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We often associate leg shaving woes with beginners, but shaving your legs can be filled with issues no matter how long you’ve been at it. Ingrown hairs, nicks, and razor burn are common, even if you’ve been shaving for decades. “It has always amazed me that men get a lesson in shaving and women are handed a razor and essentially told ‘good luck’,” says Karen Young, founder and CEO of ethical hair-removal brand, Oui The People.
There are a plethora of common shaving no-nos — like dry shaving, using a harsh soap as a shaving cream or that dull, dirty razor you’ve had in the shower for weeks — that we finally need to put to bed for good. These woes are not your fault — we very rarely discuss proper leg shaving technique…until now. And our helpful guide couldn’t have come at a better time, as warmer weather approaches and you break out the best summer dresses — and bikinis, too! — you might find yourself needing to shave with one of the best razors for women, electric shavers for women or even using a bikini trimmer more often.
Are There Side Effects to Shaving Your Legs?
The side effects of shaving legs the wrong way can vary from just a slight irritation to a full-blown infection from bacteria-laden blades.
- Irritation: Itchiness or small bumps can arise often when shaving. This likely occurs from old, dull blades or an irritating formula of shaving cream. When in doubt, switch to a shave cream designed for sensitive skin and use a clean razor. If bumps still occur, take a warm washcloth and soak the area to soothe the hair follicles, then add an unscented, ultra-gentle body lotion on the legs, like Doctor Rogers Restore Body Cream.
- Infection: Old blades are not only wildly ineffective, but they’re also more likely to cause cuts and ingrown hairs. On top of those headaches, the potential bacteria on the used blades can lead to painful and serious infections. Using fresh blades (this means changing them every two weeks or less) and storing your razor outside of the humid, bacteria-growing shower is vital. If you want next-level cleanliness, gently and carefully swipe a cotton pad with rubbing alcohol down the blades after each use to ensure that your razor is clean for your next shave.
- Scarring: Deep nicks and severe razor burn can lead to permanent scars if they go untreated. You can reduce any potential scarring by using a shaving cream or oil, a clean, sharp razor, and treating cuts or burns immediately if they do occur with an antibacterial ointment.
How Long Does It Take to Shave Your Legs?
We’re all busy and hair removal is already unpleasant enough, so why not just speed things along, right? Wrong. Shaving is not something you want to rush, mainly for the safety of your skin, but also rushing usually means large patches of missed leg hairs. “It’s safe to say taking your time is going to be a little easier on your skin — and help you from missing spots,” says Helene Caillate, the general manager of bodycare brand, Flamingo.
How to shave your legs fast? “You absolutely want to take your time, but if you’re in a rush, do what women have been doing since the age of The Golden Girls and shave below the knee only,” says Young.
How often do you have to shave your legs? It’s completely up to you. If you’d like your hair to grow out a bit, wonderful. Want to shave every few days because you love the feeling of smooth, soft legs? Great. It’s entirely your personal preference.
The Products You’ll Need to Shave Your Legs
Gather your supplies before the shower — because, remember, your razor is not hanging out in the shower. The moist, humid environment of the shower is a breeding ground for bacteria on your razor. Have it stored away, then grab it when needed right before your shower. What else do you need? “You only need a razor to shave, though exfoliating ahead of time, using a shave gel during, and moisturizing afterward is going to keep your skin healthiest throughout the process,” says Caillate.
- Body Wash and/or Body Polish: Not only is an exfoliant useful for dead skin cells, but it’s also preventative. “Ingrowns are caused by dead skin cells, so exfoliating ‘cleans up’ your skin barrier and makes it easier for the razor to make a smooth swipe,” says Caillate. Try Dove’s Exfoliating Body Polish, which comes in five scents with a formula that really grips onto the skin, allowing you to massage onto your legs mid-shower.
- Razor: Choose your fighter. Every expert swears by a different type of razor, whether that’s a single blade safety razor or a multi-blade razor, but the one thing they can agree on is to ensure that your razor is clean and sharp. Here are a few razor options that might be perfect for you.
