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Frequently Asked Questions

Body areas Problems Tips

The Razor blade

This method is by far the most common hair removal method. A sharp metal blade cuts hairs off at the skin's surface. Some razors claim to pull the hair and then cut, thus reducing the shadow effects that some people experience.

Advantages

Picture of a woman shaving her legs
  • Inexpensive form of treatment
  • Fast process to remove hair
  • Safe method
  • Usually painless
  • Hair shaving can be done at home
  • Shaving razors are available almost anywhere

Disadvantages

  • Short-term effects (few hours to several days)
  • Hair can still be visible under the skin for some dark-haired users
  • Typically requires daily use
  • Can cause cuts and skin irritation
  • Shavers can cause ingrown hairs
  • Blades require frequent replacement


Background

'Straight razors' have a semi or full hollow-ground blade sharpened on 1 edge. The blade can be made of either stainless steel or high-carbon steel. Stainless-steel ones are easier to find than high-carbon but they are both expensive to buy. Straight razors with open steel blades were the most commonly used method of shaving hair before the 20th Century; they are also called 'cut-throat razors' because of their potential lethality.

The straight razor blade rotates on a pin through its tang between 2 protective pieces called scales. When folded into the scales, the blade is protected from damage, and the user is protected from accidental injury. The handle scales are made of various materials, including bone, plastic, mother-of-pearl, celluloid, and wood.

The advantage of a straight razor is that the high quality of the shave is ensured by a skilled practitioner. A good shave can reduce burn, acne, and other skin blemishes due to the exfoliating effect. However, now with the advent of the safety razor, this is no longer an art passed down from generation to generation. The disadvantages of straight razors are possible cuts due to slips, constant maintenance by honing and stropping the blade to maintain the sharpness, and acquiring the skills to perform close shaves.

The 'safety razor', a hair shaving method where the skin is protected from all but the very edge of the blade, was invented in the late 18th Century by a Frenchman, Jean-Jacques Perret. It was marketed as "The best available shaving method on the market that won't cut a user, like straight steel razors".

The very first American safety razor was released in 1875 by the Kampfe Brothers. The American inventor King Camp Gillette, with the assistance of William Nickerson, invented a safety razor with disposable blades in 1901. Gillette recognised that a profit could be made by selling a product with cheap disposable blades. This has been called the 'Razor and Blades Business Model', which is now a common practice for selling a wide variety of products.

Finally, there are many varieties of wholly disposable shaving razors that are made of inexpensive materials. These are now the most common type of razor on the market. Some have twin or triple blades to maximise the amount of hair removed, and others come with lubricating strips to provide a smoother shave.

Treatment

For best hair removal results, always use a sharp razor, hot water and a moisturising gel or cream. Hair shaving exfoliates the skin, leaving it smoother and softer than before. Apply a good moisturising gel or lotion both during and after your shave, to leave your skin clean and well nourished.

Shaving skin with acne

If you have acne then you need to be particularly careful when shaving. If you have a temporary breakout then you should skip shaving for a few days and wait for it to clear.

If you have permanent acne then there are a few things you can do to help. For example, it is recommended that the area is washed with warm water beforehand to help soften up the skin. This not only relaxes the facial muscles but also softens the hair stubble, helping to get a cleaner shave.

For men with sensitive skin, it is recommended to apply a thick shaving cream as it provides a greater lather. Once the lather has been applied it should be left for some time to soak in and soften the hair. Before the actual shave you should reapply another coat of lather as thick as before. Also, exfoliating beforehand helps decrease rashes caused by razor use and avoid acne.

Once you have finished apply your normal acne topical creams to disinfect any cuts and treat the acne. Remember that shaving does dry out the skin, so an oil-free moisturiser should be applied to invigorate your skin.

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