When it comes to achieving stubble-free skin for summer, salon waxing and in-office laser hair removal treatments are the gold standard. But, for a quick (and cheaper) fix at home, women can turn to razors and depilatories. There are some tricks of the trade, though. Jeannette Graf, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says that if you're not careful, nixing stubble can become a skin-compromising situation.
How to avoid razor burn, ingrown hairs, and cuts? The sleek Gillette Fusion ProGlide Razor ($12.99) might be designed for men, but because it has five blades and a heavier handle, it gives a super-close crop in fewer passes, Graf says. "The best time to shave is at the end of a warm shower, when blood vessels are dilated, causing skin to plump and expose the entire base of the hair follicle better. "Warm water also softens hair so it doesn't snap, helping prevent ingrown hairs. To avoid blade rust -- and skin infections -- swap out the blade every five to 10 shaves.
It is OK to shave every day as long as you keep the skin soft with a moisturizing shave cream, such as Skintimate Moisturizing Cream Shave Dry Skin ($3.99) with ultra-hydrating olive butter and white tea extract, which researchers at Kingston University in London found has anti-inflammatory properties.
During the summer you may be hesitant to slather on a heavy body lotion. But applying moisturizer over freshly shaven, still-damp skin will help minimize flakes and razor rash, Graf says. Try Alba Botanica Very Emollient Body Lotion ($17.75), which is spiked with nourishing jojoba, a natural liquid oil rich in vitamin E. It also has a healthy dose of sesame and avocado oils, which are easily absorbed skin softeners.
Using a depilatory, like Nair Shower Power-Sensitive ($6.99) isn't as popular as shaving, but it does have its advantages. For starters, you'll get a lower incidence of bumps and ingrown hairs, Graf says. "Plus, hair is removed at a deeper level, allowing a longer time for regrowth." While the hair only needs to be stubble-length to work, a depilatory is best when used sparingly -- every 10 days to two weeks. That's because the formula's chemicals, which break the bonds that hold hair together, can dry out skin.
Dealing with Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs show up when a hair that is shaved, waxed, or tweezed curls and burrows back into your skin as it grows. This can lead to inflammation, Graf says. Try these quick fixes.
Smooth Move. Hop in the shower and carefully exfoliate the area with a wash cloth or gentle body scrub. Once you've dried off, dab Tend Skin Liquid ($20) onto the bumps. The liquid contains acetylsalicylic acid (which is also the main component in aspirin), a gentle exfoliant and anti-inflammatory ingredient that helps slough away dead skin buildup, making it easier for hairs to resurface.
Picky, Picky. If stubborn hairs don't want to come back up on their own, try to avoid picking (which can lead to infections) and see your derm. She can help remove the hair and advise you about laser hair removal, which can resolve stubborn ingrown problems.
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