How to properly shave your legs

how to properly shave legs
How to properly shave your legs Getty Images

We have around two million hairs on our bodies, with 150,000 on the legs and underarms alone. Each area has different needs in terms of shaving: on the legs, which have few oil-producing glands, the hair and skin can be dry, increasing potential for sensitivity post-shave.

Of course, shaving is only one form of hair removal (should you choose to remove it at all), but one which continues to remain commonplace among those lacking the time, effort, or funds for other, often more painful and pricier, methods. The influx of at-home IPL devices has also contributed to its continued popularity (given that hair should be shaved, not waxed, before undergoing IPL). Yet many of us are making rods for our own backs by not adhering to a few fundamental basics.

Here, experts explain how to properly shave your legs, to avoid nicks, mitigate inflammation and prevent ingrown hairs.

1. Soak hairs thoroughly first

“If you want to avoid skin barrier depletion and minimise friction to the skin (which results in inflammation) – the key is to take your time,” dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting tells Bazaar. “For those with sensitive skin, I recommend soaking the hairs thoroughly in warm water first, ideally in the bath. This makes them much softer and easier to shave, meaning you require less force when shaving which therefore delivers less friction to the skin.” This dramatically reduces skin sensitivity, she says.

2. Always use a clean, sharp razor

Often laziness accounts for a person using an old razor for too long, but so too is the fact product packaging rarely makes it clear exactly how long one should last. GP and skin specialist Dr Anita Sturnham says each razor blade should be good for around 10 uses. As with everything though, it comes with a caveat: it will depend on the area being shaved, and the coarseness of your hair – but you will know when a blade has become too blunt, as “dull blades can result in scratches, cuts and skin irritations,” as Charlotte Terling, head of product development at the award-winning subscription-based razor company Estrid points out.

We recommend Estrid’s Starter Kit which includes a steel handle, a holder and two five-blade razor heads with a soothing strip.

3. Apply a dedicated shaving product

While a dedicated shaving product may seem superfluous, the dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth explains it’s something worth investing in. "They are designed to coat the hair and soften it, therefore reducing the force required to cut the hair. Standard body washes can leave residue on your razor, which will blunt it more quickly." We recommend opting for something fragrance-free to mitigate inflammation, such as Estrid’s Shower + Shave Fragrance-Free, the Gillette Venus 2-in-1 Cleanser + Shave Gel, or even Dr Sam’s Flawless Cleanser which perfectly “creates some glide to avoid the razor dragging on the surface of the skin,” notes Dr Bunting.

4. Shave along the grain

While many of us have grown up shaving against the grain – and, arguably, that does deliver the closest shave – if you experience skin sensitivity from shaving then shave along the grain instead. “This avoids cutting the hairs too short, which can encourage ingrown hairs,” adds Dr Bunting, “and, again, it reduces the friction involved in the process”.

While shaving, Terling adds that you should "rinse off the razor blade after every stroke to get rid of shaving cream and body hair" which could clog it.

5. Moisturise after shaving with a fragrance-free product

"Leaving the shower doesn’t mean you’re finished!" says Turling. "Lock in all your efforts by smoothing a hydrating moisturiser all over the skin."

However, if you've ever slapped on a body cream after shaving your legs, only to feel the fronts of your shins aflame, it could be fragrance in the product causing the irritation. A fragrance-free moisturiser, or one designed for sensitive skin, should be the key to calm and nourished skin. Try Nécessaire’s The Body Lotion Fragrance-Free.

In addition, keeping your legs well moisturised between shaves will help prevent skin sensitivity, too. As Dr Wedgeworth says, "if you don't keep the skin in certain areas in good health, it starts to dry out and have all sorts of issues, so it's really important not to neglect the body when taking care of yourself."

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