For those of us who prefer going hairless below the waist, a Brazilian wax is the obvious solution. It feels grown up, takes very little time and leaves your skin smoother than it's probably ever been. However, if you have a low tolerance for pain, the process is pleasant in theory, but painful in reality. Long story short: you'd rather do the work yourself!
There's nothing particularly sexy or enjoyable about hair removal, but there are a few things you could be doing to make the routine a lot more bearable. According to dermatologist Dr. Cook-Bolden, there are a slew of mistakes we continue to make while shaving the pubic area that are actually quite easy to avoid.
If you're determined to keep your bikini line and private areas smooth and bumpless through the summer, it's time to start breaking these bad habits:
Leaving Your Razor in the Shower
First, it's important to know that using a razor to remove hair from the pubic area is acceptable, as long as you're being gentle and replacing the razor as needed. Since using a new one with every shave isn't practical or cost-efficient for most, it's imperative that you keep it away from moisture in between uses.
"To assure the blades are not corroded," says Dr. Cook-Bolden, "clean the razor blade before and after each use, and do not leave the razor wet in the shower or on the sink or tub; make sure it is dry after each use!"
Wet razors age quickly and will start to rust after just a few uses, so find a spot for it on your bathroom sink or vanity instead. Your bank account will thank you later!
Shaving Too Frequently In The Wrong Water Temperature
On the hottest of summer days, nothing feels better than a cold shower, but this is absolute torture for the hair follicles. If you're planning to shave in the shower, remember that humidity is the quickest way to soften hairs for easy removal. Dr. Cook-Bolden recommends using your razor in warm water instead.
"We even recommend this step for men shaving beard hair with clean washcloth warm compresses. It's a step that's valuable for anyone who is shaving anywhere!," she adds. "Then lather up with a shaving foam, cream or gel made specifically for feminine areas. Bland products (without scents, dyes, chemicals and preservatives) or products that have a very short ingredient list are your best bet."
Avoid steaming hot temps as well, since it has the potential to burn sensitive skin. And although hair can grow back quickly, it's best to allow 5-7 days in between each shave.
Using Perfumed Products In Your Private Area
We're all guilty of using whatever's sitting in our showers to shave even the most sensitive of areas. Be honest: how many times have you used your hair conditioner below the waist this month?
The cold, hard truth is that scented hair and skin products only add to the irritation or itching we experience a couple of days after shaving.
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"Because this area is so delicate, during the process of cleansing and shaving, liquids can often drip onto the most sensitive internal areas leading to contact dermatitis (an intense irritation, swelling and itching)."
Instead, look for shaving gels, foams and creams that are made specifically for sensitive skin. Alternatively, gentle unscented soap like the Dove Beauty Bar ($2, target.com), will also ward away dryness and irritation.
Not Moisturizing Post-Shave
Even if your skin is extra oily during the summer months, staying moisturized below the waist is still important if you want to avoid after-shave irritation and bumps. If you're shaving this area for the first time ever, wait a few weeks before using an exfoliating wash post-shave. You can also skip this step if your skin is ultra sensitive, but always incorporate a healing moisturizer, such as Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Radiant Lotion ($4, target.com), after you step out of the shower.
In addition to your everyday body lotion or cream, deodorant has become a popular after-shave option for the bikini area. According to Dr. Cook-Bolden, it's okay to use as long as it doesn't contain fragrance.
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"Regular deodorants can contain fragrances and other harsh and drying ingredients. If you must use a deodorant...try a sample size first and do a spot test to see if it reacts to your skin. To do this, apply a small amount of the product to the fold of your arm twice a day for 3 to 5 days. The skin in the fold of your arm is thinner than the surrounding skin and by being in a fold, will more closely emulate your more sensitive skin area," she shares.
"If the area becomes red, itchy or irritated, this may be a sign that the deodorant has an ingredient that you are allergic to or that just plainly irritates the skin. If there is no reaction, it is likely that you will be able to tolerate the product."
Ignoring Signs of Irritation
Itching and irritation may not warrant a visit to the emergency room, but ignoring such painful symptoms will only make shaving more uncomfortable in the long run.
If the skin in your pubic area is especially sensitive, invest in after-shave products made with calming ingredients such as cucumber, oatmeal and aloe vera, all of which are equally effective.
Dr. Bolden-Cook also recommends the more affordable Vaseline jelly as a viable after-shave balm.
"If you don’t have these things on hand," she adds, "a dab of over-the-counter hydrocortisone very sparingly applied and used no longer than 2-3 days can be extremely helpful if you’re feeling very uncomfortable. However, if you don't see relief quickly, you may need to seek the help of a dermatologist or other medical professional. "
Additionally, red bumps may signify a mild allergic reaction to scented products, but if they're filled with pus, an infection may be settling in.
"To avoid an allergic reaction, throw out that scented shaving cream and buy a fragrance free cleanser or unscented shaving cream or gel for sensitive skin," she says.
"Although the act of hair removal itself can cause irritation, as the blade slices the hair, it can cause a superficial cut or abrasion. How do we prevent this? Do not push the razor into the skin or drag the razor against the skin while shaving."