Should You Really Shave Your Face?
As much as we love swapping tips and tricks to solve our biggest beauty dilemmas, there are some questions we may not feel comfortable asking our friends about, let alone Google without going incognito. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. In this series, we’re tackling those embarrassing beauty queries by turning to experts in the field to get you the answers you need — minus any awkward feelings.
When it comes to facial hair, we believe that you should be able to do whatever you’d like. As such, if you want to embrace the growth, you do you; and if you don’t, you’re not alone. In fact, probably thanks to the surge of interest surrounding skincare these days, many are looking to get their complexions as smooth as possible by turning to razors and dermaplaning devices. While we’ve all seen how well the practice works on men, one wonders if the same effect is possible for us when we remove our peach fuzz. We spoke with a pair of dermatologists to determine if shaving your face is a good idea and to suss out what our best options are for achieving soft, supple skin sans nicks and cuts.
Brit + Co: Should we really shave our faces to get rid of unwanted hair?
Audrey Kunin, board-certified dermatologist and founder of DERMAdoctor: I honestly think it is going to be a personal decision as to what form of exfoliation the patient wishes to undertake, [though] I am certainly supportive of the decision to shave. Dermaplaning is a trendy term for facial shaving to help remove dead surface skin cells and restore a glowing complexion. As skin matures, it thickens and complexion begins to look dull, drab and lifeless. Pores can appear larger. Fine lines can become exaggerated. Exfoliation [even the kind associated with shaving] helps renew the complexion, restore glow, and help minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and pores.
B+C: What about the tools to get the job done? Can we use the same razor for our face as we do our body?
Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital: When shaving their legs, the skin is flatter and you’re covering a larger surface area. Razors designed for the legs have to have an extra large lubricating strip to accommodate those large areas. The design of those razors tends to be large and bulky, making them not ideal for the face. Razors designed specifically for the face, which we commonly see for men, have a much smaller head. Even though a razor is labeled for a man, it certainly can be used on the face of a woman as well. Alternatively, there are a variety of dermaplaning devices on the market. They offer both gentle hair removal as well as other benefits such as sonic vibrations, which may help enhance collagen production and give an anti-aging benefit.
B+C: Are there any risks involved with shaving your face?
AK: Certainly the obvious issue of nicking/cutting the skin exists. [What’s more, you should always] avoid shaving near the eye region.
B+C: But won’t the hair grow back thicker?
JZ: That’s a myth. The hair is cut on a blunt edge, which is why it may appear “thick” when it grows in as opposed to a thin edge that develops when a new hair is made after it is plucked. Make sure to use a shave gel to hydrate the skin and hair to enhance the glide of the razor across the skin. I personally prefer colloidal oatmeal enhanced products which give additional protection to the skin like Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel ($5).
B+C: Are depilatories (like Nair) safe to remove hair on your face? Or is that a no-go?
JZ: Depilatories work by breaking apart connections between cells and the hair itself. They can be effective at removing hair throughout the body, including the face.
B+C: What should we know before lathering them on our faces?
JZ: The main risk associated with using depilatories is irritation of the skin. With shaving, you do not get the same degree of irritation or inflammation that you may get from other forms of hair removal because of the effect that the wax or the cream has on the skin itself.
B+C: Can we do anything to avoid those adverse reactions?
JZ: When you are using a depilatory, make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle. Do not leave it on the skin for longer than you should [which is approximately 6 minutes and should not exceed 10 minutes] to minimize your risk of developing a chemical burn. Do not use depilatories if you have used a topical retinol or exfoliating products like alpha or beta hydroxy acid in the week before. All of those can make your skin more sensitive to irritation. Make sure to apply a good moisturizer to the skin afterward to hydrate and protect the skin barrier that may have become inflamed from the depilatory itself.
B+C: Plucking eyebrows is commonplace, but what about tweezing other areas of your face?
JZ: Tweezers can be used throughout the entire face, wherever you have hairs that they can grab onto.
B+C: But even if tweezers can grab the hairs, are there any risks with plucking those other areas of your face?
JZ: If you’re using tweezers, it is important to have one to 2 millimeters of hair growth so that the hair can be easily removed. Do not try to dig into [it] again with the tweezer, as it will cause more harm than good, [causing] potential infections or even scars.
B+C: Tweezing can sometimes cause bumps around brows; what are some ways to prevent them from popping up?
JZ: Disruption of the outer skin layer can lead to both inflammation and potential infection. When the skin cannot protect itself, [especially when mixed with] dirt from the environment, it is at a higher risk for infection. This explains why some people develop pimples after removing hair. Make sure to use a gentle skin cleanser that can help hydrate the skin while removing dirt — for example, Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser ($10). Make sure to apply a good moisturizing lotion after removing hair to form a protective seal over the skin. Oat extract is a great ingredient to look for because it has both protective and anti-inflammatory properties, [like] Vaseline Intensive Care Essential Healing Lotion ($4).
Have any more awkward beauty questions? Let us know @BritandCo!
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Illustrations by Yising Chou