"Shaving makes hair grow thicker", and other myths about the razor

Growing up, I’ve always been conscious about how balbon I am. Relatives would comment on it during family reunions, and though my parents constantly assured me that it’s perfectly normal, I felt the urgent need to get rid of all my leg hair when I learned about hair removal. Depilatory creams were my first choice because they seemed like the safest to use at the time. They’re not intimidating compared to waxes (I’ve watched too many movies with people screaming as they get waxed), and I was afraid to use razors because I’m clumsy. Besides, what could be easier than applying something that looks like lotion then having the hair simply come off as I rinsed?

It was good in theory but didn’t actually work as well as I wanted. A tube was only good for only about three to four uses! I also experienced a bit of irritation because I couldn’t get all the hair out in one application and would have to apply at least twice, causing my skin to develop some sensitivity to the chemicals. It also wasn’t very practical to cough up over P200 for a small tube that I would have to buy every other week.

So after doing some research and a few trial sessions, I’ve decided to shave off any unwanted hair instead. My mother actually panicked over my choice of hair removal but I assured her (and hopefully you as well) that not everything you’ve heard about shaving is true!

Shaving Myth #1: Shaving makes hair grow thicker and darker

The most widely-believed myth about shaving is that it will make hair growth worse. It’s completely untrue, but I understand why many people believe it. When you shave, you essentially cut off the hair from its “trunk”, or the thickest point of the hair shaft which connects to the root. This will also be the first thing you see when the hair starts to grow again, so it does look thicker and feel more bristly. As the hair continues to grow though, it becomes exposed to the sun, the chemicals in your skin care or gets rubbed against your clothes. All that exposure will cause it to lighten, thin out and soften in the same way the hair before did. So don’t panic if after shaving, your hair suddenly feels coarser and looks blacker than before. It’s normal and it doesn’t mean the hair growth has been altered.

Shaving Myth #2: Dry shaving is easier and cleaner

 Sure, it can be hard to see what you’re doing under all that shaving cream but the foamy product was invented for a very good reason. Shaving with just a razor and bare skin, devoid of any product, can cause irritation and nicks since the blade is more likely to catch on dry skin and cause friction burn. It also drags against the surface and may have some trouble making a clean cut on the hairs, making the process more tedious.

The best time to shave is actually after bathing, when hair is at its weakest and skin at its softest condition. Applying shaving cream or gel, or even a lotion or conditioner, will allow your razor to glide better! It serves as a barrier between your skin and the blade, and keeps the skin moisturized, which is important as shaving can lightly scrape off the topmost layer of the skin.

 Shaving Myth #3: Women can’t use mens razors

The reasoning behind this is pretty shoddy. Just like, you can’t use hand creams for your elbows because... your elbows will develop hands? Razors are not gender-prejudiced; they’re just built differently as men and women use razors for different parts of the body.

Women’s razors focus on shaving areas like underarms,  legs, and even the pubic area. Razors often have built-in moisturizing strips since these areas are less likely to be moisturized or oily compared to the face. The handles are usually downward sloping to shave at a more parallel angle, and razor itself would usually be outfitted with a guide bar that helps prevents cuts and nicks when shaving a large area.

Comparatively, men generally use razors for removing facial hair. Thanks to testosterone, men often have larger hair follicles that produce thicker hair, so the blades needed to shave them off must be sharper and more compact. As a result, men’s razors are often built to have two to three blades at a time (sometimes going all the way up to five!) to provide a closer shave, and engineered to swivel so it can follow the face’s natural contours more easily. The handles are also usually designed to create perpendicular downward strokes, which is the action you make when shaving your face in front of a mirror. Women can definitely still use these razors if they so wish, but should take extra care.

Shaving Myth #4 The more pressure you apply on the blade, the better

Some people say that in order to achieve a really smooth shave, you have to press down hard on the blade to cut closer to the root. Unfortunately, it’s as painful as it sounds. Putting pressure on the razor as you shave simply causes it to dig into your skin and increases your risk for getting cuts. If you’re after a much closer shave, look for razors that have tightly-packed blades, which allow them to sit closer to the hair root.

Shaving Myth #5: The direction you shave doesn't matter

Okay, shaving against the hair growth DOES result to a smoother shave but it’s also quite risky as the skin around the hairs can get dragged along the blade, which may cause irritation and damage to the follicles. Shaving following the direction that your hair grows in (starting from the root) is safer and better for people who have sensitive skin. This also helps to prevent ingrown hair as the hair follicles remain intact in their direction.

Compared to other forms of hair removal, shaving is the easiest to do and also the cheapest option. It does require regular maintenance but even then, you only need to spend around P30 for a razor that can last you up to three months. Compare that to a leg waxing job that can cost around P600 and will approximately last for three to six weeks.

Of course, you don’t even need to remove any hair at all if you’re comfortable with it. (Remember, it's your body and you get to make decisions about whether your hair stays or not). But if you do shave or plan to try it out, take note of the following tips for a better experience:

1. Do take your time in choosing the razor that suits you. Electric options are quite popular since they don’t require shaving creams and are designed to lessen the likelihood of cutting yourself. They last for years but they can also be very pricey. There are fancy manual razors that promise comfort or a closer shave, but I find that disposable razors work just as well. I personally use a Schick Exacta 2 with an aloe vera strip, and it usually lasts me about three months of shaving my underarms and legs. I shave about three times a week, so I get roughly 40 uses out of a disposable razor.

2.  Do clean and dry your razor after every use to avoid rusting and blade damage. After shaving, make sure to rinse out all the hair and shaving cream from between the blades. Don’t let it dry face-down on the sink in a puddle; store it upright so the moisture drips away. You may also run it along denim jeans once it starts to dull but as soon as the razor starts to discolor or show signs of rusting, chuck it and save yourself from getting an infection.

3.  Do exfoliate beforehand as it preps your skin and makes it easier to shave closer to the root. You should also exfoliate when you feel the hair starting to grow again to prevent ingrown hairs. You can opt to use store-bought scrubs like A Bonne Spa Milk Salt, make your own, or simply use a loofah or body brush on the area you’re planning to shave.

4.  Do put on a barrier product before shaving. The idea is not only to have something between the blade and your skin, but also to have something that is very moisturizing, Shaving creams are great options but if they’re not readily available, your regular body lotions or even hair conditioner can be used as a substitute. Soap doesn’t work as well as the lather is too thin.

5.  Do shave with great care. While razors are well-designed to aid in a smooth shaving session and to lessen chances of cuts and nicks, proper usage is also a big factor. Take your time  – you’ll be less likely to cut yourself and to miss certain areas. Apply a moisturizer after shaving (unscented and alcohol-free work best since your skin will be sensitive) to soothe the shaved area and any irritation that may have occurred as a result of the process.

Do you shave? What’s your preferred hair removal method?

References: LiveScience, Today I Found Out, Fresh Vancouver