If you experience red bumps on your legs or underarms after shaving, you’re hardly alone. Also known as folliculitis or razor burn, these bumps are the result of irritation around the hair follicle and typically appear right after shaving or as the hair grows back. They can also be a sign that there’s too much friction between your razor and your skin. Regardless of why you’re feeling the burn, though, you can soothe your skin with a few quick changes to your shaving routine.
Skip The Morning Shave
Showering is a great way to wake up in the morning, but if you’re hoping to avoid skin irritation, skip the AM shave. It may seem counterintuitive, but our legs swell slightly in our sleep, meaning hair retreats into the follicles overnight. That’s why, when you shave in the morning, you’re already seeing stubble by mid-day. Instead, shave at night when leg swelling is at its lowest to get the smoothest shave to minimize irritation.
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Ditch Those Cartridges
When you want a smooth shave, your first instinct is probably to grab a new cartridge for your razor; sharper blades equal smoother skin, right? Theoretically, yes, but multi-blade cartridge razors actually aren’t doing your legs and underarms any favors. No, for a smooth, irritation-free shave, what you need is a safety razor.
Standard, multi-blade cartridge razors cut some hair and pull on others as the layers move across the skin, which can worsen razor burn. Safety razors, though, use a single sharp blade to cut hairs evenly, reducing ingrown hairs and irritation. And, as a bonus, safety razors are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than their cartridge-based competitors.
Check Your Direction
Yes, there is a right direction for shaving – and right now you’re probably going in the wrong direction. Most women begin by shaving up their legs, but leg hair typically grows downward. When you start your shave, shave in the direction your hair grows first. This will give you a closer shave with less irritation, and if you need to go in for a second pass, then you can shave in the opposite direction to catch any stray hairs.
Perhaps the most basic rule of shaving is ‘never shave dry.’ But what should you be using to lubricate your skin? Ideally, you want a combination approach. First, moisten your legs with warm water to soften the skin; ideally, you want to wait until the end of your shower to shave so that your skin has plenty of time to warm and soften under the spray. Then, use shaving cream, lotion, or soap to create a slick lather between your blade and your skin. Another basic rule – don’t use bar soap. Bar soap dries out your skin and can actually increase irritation.
Don’t forget to keep the skin hydrated after your finish shaving for optimal results. Since sun can be irritating to freshly shaved skin, be sure to apply a moisturizer with SPF to your legs to prevent skin damage from UVA and UVB rays. And while you’re at it, slap that SPF moisturizer on the rest of your skin for whole body protection. It’s a good habit to establish.
Shaving irritation may be normal, but it doesn’t have to be a constant complaint. These four strategies will leave you with smooth, clear skin for days, with less effort. Goodbye, folliculitis – smooth legs are here to stay.
Images by Danilo Pavlovic for Design SCENE