You've probably been shaving since before you had a reason to (what exactly was the rush again back in fifth grade?). But, despite your experience, you could be making one of these hair-removal mistakes and not even realize it. These tips will make shaving and waxing (almost) painless—and leave you smoother.
Mistake: Not Exfoliating
Exfoliating is your best defense against ingrown hairs—no matter what method of hair removal you choose. If you're already suffering from one, exfoliate the area with a gentle scrub like Peter Thomas Roth Botanical Buffing Beads Body Wash. To prevent them from developing after shaving, use a daily body lotion with alpha hydroxy acids, like Eucerin Dry Skin Therapy Plus; this will loosen dead skin to prevent hairs from getting trapped beneath skin. If you're prone to developing them after a wax, apply the lotion to the area two days before and three days after your appointment.
Mistake: Contorting Your Face as you Tweeze
Tweezing your brows is not the time to start making faces in the mirror—whether it's flinching from the sting or just because you're trying to get a close-up view. "Lifting your brows distorts their natural shape and throws off the symmetry you want," says professional brow groomer Maribeth Madron. Try your best to relax your face as much as possible as you pluck and numb the area with an ice cube if you're concerned about the pain.
Mistake: Shaving First Thing in the Morning
Shaving at the end of a morning shower saves time but doesn't yield the smoothest shave. As you sleep, legs swell slightly, which can hide a portion of the hairs. Shave in the evening, and you'll get a closer finish.
Mistake: Shaving During a Hot Bath
Soaking in warm water make legs temporarily puff as well, so don't shave then, either (plus, it adds nothing to the relaxation aspect of a bath). If you're dead set on doing it in the tub, do it first thing: Waiting longer than ten minutes to shave will make your legs feel more stubbly than smooth.
Mistake: Shaving with a Dull Blade
"Many people let the same damn razor sit in the bathroom for days, weeks, months," says dermatologist Kathy Fields. "To get a really clean shave, you need a new blade, so go to Costco and buy them in bulk. Shave once with it and throw it away." (Other experts recommend up to four uses.) Not only will it get you a closer shave, but regularly replacing your razor blade is also one of the keys to preventing day-after red bumps. We like the Gillette Venus Embrace Razor.
Mistake: Skipping Shaving Cream
Not only will shave cream help prevent irritation from a razor blade, but it also will eke an extra half millimeter of hair, says Fields. Apply it against the grain of hair growth to make hairs stand up straight—this will get you the closest shave, recommends Claire Girdler, a scientist for Gillette Venus. We like Skintimate Skin Therapy Lotionized Shave Gel.
Mistake: Leaving Skin Vulnerable
Accutane and retinols work only if you use them religiously—but there's one important reason to halt your routine: getting a wax. Cindy Barshop, owner of Completely Bare Spas, says you should stop using Accutane the week before your appointment (the same goes for using a retinol anywhere you'll get a wax). They can make skin fragile, so the wax could take off layers of skin along with the hair.
Mistake: Waxing too Frequently
You may be tempted to head straight to the spa—or worse, reach for the razor—at the first sight of stubble, but fight the urge. You should wait four weeks in between waxing sessions so the wax has enough hair to grab. Barshop says bikini-area and on-your-leg hair should be a quarter-inch long if it's fine; coarse hair needs to be a half-inch long.
Mistake: Improper At-Home Waxing Technique
When you get a wax at a salon, the process seems simple enough: spread wax, cover with fabric, rip. But if you attempt the deed at home, there is one key element to remember: Pull the skin taut in the opposite direction you're ripping the strip. If you don't, "you can end up with deep bruises," says dermatologist Leslie Baumann.
Mistake: Waxing at the Wrong Time of the Month
Perhaps your period is on your mind when booking a bikini wax, but it's something to consider no matter what body part you're trying to get hair-free—especially if you're concerned about pain. "Hormonal shifts, extra blood flow—almost everyone feels more discomfort right before, during, and after her period," says Jodi Shays, owner of Queen Bee Salon & Spa in Los Angeles. "It's best to wax midcycle, right around the time you're ovulating."
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