June 2, 2009

Five Shaving Rules You Can Ignore

The most important thing I've learned after about eight years of facial hair removal, shaving for probably 70% of that time, is that to get a shave that is perfect for you, you have to do whatever works best for you. Rules for shaving are not so hard and fast as they are often presented. They are usually founded on sound principles for doing as little harm as possible to your skin, but I would hate to see women with facial hair try shaving and throw their hands up in despair because it's not working the way they want it to when they've followed all the rules! Besides, when you're looking at shaving advice designed for men, how does a woman know what's really right for her?

This is what I've personally found, and hopefully this will help some of you to try new things and see if it improves shaving for you. Many rules can be broken, as long as you're willing to accept the consequences:

Rule: Only shave every other day.
Shaving every other day will of course minimize irritation. When you shave, especially wet shave, you take not only hair but layers of skin off your face. But man, I only wish my hair grew that slowly! This one is definitely for the men, for whom a little stubble can look casual or dashing. If I have a day where I don't have to go anywhere, I'll take a day off from shaving and the next day's shave is so much better. But one has to earn a living and, you know, just go outside once in a while. Shave as often as you have to, but be sure to take good care of your skin in between.

Rule: Leave the shaving suds on for a few minutes before shaving.

I've seen this on one or two "How-to" sections of websites for manufacturers of shaving gels. Apparently this gives the moisturizing ingredients in foams and gels time to act on the skin. When you hear about some of the nice things they put in shave gels like soy, aloe vera, and amino acids, this sounds like a great idea.

I tried this with two shave gels in the past, but if my skin absorbed any of these good things, it never showed any sign of it. I noticed no difference in the quality of my shave, during or afterward. After reading that the ingredients that cause such mediums to bubble and foam actually dry out the skin, I wonder why one would want to keep such things on one's face for very long at all. Look for those wholesome additives in your moisturizers, I have a feeling they'll do more good there than in your shaving medium.

Rule: Never stretch your skin when you shave.
The reason they say this is because it cuts the hair so short that when you release your skin, the hair shaft can disappear inside and continue growing inward, causing lovely infected bumps. Putting such constant stress on your skin can also cause it to lose elasticity and age quicker, the same as if you rub too hard when removing your eye make-up.

All right for a man to have a bit of shadow or rasp to his jaw and chin, but women aren't supposed to, are they? So if the closest shave possible is more important than razor bumps, and stretching the skin is the only way to achieve that, you go ahead and defy barbers everywhere!

Rule: Don't shave against the direction of your hair growth.
They say this to help you prevent irritation. I've been hoping to find more explanation than that, but so far I've had no such luck. But it's true, regardless of why. The shave may be closer, but depending on the area of your body you're shaving, you can get an almost instant burn.

Some sites say it's okay to shave across the grain, but not against. I have found one barber cited as saying it's okay to shave against the grain. Wouldn't you know, she also has to shave her facial hair, and she is (or was at the time of this article) the director of the Arizona Board of Barbers. I find that fantastic. She doesn't make her advice a list of do's and don'ts. Just recommendations and "be carefuls." On this topic she recommends to start shaving once or twice in the direction of the hair growth, and afterward if you need to do a third pass in the other direction, do it then. I have found, with a sharper razor, I don't always need to shave against my hair growth anyway, except on my chin.

Rule: Use an aftershave.
I'm including this one because even though some experts disagree, I've seen it on so many shaving sites for men and believed it. The stinging of the alcohol-based toner made me think, "Oooh, it's working! Something's keeping it clean and tight!" But after a few weeks, the irritation got worse than I had ever seen it before. It's not always good for a man, so it's definitely not good for a woman. I've seen a couple of sources since that say now to use moisturizers instead, even for men.

When you understand why experts and manufacturers recommend these things, you should be able to make an informed decision about whether to follow them or not.


Anonymous said...

My goodness!

Thank you so much for your wise and wonderful blog. Your kind and honest words have helped me feel a little bit better today.

I just spent an hour fastidiously plucking hairs from around my navel, and the result is hideous. My legs are a terror after only a day away from the razor. I've had dermatologists stare at my legs, say "I've never seen that before!", and herd in their interns to stare at my ingrowns.

I understand the woes of being a hirsute woman.

I'm so glad to read people talking about the subject with sensitivity and understanding. I have enough neuroses beyond my excess hair--social anxiety, perennial worry-wartism--to deal with.

Please continue your wonderful blog. You have a new reader as of today.

Allerleirah said...

Oh dear! That's not very reassuring to hear that from a doctor...

Dreaded ingrowns... something else I've yet to find a good remedy for. It's hard to decide between leaving the hair there and having to deal with all those painful bumps for weeks sometimes.

Hello and welcome! Thank you for stopping by and commenting--it's nice to hear from people who are going through similar things!