What Happens When You Shave?

Middle-aged man shaving face

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Shaving is a popular, efficient and cost-effective way to get rid of unwanted hair. Many myths are attached to shaving, such as that it makes your hair grow back denser, thicker and quicker. However, there's one truth about shaving: It can be very irritating to your skin, especially when done incorrectly.

Depilitating Hair

There are two types of temporary hair removal: epilation, which removes the entire hair follicle from under the skin and depilation, which involves removing the part of the hair that sticks out of the epidermis. When you shave, you use a sharp blade to crop off the hair at the point where it meets your skin. Cream depilatories remove hair by chemically dissolving the fibers. Because waxing, sugaring and plucking–all forms of epilation–take out the entire hair follicle, regrowth is considerably slower.

About Shaving

The Cleveland Clinic notes that the rate of your hair growth will determine how frequently you need to shave, and shaving rituals are different for each person. Shaving works best on the legs, face and arms and for men. Although many women shave the bikini line, this method of hair removal is typically associated with ingrown hairs.

Shaving Tools

Which razor type you use is largely a matter of personal preference and what seems to work best for you. Typically people use disposable plastic razors until the blade dulls, at which point they can be thrown away. Shaving systems are more durable and have permanent handles with removable razor cartridges. Razors have single or multiple blades.

Razor Bumps and Ingrown Hairs

There are inherent problems associated with shaving, says skincare expert Paula Begoun. When hair grows back out, the stubble can be unsightly and uncomfortable. Shaving is also closely associated with razor bumps and ingrown hairs. After you shave the hair follicle, the tip of the hair becomes sharp. When it grows back, it curls around and re-enters the follicle. Razor bumps and ingrown hairs are a particular hazard when shaving around the bikini line, Begoun says.

Avoiding Shaving Pitfalls

For a safe shave, shave hair only when it's wet, advises the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Shaving in the direction of the hair growth probably won't give you a close shave, but you'll reduce your chances of getting nicks, cuts and other types of irritation. To give the razor traction, apply a lubricated shaving gel to your skin. Begoun states that even hair conditioner is a sufficient emollient. Make sure that the razor you use is sharp and clean.

Other Shaving Facts

According to the FDA, shaving won't alter your hair. It won't grow back coarser, thicker or darker. Begoun points out that how your hair grows is determined by your genes; nothing you can do to it topically will affect it.