Shaving is a personal choice. It is not necessary for anyone to shave (there's no medical evidence saying it's proper or more sanitary). However, many people remove hair from their bodies -- for comfort, aesthetics, fun, or sexual, cultural, or religious reasons. Hair removal has a long history. It did not (contrary to several rumors I've heard floating around) originate in America or with prostitutes.
I shave it all off, and have been doing so for years. When I wrote an entry on this subject in my now extinct journal, it was the third most popular of my hundreds of entries, and so I thought I'd make a little article on the how-tos and wherefores of shaving for my webpage. I suppose it says something about the internet that this remains the most popular of all my pages. };=8}
We have body hair for a few reasons. Most of it, such as on the legs, is left-over from when we were hairy ape-things. The hair on our armpits and crotch serves two purposes; catching pheremones (thus being sexually appealing to other hairy ape-things) and to reduce friction when we're running on all fours.
Don't share your razors -- this can spread skin infections.
Tools for Shaving
- Razor, either quality regular kind with disposable heads, or an electric razor
- Shaving lotion, gel, or foam
- Warm water -- body shaving is best done in the shower or bath
Optional, but recommended:
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Choosing a Razor
In all cases, go for quality, not the best bargain -- you'll pay for using cheap razors with razor burn, irritation, soreness and nicks.
If you're going to shave regularly, invest in an electric razor if at all possible.
Choose a reputable brand, like Braun or Remington. Except for male facial shaving or shaving your head, get the kind with the blades behind a perforated foil, not the rotary kind with three rotating circles. There are all sorts of doohickeys to choose from, like pop-up trimmers or adjustable heads. Look around and find what's best for your uses!
If you plan on using it in the shower or bath, make sure they're made to be used there, waterproofed and so on, so you don't electrocute yourself!
If possible, get one that you can use along with shaving gel/cream/foam. I use a Panasonic Wet/Dry Smooth Operator ladies shaver, and like it a lot.
Nicks and cuts are no fun. They sting, they scar, they're ugly, and they make shaving next time harder. With an electric razor you don't have to deal with that, and in the long run it's cheaper (although expect an initial cost of over $30, and possibly up to $200, depending).
If you go with a conventional razor, again, go for quality. If possible, get the ones with moisturizing strips and "micro-fins" or cushions and other doodads. They really do help in terms of extra protection. Replace the disposable blade often. Using a conventional razor, remember to go slow and be extra careful to follow tips.
A straight razor is *not* recommended for shaving your body hair!
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How much should you shave?
Whatever you want to. It's most important that you shave for yourself -- you're the one that has to live with it, and you are the one who needs to be happy with the results. Some people only shave their armpits, or only shave their bikini area for summer, when they're going swimming. One friend of mine doesn't shave her legs in the winter, on the pretense of "growing her winter fur". :> Others go shaggy year round, which can be liberating and sure takes a lot less time. Some shave all of their pubic hair, others leave a small patch. It's up to you. You can even shave things into your hair if so inclined. ;) I shave my leg, pubic and armpit hair off, year round.
You probably shouldn't shave your arms. It is an old wives tale that shaving stimulates the folicle and causes it to grow back coarser, but when your hair is growing back, it will be stubbly and rough. If you have hair on your arms that you can't stand, you may want to try another method of hair removal, or bleach it. Shaving is also not appropriate for women's faces.
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Alternatives to Shaving
- Bleaching -- An alternative to hair removal, lasts about two or three weeks. Lightens the hair closer to skin tone, so that it is harder to see. (One should use a bleach specifically meant for body hair.)
- Waxing -- It can hurt, particularly when one is new to the method, but leaves the area pretty smooth, and lasts one to six weeks, depending on the person.
- Depilatory Creams and Lotions -- Leaves area smooth and doesn't stimulate hair follicles. I used to use Nair but it took far longer than the recommended amount of time to remove hair to my liking and was expensive. Lasts about a week.
- Electrolysis -- Usually done by a professional, but there are home systems as well. It may take a long time, usually a minimum of six treatments before the job is done. It is probably the most popular choice for permanent hair removal. One hair is removed at a time.
- Epilators -- A machine that yanks the hair out, roots and all. Lasts one to six weeks.
