When it comes to beauty, shaving is a rare thing which is almost universal.
Whether it’s your face or other parts of your body, getting out the razor is a familiar feeling. It’s not the most glamorous part of any beauty regime, and most of us dread getting bumps or ingrown hairs. That’s why a fair few myths have sprung up around shaving, and it’s easy to fall into a routine of doing the same things – even when it’s not the best for your skin or hair removal.
Dr. Kristina Vanoosthuyze from Gillette and Venus Ambassador Dr. Anita Sturnham have debunked some of the most prevalent myths around shaving, for both men and women…
1. Razor bumps and ingrown hairs are unavoidable
Few things are more irritating than bumps or ingrown hairs from shaving. "These can form as a result of curly hair growing back into the skin, creating an inflammatory response," explains Vanoosthuyze. This is why people with Afro hair can particularly struggle, she says, though it is a problem that can affect any man or woman.
However, it doesn’t have to be a necessary evil. Instead, Vanoosthuyze thinks a lot of the issues can be minimised if you’re using a good blade – one which "puts minimal stress on the skin and the hair follicle, and reduces the tug and pull effect that can cause irritation and inflammation", she says.
Focusing on exfoliating your skin and moisturising properly will also help prevent bumps and ingrown hairs.
2. You don't need to replace blades
This is less of a myth, but something many of us forget to do regularly. "Fresh blades provide a closer and more comfortable shave, and when the blades are dull or damaged, men are more likely to end up with shaving discomfort and skin irritation," says Vanoosthuyze, and the same goes for women.
She adds: "Change your blade at the first sign of shaving discomfort."
3. Shaving leaves skin dry and flaky
Dry and flaky skin isn’t caused by shaving, it’s about how much moisture is in your skin. If this happens to you, it "could be a sign that your skin is not hydrated enough", says Vanoosthuyze.
If it happens to your face, the doctor says: "Make sure to use an after-shave product containing moisturising ingredients to rehydrate and nourish the skin, and help maintain a healthy natural skin barrier."
For both genders, it could be a sign you need to drink more water.
4. Dry shaving is fine
This myth is particularly aimed at women, as many think dry shaving your legs is just as effective as hopping in the shower. However, Sturnham says: "It’s important that you remember to hydrate your hairs before you shave, by soaking in lukewarm water for 3-5 minutes. The easiest way to do this would be during a bath or while you are in the shower."
Not only will the shave feel a bit easier and smoother, but "doing this improves the efficacy of your hair removal by up to 60%", she says. "Hydrating the skin also plumps up your epidermal barriers (the top skin layer) so you have a smoother surface to glide the razor along."
5. Pressing harder gives you a closer shave
It seems to make logical sense – surely the harder you press the blade to your skin, the more of the hair you’ll be cutting off? Unfortunately, this isn’t actually true.
"The closeness of the shave is largely determined by the quality and design of the razor, not by how hard you press," says Vanoosthuyze. "The best way to achieve a close and comfortable shave is to use gentle strokes. The razor should do the work, not you."
6. Shaving every day will irritate your skin
"A lot of men shave less often than they would like, because of their sensitive skin," says Vanoosthuyze – but she doesn’t think this has to be the case. "When you shave correctly and choose the right razor, you can comfortably shave every day – even if you have sensitive skin."
To avoid skin irritation, Vanoosthuyze advises you shave after your shower, "so the hot water and steam can make your beard hair softer". It’s also worth preparing properly: "Wash your face with a gentle cleanser which will help soften the beard hairs and make them easier to cut. The rubbing action of your hand can also help release ‘trapped’ or ‘ingrown’ hairs."
Vanoosthuyze also recommends using a shaving foam or gel to provide a protective layer and help the razor glide over the skin and, finally, she says: "Moisturise after you have finished shaving to comfort the skin and replenish it with essential hydration."