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Have You Been Shaving Your Legs Wrong? Here’s What the Experts Say

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Shaving your legs seems easy enough. Whether you’ve been doing it for ages or recently picked up your first disposable razor, you probably have a pretty solid idea as to how to shave your legs. All you need is a razor, some shaving cream, and that's it...right? Well, not exactly. There are a lot more variables to consider when shaving to avoid razor burn, ingrown hairs, bumps, and nicks that come with trying to achieve soft, smooth legs. 

But beauty doesn't have to require pain. You can attain your smoothest legs yet without all those little annoyances that tend to come with shaving. When it comes down to it, it's really about your technique, how well you prep your skin, and the razor, shave gel, and other products you use—and we’ll even tell you how to do it. Continue reading below for our step-by-step guide to shaving your legs the right way, according to scientist Katelyn Liston.

About the Expert:

Katelyn Liston is a scientist at P&G Female Grooming.

How to shave your legs, step-by-step

1. It starts with using the right razor.

The most important part of the shaving process is using the best razor for your skin. You may be tempted to purchase the cheapest disposable razor you can find, but your legs absolutely deserve better—especially if you want to achieve a close shave. Though we often stress quality over quantity, this is one case where quantity really matters. Why? Because when you have multiple razor blades, a closer shave is nearly guaranteed. The first blade hooks the hair follicle, the second blade cuts the hair, and the third cuts any hair that the second blade may have missed. And when you have even more than three blades, your shave gets closer than ever. 

Once you’ve chosen the right blade count, make sure not to skimp on the handle type. “There are heavier handles that might feel easier to control for some or lighter handles that others feel like they could maneuver easier,” says Liston. Some razor blades even have an additional coating strip that will help glide the razor over the skin. We love the REFRESHMENTS Dazzling 5-Star Razor because it contains all three: five blades, a comfort soothing lubricated strip, and an ergonomic handle you can keep control of. 

REFRESHMENTS Dazzling 5-Star Razor

2. Wet your legs with warm water.

Listen, even though we know we shouldn't, we've all tried dry-shaving our legs. Even though it can be tempting to turn to this quick-fix technique when you’re in a pinch, take it from us: Don’t do it! While doing so can get rid of any left-behind leg hairs, it can also leave behind pesky red bumps and make your skin feel rough. No amount of moisturizer can fix that, which is why it's important to get your legs wet before shaving. Warm or hot water is also preferred, as it softens the skin and leg hair to help you get the closest shave. Don't reach for the razor right away, as you'll want to give the water some time to work its magic before you run a razor blade over them. Get through the rest of your shower routine first, then move onto shaving. If you're just shaving your legs, you could fill a bathtub with warm water and soak your legs in there for about 15 minutes. Any longer and your legs may wrinkle and swell, making it that much more difficult to avoid those common irritants.

A closeup photo of a model's leg with soap suds in the shower

3. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate.

Exfoliating your legs is often overlooked, but it is incredibly beneficial to the shaving process, as it removes dead skin cells that can linger on your legs and prevent you from getting a close shave. They get caught up in the razor, which can lead to nicks, and they can clog the hair follicles on your leg, causing ingrown hairs—yikes! So while it may add a few additional minutes to your routine, using a body scrub before shaving has its advantages.

Looking for a rec? COLOURPOP COSMETICS Sol Body Sugar Body Polish is one of our favorite exfoliants. Coconut, argan, and marula oils nourish and moisturize your skin, while sugar crystals softly remove dead skin lurking on the surface of your legs. Even those with sensitive skin will love how gentle this exfoliator is on their legs.

4. Lather on a shaving gel or cream.

Now that your legs are hydrated and exfoliated, you can run a razor over them, right? Wrong. Though most razor blades have a moisture stick coating them, that's not enough to protect your skin. Bar soap and body wash also won't cut it. What will safeguard your skin is a shaving gel or cream. They create a protective layer between the razor blade and your skin; they help you track where you've already shaved; and they're also often made with hydrating ingredients to provide additional moisture.REFRESHMENTS Pillowy Shave Cream is perfect for the job due to its moisturizing formula and invigorating scent.

Deciding between a gel and a cream ultimately comes down to personal preference, though most dermatologists suggest using a gel because of its lubricating properties. You want to avoid soap, as it can dry out the skin. If you ever run out of your shaving product of choice and desperately need to shave your legs, hair conditioner can work as a nice substitute, though it doesn't entirely replace the real thing.

A closeup photo of a model's leg shaving with REFRESHMENTS Pillowy Shave Cream and REFRESHMENTS Dazzling 5-Star Razor

5. Shave in the direction of hair growth with smooth, steady strokes.

Chances are you've been shaving against the direction of hair growth, meaning you've been shaving upwards. Given you likely weren't told otherwise, we don't blame you. Shaving against the grain allows for a closer shave, which means smoother legs for you. However, shaving in this direction can lead to ingrown hairs and razor bumps. To avoid this, shave in the direction of hair growth (aka down the leg). The shave won't be as close, but you'll be able to avoid irritation.

Use smooth, steady strokes when running your razor down your leg. There should be no need for you to press down too hard on the razor, so long as the blades are nice and sharp. If you do ever shave against the grain, using a super sharp razor is absolutely essential.

6. Rinse your razor repeatedly.

As you're gliding the razor down your legs, those razor blades are collecting leg hairs, shaving cream, and possibly even skin particles. When you let too much of that gather in the blade, it can lead to ingrown hairs and razor burn. Wash out the blade under warm water after every stroke to allow the blade to perform at its best. You never want to use your fingers to clear out the blade. If worst comes to worst, give it a gentle pat on some toilet paper or crank up the water pressure to wiggle any leftover hairs loose.

A photo of a model's leg and hands holding the REFRESHMENTS Dazzling 5-Star Razor

7. Store your razor properly.

Keeping your razor in the shower seems like the most obvious means of storage. And it is—but it's not the best. “Store it in a place where it won’t come into contact with excess water, as this can cause the lubricating components to prematurely wear,” says Liston. “It’s also important to place the razor head face up so that it’s not in contact with any surfaces—this will prevent the razor head from sticking to any surfaces which can cause the lubricating surfaces to deform which can make your shave uncomfortable.” The REFRESHMENTS 5-Star Razor has got you covered, and it's patented for a reason. With a curved, weighted handle that keeps blades floating above any surface and stops sticky buildup, it’s designed to drip dry upside-down from a magnetic wall mount.

8. Moisturize your legs.

After thoroughly drying your legs, you should practice proper skincare by moisturizing them with body lotion or even body oil. All that hot water really does a number on your legs by drawing all the oils out and leaving them dry and irritated. You have to actively replace this moisture while the pores are still open to keep your legs irritation-free.

For instant hydration, grab yourself a tube of REFRESHMENTS Velvety Body Cream. Made with shea butter, grape seed oil, and olive oil, this cream makes your legs feel as moisturized as ever without a hint of greasiness. 

A closeup photo of a hand squeezing a tube of REFRESHMENTS Pillowy Shave Cream on a beige background

9. Know when to toss your razor.

According to Liston, this will be different for each individual, so it’s best to stay aware of your skin’s needs and pay attention to your comfort level throughout the shaving process. “When you start to experience discomfort and or a pulling feeling, it may be time to swap to a fresh razor blade to avoid additional irritation,” says Liston, adding that, “the average woman goes through about one razor blade a month, assuming she’s shaving on average two times a week.”

Ready to level up your personal care—including your shave routine? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own IPSY beauty subscription. Already an IPSY member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

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Article Last Updated July 19, 2023 12:00 AM