I noticed it's been a while since my last "Products I'm Currently Using" post: September 2008. My general routine has remained similar throughout the last two years, but I thought I should update again, and provide a more specific step-by-step walk through of how I do things. Not that I expect anyone to do it the same way I do, but when I first started shaving I often wondered, "Is this right? Is this normal? Do other hirsute women do it this way?" Without an answer, I just tried things until I fell into a rhythm which now makes me feel reasonably confident I'm doing the best I can for my skin.
Step 1 - Prep: I soak my face in a warm washcloth for a minute or so, to open up the pores and soften the hair. Sometimes I'll scrub a bit to lift the hairs from the skin. Then I wash my face with gentle soap-free Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser or a store-name imitation that works just as well.
Step 2 - Shave: I massage in some shaving gel or oil. You can browse the products tag on the blog to find shaving mediums and razors I have used--some worked better than others. Right now I'm trying out some gels and using Schick's Slim Triple razors. I find small strokes distribute the pressure on the razor more evenly and allow you to be more precise. Because I would rather have the closest possible shave and be a little irritated, I shave against the direction of the hair growth when shaving across it doesn't work. If I don't get it all the first time, I reapply the gel or oil and go again. Depending on the shaving medium I use, I usually rinse it off, and splash a little cold water on my face to close up the pores and calm my sometimes stinging skin, then pat dry.
Step 3 - Moisturize: I'll apply some jojoba oil to the shaved spots--sometimes before my regular moisturizer, sometimes after. It really depends on how my skin is feeling that day and how much time I have. Applying it before ensures it will be absorbed faster, and applying it after means it will sit for a while on the surface of my skin. Last time I did an entry like this, Lubriderm was my favorite lotion. Since that post, they've changed their look and formula and I've found it was no longer as helpful for my skin, so I've been trying to find something new to stick with. Right now I'm using a store-brand imitation of Aveeno's daily moisturizing lotion with natural colloidal oatmeal, which does a great job of moisturizing while staying light and non-greasy.
Step 4 - Make-up!: I recently posted my opinion on a new concealer I tried which applies easily and hides spots and shadows fairly well, and conditions the skin while you wear it. Most other concealers I used made dry flaky skin from shaving worse, not better. I used to have to rub it off and reapply so many times before I would dare go out of the house, but it happens very rarely now with CG Smoothers concealer. Once it goes on successfully, I finish by patting CG Fresh Complexion Pocket Powder all over. It's a very fine power foundation so I find it doesn't catch on dry skin as much either.
Step 5 - At night: I'll soak my face again with warm water and wash it with the gentle face soap. Once or twice a week I'll use Vichy Normaderm Purifying Cleansing Gel, which is a little astringent but I like having that boost to keep blemishes at bay. If my skin has been really dry, I won't use Persa-Gel that night--you can have too much of a good thing. I might moisturize instead at night if that's the case. And on top of it all I'll usually apply pure vitamin e oil to moisturize and speed the healing of shaved areas overnight. If my skin has been having an especially tough time and I have some open nicks or cuts, I'll use Polysporin instead to prevent infection and promote healing, as vitamin E oil can sometimes cause spots and is best used when "wounds" are no longer open.
That's what is working for me right now, and my skin is the best it's ever been--though that could also be partially attributed to age and the androgen blockers I'm taking. It's taken years to shape my routine and parts of it are still undergoing constant reevaluation. It's all about getting to know your skin through research and trying different products. Don't be afraid to experiment! You won't know until you try.