- Lasers -- Extremely fast, and usually less pain than with electrolysis. Effects are long lasting and may be permanent after several sessions. One must avoid sunlight while healing.
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Before you shave:
Use a sharp blade. Replace worn parts as necessary. Dull blades will pull hair, increases risk of ingrown hairs, and just don't do the job. Electric shavers should come with instructions on how often to replace parts. A good rule of thumb for disposable razors is you should not need to use any pressure -- if you do, replace it.
If the hair is very long (never been shaved before) you may want to clip it, with scissors, first.
Soak in warm water first for at least three minutes. This is especially important for coarser pubic and armpit hair. Warm water softens the hair, opens the hair follicle and relaxes the skin. Wet hair reduces wear on the blade and stands up easier.
If you are using a regular razor blade or an electric razor that allows you to use shaving gel, apply it and let it sit for at least four minutes. This helps soften the hair more, locks moisture into the hair, helps keep the hair erect, reduces friction and conditions the skin. You should always use some sort of foamy stuff meant for shaving. Otherwise you may get razor burn (red raw skin, irritation, or bumps). Thicker is better protection for your skin.
You can use hair conditioner to help soften the hair first if it's especially coarse. Just let it sit for a while, then rinse thoroughly.
Avoid shaving when you first get up after sleeping. Body fluids make the skin more puffy. After 20 to 30 minutes the skin becomes more taut and the hair shaft more exposed.
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Pull the skin straight and taut with one hand, and shave with the other. Do not apply pressure with the razor (if you need to, it means your razor is too dull).
Disposable razors usually instruct you to shave in the direction of the hair growth, but I find I get a much closer shave if I shave in the opposite direction. If you do choose to shave against the hair growth, be sure you've taken the time to soak and are using shaving cream or gel. Otherwise you risk ingrown hairs and razor burn. If you use an electric razors, they may have different instructions for which way to shave; the one I use recommends shaving back and forth over an area. The risk of ingrown hairs varies from person to person. Some people should never shave except in the direction of the hair growth.
Long upward strokes are best on legs. Short side to side and up and down strokes may be necessary on the underarm, where hair grows all directions. Shave upwards on the pubic area.
Rinse the blade often. Hairs on the blade will interfere with shaving.
Make sure there's still shaving foam wherever you're shaving.
Don't go over an area repeatedly, as this can cause irritation. For a stray hair you can't catch, use a pop-up trimmer, or tweezers. Be especially careful of repeat strokes in sensitive areas such as the bikini line.
Go slowly, especially if you're using a disposable razor. If you go to quickly, you may cut yourself, miss hairs or cause razor burn. Be careful of boney areas like the ankle.
If you're shaving more than one area of the body, apply shaving gel to all areas, and then start shaving the finest hair first (usually the legs or belly). That allows the shaving gel to sit on the coarser hair longer.
A good angle between a disposable razor and the skin is about 30 degrees. Electric razors should come with hints; many are best at a 45 degree angle.
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Use dry skin lotion regularly on areas you've shaved. It will help reduce irritation, itching, and soften the skin and hair follicles. It will reduce the discomfort caused by "stubble" in between shaves, as well.
A reader wrote me, noting that dry skin lotion actually irritated his skin slightly, possibly due to perfumes. He recommended, instead, using baby oil. He said he had no more itchies, no more irritation, and the hair seemed softer the next time. He recommends using baby oil every time one showers or bathes. I have yet to try this, but I certainly will, and then I'll post my own experiences.
People often find they itch after shaving their pubic area the first couple times (or when they start doing so again for the summer). The itching will go away if you keep shaving, particularly if you shave often, as stubble is one major cause of itch. Other people find the itching is pretty persistent. Here are some anti-itch tips:
Also, I should note that the lotion I use is Udderly Smooth Udder Cream. Yep, it was originally meant to moisturize cow udders. Because of that, the ingredients are extremely simple, with no perfumes or dyes added. I use it for all my dry skin problems, and when shaving. It's great for sensitive skin (or areas), and I've had no problems in terms of irritation.
There are also specially made "bikini line" lotions and creams available, but they may be very expensive.
Ingrown hairs are when the growing hair curls up under the skin instead of growing out like it should. It results in an often painful red bump and possible infections. Sometimes the hair can be freed with a needle or tweezers, although treatment with a strong exfoliating chemical like salicylic acid may be necessary. Scrubbing your skin with a loofa or mesh sponge in the shower will help reduce ingrown hairs or infections.
