Summer might be ending soon, but grooming your pubic hair is a year-round activity for most women. The most popular method for removing hair from your lady parts? Shaving. In fact, a study by the University of Texas found that 77 percent of women shave their bikini line, as opposed to trimming it with scissors or using hair-removal cream. But bumps, redness, and irritation are almost always part of the package.
So is there a way to shave without the pesky side effects? Yup—if you follow these steps:
1. Invest in a Good Razor
You use only the best products to keep your face looking flawless, so why not show your skin down below the same love? It is super-delicate, after all. Picking the right razor is the first step to ensuring you keep your bikini line in tip-top condition. “If there are more blades, it dispenses more pressure, allowing each blade to cut with less force but more effect,” says Dendy Engelman, M.D., of Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York City. While throwaways are great for use while traveling and can get the job done, they’re labeled "disposable" for a reason. “They’re not meant to be used for a month,” says Eileen Bischoff, esthetician and hair-removal specialist at Eve Salon in New York City. “Choosing a firm, sturdy razor with soothing strips will make a huge difference.”
2. Prep the Area
Gone too long since your last shave (we won’t judge!)? Think about trimming the hair first before taking a razor to it—you want it to be about a quarter of an inch long. Next, clean the bikini area by soaking it in warm water for about 10 minutes. This will serve as your best defense against post-shave razor burn because the warm water will help soften the outermost layer of your skin, making it easier to remove hair, says Fumi Ozaki, an esthetician and electrologist in Redondo Beach, California. “After the 10 minutes is up, pat the skin dry to remove any excess water.” Once your bikini line has been cleaned and dried, lightly exfoliating can help rid the area of unwanted dead skin cells, allowing the blade to get closer to the hair. “Using a wet washcloth or an exfoliating scrub teases out any stubborn ingrown hairs prior to shaving,” says Engelman.
3. Apply Shaving Cream
You might think this shaving accessory is just a feel- and smell-good component to the process, but it’s way more than that. “When you shave, you’re shaving your skin, too,” says Bischoff. “If you don’t use enough shaving cream to create enough slip, you’ll lightly abrade your skin, leaving it irritated.” And just like when it comes to purchasing a quality razor, don’t be too tempted to save an extra buck or two on your shaving cream. “Use a good-quality shaving gel with a short list of moisturizing ingredients, like shea butter, olive oil, and coconut oil—these types of bases will give a proper buffer for your razor,” says Engelman. Apply a very thin layer only to the area that needs to be shaved so you can see the skin and hair shaft underneath. “This is much safer, so there’s no need to move the blade back and forth on the skin,” says Ozaki.
4. Shave Smart
“How you shave can be really, really important, especially for people who are prone to bumps,” says Bischoff. “This is because if you shave against the hair growth, the razor will nick the follicle and almost always leave a red bump." While gliding your razor gently along the bikini line, keep the blade downward without adding too much pressure. “One pass should be fine, especially if you’re using a razor that has many blades,” says Ozaki. “The more blades used, the fewer times you should feel the need to re-shave over this sensitive area.”
5. Rinse Immediately Post-Shave
Wash off as soon as you put your razor down, and hold a cold compress to the area for 10 minutes to prevent irritation, says Ozaki. Apply an anti-redness serum (preferably fragrance-free) to further reduce your chances of experiencing razor burn. “I recommend tea tree oil, both a natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, which can help calm razor burn,” says Engelman. “If you’ve really caused some irritation, more intense creams, like topical steroids, can be prescribed to reduce redness, swelling, and pain." She sometimes even suggests topical or oral antibiotics if the bumps have become infected.
6. Follow up With a Moisturizer
For optimum skin health, it’s important to always hydrate and moisturize after shaving. “Apply an unscented, alcohol-free moisturizer to both sides of the bikini line to lock in the moisture and avoid over-drying, which leads to further irritation,” says Engelman. “Skip heavy creams, which can clog your skin’s pores.” Bischoff suggests looking for products containing aloe vera and lavender oil, both of which are soothing, as well as jojoba oil and vitamin E for hydration.
7. Clean Your Razor
After every shave, make sure to sanitize your blades with rubbing alcohol and warm or hot water. If your razor looks rusty and you’ve been using it for a while, toss it out. “Replace old blades—ones you’ve used for more than five to seven shaves,” says Engelman. This is to avoid the overgrowth of bacteria that’s been exposed to the blades while they sit idly in your shower. So cut your losses (and avoid those red bumps) by refreshing your stock of razor blades and storing them in a clean, dry place, like your medicine cabinet.