Here's How To Exfoliate When Shaving Your Skin, And Why It's So Important
Shaving is an activity that most everyone grapples with at some point in their lives.
Taking blades to skin can be a daunting task no matter what area you’re looking to target—so much can go wrong! Nicks and scratches, uneven patches, not to mention contorting your body for a clear view of what you’re doing.
But worst of all—the dreaded razor burn. The redness, irritation, and bumps that can show up even a couple days post-shave and can sometimes take weeks to heal.
Sure, shaving is annoying—and you certainly don’t need to do it (three cheers for women who are letting their hairy legs and pits fly!). But if you just can’t get enough of silky smooth skin, there are methods you can use to minimize red bumps and irritation after shaving—most important among these being exfoliation.
But when to exfoliate? Before you shave? After? These, and other questions, have been asked again and again—and we are here to provide the answers.
What is razor burn?
Before we delve into the importance of exfoliation when it comes to shaving, let’s first understand what razor burn is and where it comes from.
Razor burn refers to red, inflamed areas of skin that resemble a rash that can burn, itch, or sting. Razor burn can happen when you don’t exfoliate properly, when you dry shave (which we recommend never doing!), when you only use soap and water to shave, or when blades are too dull. Skipping any of these steps can result in the disruption of the outer layer of skin, resulting in micro-tears, dryness, and inflammation.
Razor bumps, or pseudofolliculitis barbae if you want to get technical about it, are often lumped into the same category as razor burn, but these unsightly bumps are actually a different condition. Caused by ingrown hairs, this affliction occurs when a cut hair is prevented from emerging from the surface of your skin thanks to dead skin cells, excess oil, and other stuff, forcing it to grow back into the skin instead. Razor bumps and can look more like bad pimples, with whiteheads and all.
Obviously, you’ll want to avoid razor burn in all its forms!
Do you exfoliate before or after shaving?
So, should you exfoliate before shaving, or afterward?
The answer is: both.
Exfoliating before you shave is crucial to prep your skin. By buffing away any dead cells, excess oil, and dirt, you reduce the chances of inflammation and redness occurring right after shaving and as hairs begin to grow back.
Exfoliating pre-shave brings other benefits, too. Your razor won’t get as clogged up as you glide it along your skin, resulting in a silkier, closer shave that also lasts longer. Scoop up fewer skin cells also means that your razor will remain sharper for longer.
It’s also equally important to keep your skin clean and clear in the days after your shave. Exfoliate the next day, and especially two days after you shave to reduce the incidence of razor bumps. Keeping skin clear and free of excess skin cells and other debris will allow your hairs to emerge from their follicles freely, instead of being blocked which forces hairs to grow into the skin.
Our favorite exfoliators
Now that you know the deal, the next step is to find a solid body exfoliator you can rely on to get the job done. For armpits, legs, and pubic areas, it’s best to use a mechanical exfoliator that uses ingredients like sugar, salt, or even coffee grounds (it sounds weird, but trust us!).
If you’re shaving your face, go for a chemical exfoliator with AHA or BHAs.
Here are just a few of our faves for a full-body exfoliating experience:
Franklin & Whitman Midtown Village Body Scrub is a delicious coffee sugar scrub that combines all-natural turbinado sugar, fair-trade coffee, and organic Madagascar bourbon vanilla for a decadent, yummy-smelling exfoliator that’s sure to perk you right up. It also contains nourishing grapeseed and coconut oils to soften while you scrub. Time to give your skin a latte love.
The Dirty Lamb’s Mint Coffee Scrub is not only perfect for soughing away everything that will potentially cause problems for your skin post-shave, but it stimulates the lymphatic system in order to combat cellulite. Mint leaves will address inflammation, coconut oil will leave your skin silky smooth, and an invigorating peppermint & coffee scent will give you a nice boost of awakening energy.
Herbivore Botanical’s Coco Rose Exfoliating Body Scrub is clean, moisturizing, and brightens skin without causing irritation. Made from Moroccan rose, shea butter, pink clay, and virgin coconut oil, this pretty pink scrub is an excellent option for your pre- and post-shave skincare needs.
Osea’s Salt of the Earth Body Scrub uses salt as its star ingredient, and for good reason: not only can it slough off dead skin, but its rich mineral content softens skin and can boost hydration. This scrub is as gentle as it is effective, using shea butter and wild gigartina seaweed to nourish and give you a silky-smooth glow.
Other shaving tips
Beyond exfoliation, there are a few things to keep in mind that will keep your skin smooth and healthy and will even help reduce waste.
Use fresh razors
Everything in life is fleeting (don’t mind us waxing poetic here!)—and razors are no exception. Another annoying aspect of shaving is how quickly the blades get dull. After three or four shaves, especially over a large area of skin like your legs, you’ll be able to feel the difference: things might start tugging more, a close shave isn’t as easily achieved, and the opportunity for nicks and scratches increases exponentially.
Some people use a razor just once before tossing it. Others hang onto theirs for way too long. There’s a happy medium in here, but ultimately, the sad truth is that most razors just don’t last that long.
If you want to cut down on waste (and we recommend you do!), pick up an electric razor and shave with it first to trim down longer hairs. That way, your disposable razor blade will not need to work as hard and become dulled in the process.
Shave in the right direction
It may seem like the best way to tackle shaving is to jump right in with against-the-grain strokes. But this can cause irritation and can pull hairs especially when they’re on the longer side.
Begin by shaving in the same direction your hairs are growing. This will shorten the hair length, which will then allow you to take another pass against the grain for the closest shave possible.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
We hope you’re slathering your body in yummy body oils and moisturizers every time you step out of the shower, but post-shave this can be even more important. Protect your skin from dryness and inflammation by scoping up a nice creamy body moisturizer that will lock in hydration and keep your skin shining.
Upcircle’s Soothing Body Cream with date seeds is an excellent choice. Dates are a yummy snack, but did you know the seeds can be yummy for your skin, too? Experience the anti-inflammatory powers of date seeds (a byproduct of date farming) with this nourishing cream that blends shea butter, olive oil, and linseed oil to calm and hydrate dry or irritated skin.
Shaving can be a smooth experience as long as you remember to exfoliate properly and treat your skin the way it deserves to be treated. Keeping skin clean, fresh, and moisturized, all while using the freshest razors possible, will get you more mileage out of each shave and will keep your skin happy too.