Don't apply deodorants, anti-perspirants or perfumes to skin right after shaving. Follow this basic rule: If it stings or hurts, you shouldn't be using it.
Splashing the skin with cold water afterwards helps tone the skin, removes soap and lather, and helps stop any bleeding.
- Cool the itchy area with a cold wash cloth. It can be laid over the area, or used to pat the irritated skin.
- Rub the area with an ice cube.
- Apply a clear, unscented Vitamin E oil or baby oil.
- Apply an over-the-counter cortizone anti-itch cream (this may help with razor burn and little red bumps as well).
- Dust with baby powder.
- Use loofah or an exfoliating mitt, or various exfoliating scrubs available (Apricot Scrub being one of the most common).
- Apply cool, pure, unscented and undyed aloe vera gel.
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You'll probably need to shave every one to four days. Everyone's hair grows at different rates and people have different tolerance levels for new growth.
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Shaving Your Pubic Area
This is probably the part of this page most people are here for. Mainly, this is because in general we're taught by someone in our lives how to shave our legs, under our arms, or our faces, but who do we ask to learn about shaving our pubic hair?
Are we supposed to shave our pubic hair? Is it perverted or strange? It's not weird, and it's not (necessarily) kinky. Lots of people do it, both men and women. Shaving "down there" has been practiced along with shaving other body parts since ancient times, in Rome, the Middle East, Japan, China, India and North Africa.
One may do it for aesthetic reasons, or to feel "fresher". Some people find it more attractive or simply more convenient. No more owchies from getting a hair stuck to a pantyliner, or tangled around someone's tongue ring. *blush* No more stray curly hairs peeking out from revealing clothing or bathing suits. Pubic hair isn't firmly rooted and it may make certain activities more comfortable or easier, instead of getting a mouthful of hair. Bacteria and other odor-causing stuff won't get caught in the hair if you don't have any.
There are cons to take into consideration, as well. Some people find shaved pubic areas attractive, others find it a turn off. Do what *you* want and what is comfortable for *you*, but you may also want to discuss the subject with your partner. Other cons include upkeep (you'll need to shave every few days to keep it bare), itchiness (check out hints for dealing with itch) and the care needed to shave such a sensitive area.
What will your gyn/doctor think? Believe me, they've seen everything. If you're worried, you can casually say, before dropping your pants, "Oh, by the way, I shave my pubic area," so they won't be surprised. They most likely won't anyway. In some cases, it may be easier for them if you're shaved.
Do I shave all of it? Some people do, some people don't. Some men shave all of it, including hairs on the penis and scrotum, others only shave above the penis, over the pelvic bone and lower abdomen. Some women shave all of it, while others shave around the vulva and bikini line but leave a strip or triangle covering the front of their mons veneris (that's the part that shows when a woman is standing up with her legs together). Others merely trim their hair short, but don't shave, and some shave patterns or images into their pubic hair.
You may find yourself getting a bit more aquainted with your genital region. Don't be surprised about finding hair you didn't know existed, or in "weird places", like your buttocks, or in the case of women, on the outer edges of the labia. This is all normal, don't worry. :)
When using lotions and gels and other skin products in your genital area, remember they're for external use only, and be careful to use non-irritating, pure and simple ones.
First, follow all the general tips for before, the basics of shaving, and aftercare Also, keep in mind the following pubic area specific hints!
GO SLOW! Be really careful not to cut or nick yourself.
Snip a bit first! Cut the hair down with scissors or clippers to about a quarter of an inch. If this is the first time you've shaved, or the first time in a long while and you are dealing with full growth again, you can do this a few days before you actually start shaving to get used to it. If you've never shaved your pubic hair before, then your skin has been covered by that hair for a very long time. The sensation of clothes and so on rubbing against it is going to be weird at first.
The first time you shave your pubic area, you may want to shave only a bit, then come back and do more later. This is sensitive skin we're dealing with here. Also, don't shave very often at first. Once a week for the first month is probably best, so your skin can get used to it.
Don't worry about getting an extremely close shave the first few times; you'll get a closer one as you become more adept.