- Safety Razor: The safety razor was created in the late 1880s as a safer option for the everyday user who didn’t want to trek to the barber weekly. It has a satisfying, weighted body that puts the perfect amount of pressure on the skin while shaving. Try Oui The People’s wildly popular The Single — a single-blade razor that Young created after endless searches for a solution to her chronic ingrown hairs and razor burn.The single-bladed razor is great for those with sensitive skin because it minimizes the trauma to the skin, causing far fewer razor burns and ingrown hairs, while still achieving the perfect shave. A safety razor is much more sustainable, too. Instead of throwing away an entire razor or razor blade head, you simply change out the razor blade by unscrewing the handle, separating the two plates, and exchanging the old blade with a new one.
- Multi-Blade Razor: If you prefer multiple-blade razors, whether that’s a three- or four- or five-blade razor, find one with a flexible head that moves so you can avoid nicks around the knees and ankles, like the Billie Razor. It’s beloved for its flawlessly smooth shave via its five nickel-free blades, which are surrounded by an aloe moisturizer to provide a dose of moisture while shaving.
- Shaving Cream: You’ve probably Googled “How to shave your legs without shaving cream” once or twice when you realized you were out of shaving cream. In a pinch, you can use a silky body wash, although conditioner works even better — but nothing can work quite like tapping one of the best shaving creams for women. It creates an easy guide to see where you’ve shaved, plus it softens the hair, allowing for an easier glide. We love Fur’s Shave Cream. If you prefer a more moisturizing shaving cream, try Oui The People’s unique shave-gel-to-milky oil, Sugarcoat. It softens the skin and hair, while also protecting against the razor dragging, the main culprit of razor burn. “One of the many cool elements of our gel-to-milk is that it really melts in your skin, leaving it moisturized post-shower without a lot of residue,” says Young. However, if a traditional foamy shaving cream is more your style, try Curie’s Whipped Body Wash, which is part body wash and part shaving cream. Its velvety, air-like texture has a thick lather, making it perfect for shaving, and it’s packed with a handful of moisturizing oil and antioxidants.
- Body Oil and/or Body Lotion: After the shower, apply a moisturizing cream or oil to shaved areas, says dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon Dr. Heather Rogers. Keeping skin moisturized on a regular basis will prevent ingrown hairs, notes Young.
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How to Shave Your Legs
This is your comprehensive guide on how to shave your legs for beginners and experts alike. For ease, this guide provides instructions specifically for how to shave your legs in the shower (or bath), which is the most ideal format, according to the pros.
Step 1: Exfoliate
“For the best and closest shave, you should exfoliate with a gentle physical body polish first,” says Young. “This lifts dead skin cells from the surface and allows the razor to get super close to the root of the hair.” To expertly shave your legs without getting razor bumps, you’ll want to exfoliate first before shaving, and then exfoliate again a day or two after shaving.
The trick to getting more bang for your buck with any body polish is to apply it on dry skin before hopping in the shower. Once you step in, loiter in the back away from the water, allowing a small number of droplets to wet the skin in order to add some slip while you massage further. Keep adding a tiny amount of water while massaging to achieve a spa-level exfoliating treatment..
Step 2: Keep It Clean
If you’re skipping the exfoliating part, no problem, it’s optional. But make sure you cleanse the body and legs before picking up a razor — that’s a non-negotiable. You want to ensure you have a clean canvas before shaving so that the blades are targeting the hairs and not getting gunked up by the layers of moisturizer and dead skin cells that weren’t removed before shaving.
Grab an effective, non-irritating body cleanser, like the gorgeous Nécessaire Body Wash, which has a bevy of vitamins and oils that will nourish and soothe the skin while cleansing. Apply the gel onto damp skin, but away from the water so you have time to reap the full benefits of the rich lathering soap.
If you’re especially prone to ingrown hairs and don’t have overly sensitive skin, use an exfoliating body wash with salicylic or glycolic acid. The Kosas Good Body Skin wash has exfoliating AHAs and fruit enzymes to unclog pores and fight blemishes.
Step 3: Let Things Get Steamy
“When shaving, be sure to shave at the end of your shower when your skin is warm and soft,” says Dr. Rogers. She recommends warming the skin up for about 10 minutes –– but avoid hot water, as that dries out skin.
