The Complete Guide to Shaving for Ladies
The question really is, why do you want to remove your hair?
Usually the answer is for aesthetic reasons - you don't like the way it looks, perhaps it is highly visible because you have light skin and dark hair or perhaps it is in an area where hair is not considered desirable e.g. underarms.
Whatever the reason, shaving is a very simple, quick and easy way to temporarily get rid of unwanted hair without the need to involve help.
What are the Pros and Cons of Shaving?
When it comes to hair removal, there are actually quite a few good reasons for you to pick shaving as your method of choice, but it is not without its downsides.
One of the best things about shaving is that there is no pain involved. If you are like me and want to get rid of your unwanted hair without suffering for it, shaving may well be for you.
It is also relatively inexpensive and very easy to do at home as part of your regular routine, with no costly salon visits required.
There is a lot to be said for not having the inconvenience of having to keep to scheduled appointments, not to mention the comfort and privacy your own home affords.
Shaving is also convenient for when you are travelling - compact and light, it is easy to pop a razor or shaver into your case for maintenance while you are away.
The main downside of shaving is that the results are short-lived and you will need to keep shaving very regularly, even daily, to keep your skin looking smooth and hair-free.
If you have very dark hair together with a light complexion, you might still be able to just see the hair beneath the skin after shaving, giving a shadowy look, as it only cuts the hair at the skin's surface.
If this is the case, in spite of the pain, you may well prefer to look at other options such as waxing or epilating that removes the hair from the root, to resolve the issue.
The common misconception that shaving makes your hair grow back darker and coarser has no basis in fact. Shaving simply cuts the hair at the surface of the skin and has absolutely no effect on your hair root or follicle.
What it does cause, though, is rather stubbly regrowth because it cuts your hair at the widest part of its shaft.
Therefore as it continues growing it does not have the tapering end that your hair usually has, nor has the colour been naturally lightened by environmental impacts such as the sun.
It is most likely to be this that has given rise to the myth.
There are some possible side-effects from shaving which are talked about more later in this post. These include razor burn, irritation (especially if you have sensitive skin) and ingrown hairs.
Summary of Pros and Cons
What Areas can Ladies Shave?
You can shave pretty much anywhere on your body including your head, but the most common areas that ladies tend to shave are the legs, underarms, bikini line and face.
Shaving your legs is relatively easy, and usually one of the less sensitive areas of your body.
The thing to remember is always shave down the leg first, in the direction that the hair is naturally growing. In fact, if you have very sensitive skin you should really leave it at that.
If the results are not as good as you want, for a closer shave, the second pass can be in the opposite direct, up the leg.
Shaving your underarms is a little bit more tricky as it is a more sensitive area, the hair grows in all directions and the skin is quite loose, especially as you get older.
You need to raise your arm as high as possible with your hand behind your head, to tauten the skin and then shave in all directions, lightly and with care.
Take your time and moisturize the skin afterwards, waiting for a while before using your deodorant.
Shaving your bikini line is trickier still and you will need to make sure that you are sitting comfortably with a suitable mirror and plenty of light so that you can properly see what you are doing.
If the hair you want to shave is quite long, then give it a trim first with either an electric trimmer or blunt ended, sharp scissors.
Hold the skin taut with your spare hand and shave in the direction of the hairs' natural growth, gently and without pressure.
If you would like much more detailed information and advice about shaving your pubic hair, do read our separate article; shaving the bikini area - all you need to know.
Female facial hair on the cheeks and jaw is usually fine and downy, often termed "peach fuzz" due to its resemblance to the skin of a peach.
Whilst this may not bother you (in which case leave it alone) for some it can be a bit of an issue.
Nowadays there are a number of discreet, attractive looking little battery operated rotary style facial shavers available, that are specially designed for this purpose.
Usually resembling a lipstick or mascara, they can be popped into your purse for convenient touch-ups on the go.
Upper lip or chin hairs can be a real nuisance and tend to be coarser and more visible than hair on your cheeks.
Again, if there are a lot of them you can use a facial shaver, but for the odd few I would recommend that you tweeze them individually.
Eyebrows can be shaved if you are very careful, and there are some tiny headed electric shavers to help with this.
I would advise shaving brows with great caution as it is easy to remove too much and then you will have to wait several weeks for them to grow back out.
Tweezing really is the best method for shaping your brows.
For more information about the pros and cons of female face shaving see our separate article here.
How to Choose the Right Shaving Tools
The first choice to make is whether you want to go for an electric shaver or the more traditional, wet shaving razor, each of which have their merits and disadvantages.
In the end, it will come down to your own individual preference, but we have looked at the two options to give you a helping hand:
Electric Shaver vs Razor
An electric shaver is likely to involve a higher initial financial outlay, but thereafter requires little or no additional ongoing cost beyond the occasional replacement razor head.
A razor, however, may require continual replacement if you opt for disposable one's or at least regular blade or cartridge replacement depending on which type of razor you go for.