If you're female, your pubic area may become more sensitive during your period.
Some people like to leave a patch of pubic hair above their penis or over the mons veneris. It may sound ridiculous, but an electric beard and moustache trimmer is perfect for keeping the patch neat. It's an extremely easy way to keep that patch short, even, and neat. In fact, if you want to keep all your pubic hair trimmed but not shaven, the trimmer can be used on the entire area.
While shaving, sit (or lie if someone else is doing the shaving) with your legs far apart. This helps keep the skin taut and lessens the chance of the blade snagging a fold of skin.
If you have teeny little nicks or blood spots, there are a couple reasons why this might be happening. The most common reason is you're going to fast. Either you're shaving too quickly, or you're not allowing enough prep time. Remember:
Little blood spots are often the result of shaving over tiny bumps that are naturally there. Soaking and leaving the gel on helps make these bumps softer and smaller so that they're less likely to get nicked. The bumps also may be a result of irritation from a past shave. If this is the case, stop and wait a while before the next shave.
When you first start shaving, or if irritation or itchiness is a problem, wear loose underwear and clothing.
Always remember to keep clean. Your genital hair helped protect from dirt, bacteria, friction and so on, so it's important to take care of yourself. Use soap and water on your outside bits -- your inside parts will keep themselves clean naturally.
- Soak the area for at least three minutes in warm water. If you're not going to take a shower or bath, lay a warm wet washcloth over the area for a while first.
- Apply shaving gel and let it sit for at least four minutes.
- Take your time shaving.
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Shaving Your Head
I don't shave my head. I have it buzzed with clippers sans guard, but do not shave bald with a razor, though I've thought about it. I do have friends who've gone bald, and I think it's pretty neat!
Essentially the tips are the same as above, and here are a few specific to head hair.
If you're starting with a full head of hair, it will be necessary to start by buzzing your hair with clippers before you get to the actual shaving.
Don't dry shave. Follow the same tips for soaking and shaving gel.
Use a mirror, unless you don't mind looking a bit patchy. Unlike most of the rest of your body, you can't see your head to shave it.
Use touch. Use your fingers to feel for stubble and parts you've missed.
Direction doesn't matter -- it's very much a personal thing. Use what works best for you.
Although for most of the body, the kind of electric razor recommended has the blades behind a perforated foil, for your head you may choose to use a rotary type. This is because the head is a very curved surface. However, regular razors will work too.
How often you shave your head is up to you. I've known folks who do it every day, and others who do it every once a week, ten days or only once a month. It depends on what level of growth you like best.
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Quick Tips for Experienced Shavers
Sometimes I just don't have time to devote to shaving, or find myself in situations without a leisurely hot shower or the other accoutrements of shaving, such as camping. I've discovered some tricks and tips for such times. I don't recommend that anyone new to shaving try these; your skin will be more sensitive if it's not used to being razored and exposed, and your skills in the department may still need some work. I have been shaving quite frequently for years and when I'm not careful, I get nicks and razor burn and bumps and all that not-fun stuff, so shave recklessly at your own risk. :> I've also learned some tricks to get a closer shave or otherwise improve my shaving experience.
Once an area is used to shaving, instead of shaving gel/foam/cream, you can use a thin layer of petroleum jelly or Vaseline instead to get a very close shave. The only drawback to this method is washing all of the petroleum jelly off afterwards (at least for me, I hate that feeling).
If you haven't got much time or access to a shower or are out of shaving gel, but really need to get rid of that hair, lotion may be your savior. It is best to use a very gentle, natural lotion, such as Udderly Smooth Udder Cream -- lanolin-based and with as few ingredients, scents, colors and extras as possible. Slather a thin layer of lotion on the area you wish to shave -- don't rub it in. Let it sit for a few minutes to soften up the hair, then shave, using a disposable razor. If you need to go over an area again, apply more lotion. Don't dry shave! Rinse or clean your razor after every stroke. If you're short on water, you can pour some into a small container and swish your razor around in it to get it clean, and use the same water until you're done shaving. When you're done, use a washcloth to wipe off the area you shaved, removing excess lotion and any little hairs. You'll find your skin is very smooth and moisturized. I sometimes use this method even when I do have time, simply because I like the results.
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Rather keep it?
Dye it instead.