “While they have similar blades, women’s razors usually have a curvier face to allow gliding over curves,” she says. “They also tend to have more moisturizing strips and a slip free handle to avoid cuts.”
6. Not moisturizing afterwards. “It’s imperative to pat the skin dry and apply a calming, skin protective lotion to lock in moisture and support skin’s barrier function (which keeps water in while keeping irritants out),” she says. “I recommend Sebamed Moisturizing Body Lotion ($17; target.com) to my clients—its glycerin component makes it ideal for those with sensitive skin, and it will prevent skin dryness and evaporation while balancing skin’s pH to the ideal pH of 5.5.”