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This might sound basic, but do you actually know how to shave your legs? While shaving any part of your body isn’t necessary, it’s helpful to get a refresher every now and again if you do choose to shave—especially if you’ve fallen into the same old routine over the years. Not only is shaving a great (and affordable) alternative to pricey processes such as at-home laser hair removal, but it can also act as a moment of self-care in your overall shower or bath routine. Plus, there’s never a bad time to learn a few new tricks of the trade (or just get acclimated to the process if you’ve never shaved your legs before.)
Before we get into the actual how-to’s, it’s important to make sure that you have all of the proper tools on hand. Marie Claire has already written guides to the best razors for women and the best shaving creams on the market, so you can shave your legs with confidence (and avoid pesky ingrown hairs).
I turned to two dermatologists for their expert advice on all things shaving: Dr. Heather D. Rogers, founder and CEO, Doctor Rogers Skin Care and co-founder, of Modern Dermatology in Seattle, and Dr. Tiffany Clay, an Atlanta-based dermatologist. Ahead, Dr. Rogers and Dr. Clay break the entire process down into a few easy-to-follow steps. Keep reading for her tips plus a selection of a few of our very favorite products to use as you go. Consider this your definitive, derm-approved guide, complete with a step-by-step breakdown of when to shave your legs, how to shave your legs, and how to keep your legs feeling smooth throughout the process. (And for even more shaving help, check out Marie Claire’s guides to the best bikini trimmers and the best shaving creams.)
How to Shave Your Legs
1. Shave in The Shower
If you do choose to shave your legs, it’s best to do so in the shower when your skin is “warm and wet,” says Dr. Rogers. “Shaving in the shower makes it easier to use a lubricant to protect the skin from nicks.”
This is also a great time to tell you what not to do when shaving your legs: dry shave. “Dry shaving can cause small cuts in the skin due to lack of lubrication from shaving cream which may lead to infection and scars,” says Dr. Clay. “It can also be painful as the hairs have not had time to soften in the shower or bath first.” Worse than just nicking yourself as you go when dry shaving, the process can actually over-exfoliate your skin and leave it feeling raw. Dr. Clay says that dry shaving could “strip away too many layers of healthy skin and lead to a rash called irritant contact dermatitis which can be red and itchy.” Not fun, and definitely not the best thing for your legs.
2. Apply a Body Wash or Shaving Cream
Once the rest of your in-shower routine is done, you can finally begin to prep your skin for your favorite razor. While shaving cream isn’t a necessity, it can be helpful to keep your legs feeling soft and avoid razor burn. Dr. Rogers recommends massaging the shaving cream “into damp skin for 20 seconds to create a rich lather and soften hairs before you start to shave.”
3. Always Use a Sharp Razor to Shave Your Legs
While buying a new razor every few weeks—the average razor lasts for five to seven shaves—might seem like a hassle, it’s important that you only shave with sharp, new, and clean razors “You have to push harder with dull razors, making the risk of nicks much higher,” says Rogers.
Luckily, brands like Billie, Athena Club, and Dollar Shave Club offer razors on a subscription service so you’re never shaving with an old blade. Rogers prefers Billie for that very reason—and because it’s affordable. “The razors also have five blades, allowing for a closer shave, and are better for sensitive skin because you don't have to re-trace areas as often,” she says. Her honorable mention? Gillette Venus “because it's so easy to hold, so you hardly nick the skin.”
4. Shave Yor Legs in The Opposite Direction of the Hair Growth
For the closest, safest, shave, shave in the opposite direction of how your hair naturally grows. This means shaving up your leg from your ankle towards your kneecap, and not going in a back-and-forth motion. “Shaving in one direction reduces the hair from getting cut too short,” says Dr. Clay. “When this happens, it may get stuck under the skin as it grows back, and you could get an ingrown hair.”
5. Apply Your Moisturizer
Shaving can be drying on the skin, especially if you don’t use a shaving cream. So, it’s important to use body lotion as soon as you dry off from the shower. Rogers recommends looking for one that is fragrance-free to avoid irritation. “Your skin is sensitive after shaving since all the dead skin has been shaved off with the hair, so products your skin typically tolerates that contain fragrance, glycolic, or lactic acid can be irritating,” she says. Dr. Clay recommends applying products with anti-inflammatory properties or ones that contain tea-tree oil. Her personal favorite is Bushbalm’s Pina Colada Dark Spot Oil because “it also has jojoba oil, which can be soothing after a shave,” she says. A great drugstore option is CeraVe’s Moisturizing Cream, which is formulated with hyaluronic acid and ceramides.
Products to Avoid After Shaving Your Legs
When it comes to products that you should avoid right after shaving, Dr. Clay recommends staying away from products like “alpha or beta hydroxy acids immediately after shaving because they may cause stinging of the skin.” Another product to avoid? Alcohol. Dr. Clau recommends steering clear of it on “freshly shaved skin due to pain, obviously, but alcohol can also cause dryness which would be likely to make you itch.”
How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs are less common on your legs, but they can still happen. There’s a few key reasons why this could be, starting with your razor. “Dull and old razors aren’t going to get you a clean cut shave,” says Dr. Clay. “They’ll most likely cut your skin, cause an infection and they won’t cut the hair well so you’ll have to do multiple passes which heightens the risk of I frowns and folliculitis.” For even more in-depth information about ingrown hairs if they do pop up, check out Marie Claire’s guide on how to get rid of ingrown hairs.
Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD, founder of Doctor Rogers Skin Care, sees patients full time at her dermatology practice, Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington. Known as “the doctor who can stop time,” Dr. Rogers’ years-long waitlist is due to her outstanding results—but also a result of her dedication to helping her patients truly understand the nature of their skin. Having treated tens of thousands of patients with skin in every state of health, Dr. Rogers knows how to help every person reach their skin goals, all while supporting—rather than hindering—our skin’s natural adaptive capabilities. Empowering people with the knowledge to see what their skin needs in each moment and providing the high-quality products to meet those needs has been the basis of her successful practice—and is now the basis of Doctor Rogers Skin Care.
Dr. Clay is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology. She is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Women’s Dermatologic Society, Georgia Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Atlanta Association for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery and the National Medical Society.