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From our hearts and our heads


BODYHow do I shave? Where do I shave? When do I start shaving? Once I start, can I ever stop? Do I have to shave? These are just a few of the many questions that might come to mind when you start noticing that you have body hair, or that your friends did and now they don’t. Shaving is one of those topics that, despite a lot of people doing it, no one really talks about. And it can be hard to ask your family or friends about it, whether that’s because it feels awkward to or because you don’t want to make it obvious that you feel out of the loop about something that everyone else seems to magically know everything about.

But that’s what the internet is here for: to answer all the questions that you don’t want to ask out loud. So without further ado, here’s a basic guide to shaving.

Firstly, and this is probably the most important thing to keep in mind, you don’t have to shave if you don’t want to—and you especially don’t have to shave just because everyone else is. It’s your body, and you get to make choices about how to treat it, which also means you’re allowed to change your mind. You can decide that you want to try shaving, and then decide to stop; you can decide that you are not interested in shaving, and then later decide you are! If you are interested in shaving, that leads us to part two.

You need four basic tools of the trade to get the job done—a razor, shaving cream, water, and lotion—but only one of them is truly essential and that’s a razor. There are what feels like thousands of different kinds—disposable razors, 5-blade razors, razors with shaving cream built in, razors with 360-degree rotating heads, you name it—so it can be a little overwhelming picking one. It’s probably best to go to your local pharmacy, Target, Walmart, etc. and take your time perusing the options to see what feels right to you and falls in your budget. But it’s best to hold off on buying any bulk packages of blade replacements until you find a brand you really like.

This same basic premise applies to shaving cream or gel, of which there are hundreds of varieties. A shaving cream is going to foam and create a lot of soapy lather, while a gel is more, well, gel-like and sticky. Choosing between the two is really down to personal preference; there’s no indication that one works better than another, and most brands also make creams and/or gels that are optimized for sensitive skin, come in a range of scents, etc.

Okay, let’s get into the how-to: 

 1. Get your skin wet with warm water. Most people shave in the shower, and if you’re shaving your legs it’s helpful to have a ledge, like the side of a tub, to put your leg up onto (partly to reach it more easily, and partly to keep it out of the direct stream of the water, which will wash off any shaving cream you’re trying to apply). 

 2. Apply shaving cream or gel all over the area you’re going to shave. Some people also find that soap or body wash actually do the trick just fine, and use those instead of shaving creams or gels. But the basic premise behind shaving with something—rather than applying razor directly to skin—is to stop your skin from getting irritated. When you shave off hair, you also shave off a layer of skin, which, unsurprisingly, can cause rashes, redness, general irritation, and sometimes even bleeding if you’re not careful. Applying some kind of moisturizing barrier to your skin can protect you from all of those symptoms. 

 3. Grab the razor of your choice by the handle. Remember, the head is made of literal blades, like tiny knives, so you don’t want to handle the tool too nonchalantly. If you’re looking for a close shave you can shave “against the grain”—that is, in the opposite direction that hair grows, which for legs means starting near the ankle and pulling the razor in upward in an ankle-to-knee direction. But this can also be really harsh on sensitive skin because it tugs at the hair follicles as you swipe up and can create what’s called “razor burn,” so if you’re nervous about that or prone to rashes, try shaving “with the grain” or starting at the top of your leg and pulling down toward the ankle, with the handle of the razor also pointing down toward the ankle. If you’re shaving under your arms, take a peek at what direction the hair is growing in and decide how to orient your razor from there. 

 4. If you’re shaving for the first time, you’ll probably be cutting off a lot of hair that can easily clog razor blades. Check on it every stroke or two to see if it’s full of hair—if it is, rinse it under the shower stream quickly to unclog before getting back to work. 

 5. If you’re shaving your legs, be extra careful around knees, ankles, or any place where there are nooks and crannies of any kind. If you shave too quickly or haphazardly, these are classic places where you can knick the skin and cause bleeding. So just pay attention to the shape of your body and work around it carefully. 

 6. Repeat these strokes as many times as necessary to remove all the hair. You might have to make a couple passes before you get it all, especially if you’re shaving for the first time. 

 7. When you’re satisfied, rinse off any excess shaving cream, gel, soap, or loose hairs with water. 

 8. Step out of the shower and pat skin dry with a towel, rather than rubbing, again to avoid irritation. 

 9. Apply your favorite moisturizing body lotion liberally immediately (this is generally a good post-shower practice, but especially good for recently shaved areas) to further prevent against irritation.

As for where to shave, it’s customary for women to shave their legs and under their arms, any more or less than that is completely your choice. And in fact, not shaving is having a moment in the zeitgeist right now, so if you’re looking for any hairy role models, look no further: celebrities-who-dont-shave-their-armpits-who-never-apologize-for-it- photos.

But if you decide it is for you and the above instructions still leave you scratching your head, lucky for this generation of young women, you’re growing up with YouTube and how-to-shave tutorials abound.

Here are just a few to get you started: