As wet shaving becomes more popular, more women are joining Badger and Blade. Further, men who wet shave may also shave their legs for athletic or aesthetic reasons. Leg hair is softer than facial hair but the mechanics of shaving legs with a double-edged razor and a brush may be awkward to grasp at first. This article is intended as a guide to using wet-shaving principles as applied to shaving legs.
Wikipedia suggests that leg shaving has become popular "since the early twentieth century, as hemlines on women's dresses have become shorter and women's swimsuits have become more revealing, displaying all of a woman's legs and more." Certainly razor and blade manufacturers viewed 50% of the world's population as an untapped market, and moved to capture it. Advertising firstly targeted the removal of female underarm hair around 1915 and later, as skirts became shorter and nylons came into fashion, it was easy to extend this trend to the legs also. Leg shaving is not a global trend but is predominantly practiced in western countries.
Many people prefer the Lady Gillette for its longer handle, and therefore easier reach. However, every individual has their favorite razor for this task, depending on factors such as razor weight, size, or type.
Some women may be curious to try a straight razor or a shavette-style razor (a straight with a disposable blade). While a great leg shave can be had with both of these the learning curve is a little higher, the technique is trickier, and a DE (Double-Edged Razor) would be a more advisable transition to make from cartridges. There are some links below this article leg shaving with straights/shavettes in further detail.
Those who are switching from using a cartridge razor will often be surprised at how close a shave they get from a blade. It is important to remember that each make of blade is different and, in the case of some brands, each individual blade will shave differently. Try a few makes to find out what you like. Blade sampler packs can be purchased. Some women find the Gillette 7 O'Clock Blades to be good for leg shaving as the blade quality tends to be consistent and forgiving but find one that is right for you. With leg shaving many people will find that they need to use a new blade each shave. Some will find they get two or more shaves to each blade. It the blade feels dull, isn't cutting smoothly, or starts to drag then get rid of it and put a fresh one in. Blades are inexpensive and, if properly disposed of in a blade bank, can be recycled. Blade banks can be inexpensively made and a quick search of the forums will bring up many threads discussing how to make one easily.
The choice of shaving brush is as diverse as razor and blade choices. For leg shaving, some prefer the coarse exfoliation of a boar bristle brush, while other prefer the softness of a badger brush, or even a kabuki make-up brush. Handle length and size are also considerations for ease of lather building and whether the lather is built in a bowl or on the leg.
Preparation for the legs is just as important as preparation for the face. A hot shower or bath is highly advisable to start with, whether you shave in or out of the shower or bath. This helps prep the skin and hair for shaving and cuts down on irritation.
LatherLather can be built by either bowl or leg lathering. It is important to have a good soap or cream to start with, and do not use common bath soap or shower gel. Lather the section of leg to be shaved first. Do not lather the whole of both the legs at the beginning, or the lather may dry on the skin and cause irritation. Instead, lather only by sections. Some females like to divide the leg into four sections (with each calf and each thigh being a separate section) while other prefer to do much smaller sections. In general it is not advised to lather more than half or a leg at a time. Work bit by bit and you can always add a small amount of water if the lather beings to dry as you go along. When lathering directly on the leg shave sticks can be used and are very easy and quick to use. They are simply rubbed onto the damp skin like a large crayon and then a brush is used on the lather to create the lather. As with all soaps, creams and sticks please be aware that everyone's skin is different and that some products (esp. those with a high essential oil or perfume content) may cause some irritation to sensitive skin.
MechanicsIf the skin has become dry before it has been lathered, wet it again before lathering. Hold the razor at approximately a 45 degree angle to the skin (see Blade Angle), using no pressure but the weight of the razor itself. Shave upward, against the grain, as it is a more natural movement and easier to accomplish. Keep in mind that some areas of the leg may not have the hairs growing straight up and down, but may be diagonal or even sideways. Adjust the direction of the razor to compensate. Depending on blade and technique, a second pass may be required, but no more than two is advisable. Re-lather between passes.
The knees, like the chin, can be a very tricky spot to shave, and there are several methods for doing so. One is to bend the leg as far as possible, and so tightening the skin across the knee before shaving. Another is simply pull the skin tight with the fingers of your free hand. Yet another is to shave the bottom half of the knee (before the bend) with leg bent, and the rest with the leg straight.
With all leg shaving, and in particular with the knee section, it is important to take your time and to pay attention to the shave. When you start out go slowly as the blade is very sharp and those who are used to shaving quickly with a cartridge razor may accidentally cut themselves. Go slowly and let the weight of the razor do the work. No pressure is required and as you get to know your blades, razor and lather your shaving technique will improve and thus speed up again to a degree. It is always best to be overly cautious (and to enjoy the process!).
When shaving the legs with a Double Edge Razor, it is important to remember there is more area to cover, and so the blades will need to be changed more often than they do when only the face is shaved. This may mean changing the blade every shave, or every few shaves, depending on the blade and how thick the hair is.
Some women will use a light moisturizer after shaving and drying off but it is a matter of personal preference. A point to note though is that any lotion applied after shaving should not sting. If you get a mild stinging sensation then your lather may have irritated your skin slightly or dried it out a bit. Try using a different soap or cream to see if that helps or lather smaller sections so that it does not dry on the skin as you shave. Another possible reason might be that the blade is too sharp for your skin, or your angle and/or pressure might have cause mild irritation or razor burn. With time and patience your technique will improve and you will find the right method and tools for you.
Depending on how often you shave, light exfoliation of the legs and skin whilst bathing or showering is sometimes used to keep the skin healthy and to help prevent ingrown hairs. Your standard soap or shower gel applied with a loofah will be fine. There is no need to rub too hard. Gently rubbing the skin whilst dry with a towel will also lightly exfoliate it. Some women use shower gels with microbeads/grains in them for this purpose so find whichever suits your skin best.
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