For many people, shaving their legs is just part of their routine — and, unfortunately, so is putting up with bumps as well as red, irritated skin afterward.
And, in pursuit of the perfect shave, who among us hasn't felt the sting of razor burn, razor bumps or ingrown hairs? But with some simple tips, you can avoid common shaving issues like these, dermatologists told TODAY.
The hair on your skin grows out of hair follicles, explained Dr. Emily Newsom, a board-certified dermatologist at UCLA Health. "And when you shave over them, there can be some inflammation to those follicles," she said. This irritation, also called folliculitis, is what leads to those post-shave bumps.
Ingrown hairs pop up because, after shaving, your hair might curl back into the skin, Dr. Shari Lipner, associate professor of clinical dermatology at the Weill Cornell Medical Center, told TODAY. And razor burn is often the result of using a too-dull blade, she said.
So, thankfully, getting smooth skin without bumps and burns may be as easy as building up healthier shaving habits.
First, prep with warm water.
Before you get out the razor, it's important to prep your hair with warm water to help soften it. You can do that with a wet washcloth or just with water in the shower, Lipner said.
"The point of that is to rid the skin and the hair of oil and dead skin cells that can clog your razor blade and cause cuts in the skin," she explained.
Apply gentle shaving products.
In general, experts recommended using gentler shaving creams and gels. And, if you know you're prone to contact dermatitis (or you tend to have dry or sensitive skin), opt for fragrance-free products, Lipner said.
Before shaving, Lipner recommended letting that product sit on the skin for two to three minutes for "more softening of the hairs so that it's easier to shave and you get less irritation."
If you find that you get razor bumps frequently, you can also look for soothing ingredients in a shaving cream, like oatmeal, Newsom said. Aloe could be another great skin-calming ingredient, Lipner added.
Shave in the direction that your hair grows.
Shaving along the direction that your hair grows (meaning with the grain) will help minimize razor burn and bumps, Lipner said.
"If you're going against the grain, you're going to get a closer shave but it could be more irritating," Newsom explained.
Rinse your razor after every swipe.
You should rinse your razor after every swipe to minimize the chances for irritation, Lipner said. "I know that can be a lot to do, but you really do want to clean out the hairs," she said.
Apply a soothing body moisturizer after shaving your skin — especially if you've just showered.
And if you tend to get razor bumps or other irritation frequently after shaving, Newsom suggested using an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream afterward. "It's a mild steroid, so it helps with that inflammation," she said. (For more severe cases, dermatologists may prescribe topical antibiotics, Lipner said.)
Replace your razor regularly.
In general, you should replace your razor or change the blades after five to seven shaves, the American Academy of Dermatology says. So, if you're shaving every day, you shouldn't use a razor for more than a week, Lipner noted.
And if you're not sure if it's time to replace your razor, your body will let you know. "You can't see this visually on the razor, but you'll be able to see it on your skin," Lipner said. If you notice redness or bumps after shaving, that's a sign that your razor may be too dull and it's time to get a new one.
But it's better to replace the razor before that happens, Lipner added.
Consider other hair removal methods if...
These tips can make it much easier to shave your legs without getting razor bumps or irritation. But some people are simply more prone to shaving issues and may find it easier (or simply more convenient) to use other techniques, Newsom explained.
If you’re really having trouble with shaving and you’ve tried these tips and you’ve perfected your technique, it’s time to consider other methods of hair removal, Lipner said.
That could include using a chemical depilatory, which dissolves hair, or laser hair removal or electrolysis, Newsom explained. So, if you think you might benefit from using a different type of hair removal technique, chat with your dermatologist about the other options.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com