Kill time by doing the treatments you always say you’ll do (but never really get around to) –– like the strengthening Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair Deep Conditioning Mask that needs to soak in for at least 10 minutes. And while you’re at it, slather on a face mask, too. Try Pai Resurrection Girl, which has blue tansy and extracts from the resurrection plant (a desert plant packed with hydrating oils) for the deepest moisturizing treatment. This is also a great time to get your razor wet, as many razors are designed to be water-activated, like Flamingo’s Razor, which has shea butter and aloe around the blades for greater protection from irritation.
Step 4: Use A Shaving Cream or Oil
You might be tempted to simply wet your legs and run a razor over them quickly to speed up the process, but shaving cream is a vital aspect of shaving. A shaving cream can add moisturizing properties to the skin, but the slip and slide of a shaving oil or cream is what makes for a successful shave. “Use shaving cream, oil, or a creamy body wash that is very slippery to make it easier for the razor to slide gently over the skin,” says Dr. Rogers. It essentially adds a cushion between your razor and your legs –– and you want a very big cushion between those sharp blades and your skin.
Shaving cream formulas also help you visualize where you’ve been –– literally. “It gives you a visual cue to see where you have and haven’t shaved,” says Caillate.
Step 5: Grab Your Clean Razor
Dr. Rogers advises using a sharp blade and switching out your razor blades regularly. And the American Academy of Dermatology agrees, recommending a new blade after five to seven shaves. If keeping track of timelines isn’t your forte, then a good rule of thumb is to toss your blades after two weeks.
Always inspect your razor after each shower and if the blades appear to have excessive gunk on them before that two-week mark, dispose of the blades immediately. This quality control enables you to get an effective shave every time with fewer passes, nicks and razor burn.
Surprisingly, the shower is the last place you want to store your razor — the humidity is the perfect bacteria-encouraging environment. A cool, dry place away from shower moisture is ideal. A good way to remember to remove your razor from the shower is to clean the blades after each use. Run the blade (or blades) under hot water to remove any shaving oil, shaving cream or errant hairs. If you’d like to ensure the razor is completely bacteria-free, run a cotton pad soaked in rubbing alcohol downwards over the blades. This will remove any trace of oils, germs, and hair, then store it away, so it’s able to dry completely before your next shave.
Step 6: Go Against the Grain
One of the key questions to ask when you’re learning how to shave your legs for the first time is ‘do you shave your legs up or down’ and the answer is (annoyingly), that it depends.
“Shave against the grain,” says Dr. Rogers. “If the hairs grow towards your toes, shave upwards toward your head.” This motion will provide the closest shave possible, although you might want to inspect your hair pattern before hopping in the shower, as some will find their hairs can grow in a few different directions. Just as a cowlick can make hair strands on the scalp grow in different directions, leg hair can naturally form in opposing ways. If that’s the case, carefully change the angle of the razor so you’re still shaving against the grain.
If you have incredibly sensitive skin, try the opposite: shave only in the direction your hair grows (likely down the leg towards your toes). While going against the grain gives a much closer shave, it also increases the risk of irritation and nicks.
Step 7: Shave With Purpose and Form
One thing you were probably not taught when learning how to shave your legs for the first time was proper shaving form. How fast or slow do you move the razor and how hard do you press?
As far as strokes go, slow and steady wins the race. “The best way to shave is probably the most obvious: shave in long, steady strokes,” says Caillate. “You can forget that hack you saw on TikTok: slow and steady is best.”
Young places her right leg on the edge of the bathtub, pumps shaving oil directly onto her legs and shaves upward starting at the ankles, taking extra time around bony areas. She works in long, even strokes up to her knee, and then all around the leg until she’s completed the right leg. Then she repeats the same sequence on her left leg. If you’re shaving above the knee, start on the right leg again, and work in long strokes from the knee to the thigh, then switch to the left leg. If you’re a beginner (or a safety razor beginner), Young encourages shorter strokes until you feel more comfortable shaving.
“Do not push down hard with the razor,” says Dr. Rogers. “This pressure will make it more likely to nick the surface of your skin. It is better to shave the same area 10 times gently than once with too much pressure.” If you’re utilizing a safety razor, they’re designed to naturally put the perfect amount of pressure onto the skin since they’re weighted. You can gently hold onto the razor and move it over the legs without pressing at all.