Additionally, you will need to keep a steady supply of shaving gel/cream/foam or the like and possibly shaving oil (if your skin is very sensitive).
Although technological advances in electric shaver manufacture have improved their performance massively since they first became popular, shaving with a razor will still give the closest shave.
Ladies shavers have very fine foils which act as a barrier between the skin and blades, whereas the blade of a razor is in direct contact with the skin.
That said, you can still achieve very good results with a good quality electric shaver and especially if you have lighter hair, you may well be perfectly happy with it.
Electric shavers certainly score high in the convenience stakes - simply turn them on and off you go for a dry shave.
There is no mess involved and they are highly portable and can be either mains operated for corded use or fully rechargeable for cordless wet or dry use.
Neither are difficult, although there is a little more technique involved in using a razor, particularly if you go for a single blade safety razor, which is our preference.
It is easier to avoid nicks and cuts when using an electric shaver, but with a little practice and a sharp blade, it shouldn't be a major reason for you to discount the razor.
Regular shaving can cause skin irritation, particularly if you have very sensitive skin.
If this is the case you may find an electric shaver, designed for sensitive skin, could lessen the irritation.
However, there also some cartridge razors with features such as moisture strips built into the head designed to reduce such side effects as well as shaving products (creams, gels etc.).
Cartridge vs Safety Razor
So you've made the choice to go for a razor - but it doesn't end there as there is a huge range on the market, and not all razors are equal!
There are the out and out disposable razors, which you can use for a few shaves and then throw away and use a new one.
These come in multi-packs and are cheap and convenient but very wasteful - you can pick up a pack of 6 online from around $10.
Some users swear by them, and they are particularly convenient when travelling, however my personal aversion to waste and in particular plastic waste, would prevent my actively advocating their use.
Cartridge razors are slightly less wasteful in that the handle is kept and the blade cartridge is the disposable part.
Depending on the model the razor head can have anything from two to five blades and can include a moisture/cream strip and pivoting head to make it easier to follow the contours of your body.
Finally, there is the more traditional safety razor which offers the most environmentally friendly option, with only the actual blade being disposable.
Aside from the initial purchase, it is also the most cost efficient shaving method as the blade packs are much cheaper than disposable cartridges.
The only downside really is that you need a little bit more practice to get the right technique, but once mastered, it gives a lovely, close, smooth shave.
We have published a separate guide to safety razor shaving.
How to Prepare for Shaving
In order for you to get the best possible shave with the minimum risk of skin irritation, you need to prepare properly.
Gather together the items you need and make sure that you have plenty of good, natural light (where possible) so that you can see what you are doing and don't miss any bits.
Make sure that you have allowed sufficient time so that you are not rushing.
What you Need
Top Tips for The Best Shave
Ideally, have a bath or shower prior to shaving to clean and soften your hair and skin, and open the pores.
If not, cleanse the area well and hold a washcloth or small towel steeped in hot water against the skin for a similar effect.
Caring for Your Skin Post Shave
Looking after your skin post-shave is an important part of your routine to keep your skin looking smooth and clear and feeling good.
This is because shaving also removes the surface layer of skin cells and can have a drying effect on the skin.
Using a calming post-shave balm is a good idea to counteract this, as well as regularly moisturizing the skin between shaves. Also steer clear of any alcohol based products as they have a drying effect on your skin.
Regular exfoliation is key to keeping your pores and hair follicles free from the build of sebum and dead skin cells, which will reduce the risk of ingrown hairs.
Shaving Side Effects and Minimizing Them
The potential unwanted side effects of shaving are nicks and cuts, razor burn/irritation and ingrown hairs.
You can minimize the risk of all of these by using good technique when shaving; not applying pressure, changing to a new, sharp blade regularly and making sure the skin is taut.
You may cause nicks and cuts by shaving over spots or raised bumps in the skin, so take care to avoid them.
Also shaving in the direction of hair growth helps. If you want to get a really close shave by going "against the grain" then do it on the second pass, once the hair is already very short, This will prevent the catching and dragging that tends to happen if your hair is longer.
Razor burn is most likely the result of too much pressure being applied or insufficient lubrication when you are shaving.
If you have a sharp razor blade then only minimal pressure is required and it should glide easily across the skin.
Make sure that you use a good layer of shaving cream or gel and re-apply as required to keep it replenished. Don't be tempted to dry shave.
Ingrown hairs occur when the newly cut hair grows back in on itself rather than growing up and out of the follicle, causing red, raised and sometimes pus-filled bumps.
They are a common occurrence with shaved or waxed hair, particularly if the hair is curly.
You can help by regularly exfoliating to keep the follicles clear and to dislodge and free the hairs before they become too entrenched.
You can also reduce the risk by using a single bladed razor which you should rinse after each pass, and only shave in the direction of hair growth.
The other thing you could consider other than a different method, is switching to an electric shaver, which doesn't cut quite as close.