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Shaving the Legs (Shaving)
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Shaving the Legs

Richard Thomas, MD, FRCPC

Shaving is very much a chore like brushing teeth. It is certainly a hassle, but quite necessary. It is important that you are using your shaver properly. This article will go over some advice that will improve your shaving experience.

Shaving Basics

Ensure that your legs are sufficiently wet before applying shaving cream. The hair becomes soft and more vulnerable when wet, which makes them easier to cut. Ensure that your legs have been wet for several minutes. Avoid the use of soap, as it dries out the legs and is not recommended for shaving.

Use the right tools for your leg hair. There are a variety of shavers, used for different types of people with different levels of hair growth. Triple blades are generally recommended, but whatever blade is used, it is important to change the blades frequently. Shaving can irritate the skin, the hair follicle and the oil glands, which can cause rashes in the shaved area. Ingrown hairs are also an associated problem, and can cause infection. Discuss with your dermatologist a solution that works for you.

Choosing the right shaving cream or gel is just as important. We recommend using products that contain emollients which hydrate the skin, and one that is fragrance free, as it can cause the skin to become irritated. Common irritants include alcohol, menthol, and peppermint. Try to avoid products that contain these ingredients. Hair conditioner or a body cleanser can replace shaving cream in a pinch.

Use proper shaving techniques to ensure that your skin is not irritated. Using moisturizers are recommended immediately following a shave. Creams that use AHAs are best avoided as the glycolic acid can irritate shaved and exposed skin.

Shaving can also induce a skin condition called folliculitis. It is characterized by an inflammation of hair follicles. Areas that are commonly irritated by shaving, rubbing of clothes are especially prone to folliculitis as well as pores which are blocked by dirt and oil. Solutions such as Bactroban© ointments can help heal these inflammations. Ask your dermatologist for what works for you.

If you notice a raised red rash where you shaved, and itching at the area you should suspect folliculitis. Pimples and pus filled lesions often surround the follicles. To prevent folliculitis, keep the skin clean, and try to avoid clothing that rubs against the skin, which can damage hair follicles over time. Electric razors are often more gentle on the skin, and are recommended if you find that your skin is being constantly irritated.

Alternative Solutions

Shaving, waxing, or epilation (electrolysis and thermolysis) are all effective, but temporary solutions for removing hair. If you are looking for a more permanent solution for hair removal, you may want to consider laser hair removal. With laser hair removal, laser targets the pigment in the hair, destroying the hair follicles while leaving the other skin structures intact. Complete and permanent hair removal is uncommon, and in the cases that this is possible, will require multiple treatment sessions. More common is a permanent removal for some hair, and a permanent reduction in hair volume. In almost all cases, hair is completely eliminated for several months.

Laser hair removal is an effective and attractive option for many. There are, however, some things to keep in mind as far as limitations and expectations. Due to the laser’s method of targeting the pigment in the hair follicles, it will not remove white, blonde, or red hair effectively. Laser treatment works best for individuals that have light coloured skin and dark hair. The procedure will often cause slight pain, redness, and swelling, and will often require several sessions of treatment. For those with existing bacterial or viral infections, have psoriasis, or those that are using certain medications such as Accutane®, let your physician know. In general, however, laser hair removal is a safe and effective hair removal option when conducted by an experienced physician.


folliculitis,   hair removal,   shaving,