Step 8: Rinse and Repeat
It may sound tedious, but it’s worth it to rinse your razor in between each shave. “Stop and rinse your blades after every stroke to wash away shave gel and hair,” says Caillate. If you find hairs sticking in the blades, try running the razor directly under the showerhead.
If hairs are jammed in between the blades, you can try patting the razor on a towel to loosen the residue. Some experts like having a glass of hot water on the edge of the shower, so you can dip the razor in, allowing it to instantly dislodge any hairs and oils on the blades. As long as you keep the blades clean in between each stroke, there is no wrong way. Once you’re pleased with your shave, rinse legs clean under cool water.
Step 9: Moisturize Post-Shower
“Post-shave, follow up with an oil or moisturizer, and make sure to maintain moisturized skin daily as it keeps ingrown hairs at bay,” says Young.
According to our pros, applying your body oil or moisturizer to damp skin is best, as it allows more moisture to be sealed in. Basically, you’ll get more bang for your buck.
If you find your legs are still dry, try layering a body lotion and a body oil. Start by massaging your body cream onto damp skin, then top it off with a generous layer of body oil. This pairing allows the lotion to penetrate deeper into skin because the occlusive oil on top provides a hydration barrier, sandwiching your skin in a cocoon of moisture. This process may take a bit longer than your usual moisturizing application, but it’s well worth it.
Try the delightful Osea Undaria Algae Body Oil and Ocean Body Lotion for a deeply nourishing hydration sandwich.
How to Shave Your Legs Without a Razor
If you’re wanting hair-free legs, but you’re not a fan of razors, you’ve got options.
- Waxing: Waxing is not for everyone; do not attempt if you have sensitive skin, aging skin, or use acne treatments on your body. But for those looking for results that last up to four weeks, waxing might be a route worth investigating. Flamingo’s affordable Body Wax Kit is easy to use and also offers tips and tricks to remove even the finest of hairs.
- Electric Trimmer: If your hair runs more coarse or thick, consider using one of the best electric razors for women, or trimmer. These ultra-gentle tools allow you to safely shave off hair while avoiding ingrowns and razor burn. Although it won’t provide as smooth of a shave as a traditional razor, it’s still a great way to quickly remove leg hair. Try Meridian’s The Trimmer, which provides a foolproof and nick-free experience.
- Hair Removal Device: Laser hair removal is a solid option for those looking for a more permanent solution and are willing to invest a bit of money (usually in the $1000 ballpark). There are also at-home devices, like Currentbody’s Jovs Venus Pro, which is the first tool of its kind to remove unwanted hair while also boosting collagen within the skin. A single hand-held device can provide a lifetime of treatment. This IPL device can treat the legs pain-free in about 15 minutes and comes with six treatment attachments for each part of your body. Most users start to notice a reduction in hair growth around six weeks.
Meet the Experts
- Dr. Heather Rogers is a Seattle-based dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. She’s also the founder and CEO of her eponymous multi-purpose brand Doctor Rogers Restore. The line is beloved for its ability to soothe and hydrate even the most sensitive of skin, and the Restore Healing Balm ointment is especially brilliant, which can alleviate irritation, eczema, cuts, and burns.
- Karen Young is the CEO and founder of Oui The People. Founded in 2015, the brand has become one of the most searched Black-owned beauty brands and has gained a cult following for its stainless-steel rose gold safety razor. Young is a former Estée Lauder executive and one of under 100 Black women to raise over $1M in venture funding.
- Helene Caillate is the general manager of Flamingo, an award-winning body care brand focused on uncomplicated, highly-effective products. They’ve sold 7 million razors since 2018, and they set aside one percent of all sales to support nonprofits focused on improving physical, emotional, and mental health.
Meet the Author
Kristin Limoges is a New York-based beauty and wellness freelance editor. Previously, she created the beauty and wellness vertical for Domino Magazine where she served as the lifestyle editor for both print and digital content. In addition to all things beauty, she also covers travel and fitness. She can usually be found hair masking, face masking, and body masking simultaneously in her Chinatown apartment.