Showering or bathing in warm water for at least two or three minutes prior to shaving "will prevent dirt and dead skin from jamming up a razor or causing ingrowns," says Claire Girdler, a research scientist at Gillette.
"I knew a girl who shaved her bikini area with a razor she always left in the shower, and she ended up with a staph infection," says Jodi Shays, owner of Queen Bee Salon and Spa in Los Angeles. Granted, that's an extreme example, but wiping your razor clean and storing it someplace dry can ward off bacteria.
If it's a disposable razor, chuck it after two or three uses. If it has a replaceable blade, switch to a new one before it gets dull. Most American women replace after about a dozen uses, according to Gillette research, but you should change it at the first sign of dullness or discomfort, says Girdler. "For most women, this is after about 10 to 12 shaves."
This may alter the technique you've been using since you first took razor to downy shin, but you should shave in the direction of growth to minimize irritation, nicks, and ingrowns. That means downward strokes on legs and the bikini area, and "since underarm hair can grow in all directions, shave up, down, and across," says Girdler.
If you have to go over an area twice, Girdler recommends reapplying gel or cream—enough to coat your entire leg and keep skin from peeking through. Ni'Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist in New York City, points out that body wash, shampoo, or conditioner can lubricate skin, too.
A slippery, foggy shower is not the place to test your balance. "You need to ensure you're sitting or standing comfortably while shaving," says Girdler, who recommends keeping both feet planted firmly. A nick isn't the worst thing that could happen, either: U.S. emergency rooms saw more than 1,000 injuries to genitals caused by razors, scissors, and clippers each year over an eight-year span, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Urology. (In fact, the researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that those injuries increased fivefold over the past eight years.)
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Shaving is the go-to hair-removal method for 58 percent of women. Want a shave that's 100 percent smoother and safer?
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