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Earlier this month, Drew Barrymore found herself in a predicament. The alarm in her house went off — just as she was shaving her armpits.
“I was finally shaving after three months,” Barrymore told her Instagram audience while wrapped in a towel.
This is not the only time the 50 First Dates actress spoke about shaving. Days after her Instagram snafu, she revealed to Kathryn Hahn on The Drew Barrymore Show that she had shaved her legs after three months, too.
Hahn, meanwhile, had not, telling Barrymore, “I have been deep in it, work-wise, and clothes have been covering all that part of my body. It’s the last thing I think about. It has been so liberating.”
How one feels about their own body hair may have to do with cultural beliefs surrounding it. Armpit hair and underarm hair on men seems to be no big deal — but according to YouGov’s 2021 Body Image Study, half of Americans say women should get rid of their armpit hair. Meanwhile, 59% of Americans say that it’s unattractive for a woman to have hair on her legs, while 31% say it is neither attractive nor unattractive.
But things are shifting: Per the study, younger people (between 16 and 34) are less likely to care about body hair on women at all.
Practically speaking, how often a woman shaves may come down to personal preference — and that can shift by the season. One woman (who did not want her name used, same as all others interviewed about their personal shaving habits), 30, tells Yahoo Life, “I never shave my legs in the winter. Once a week max in the summer,” while another, 31, says, “I shave my legs once every two to three weeks, maybe more in the summer — but I just don’t care.” Another, 30, adds, “I barely ever shave my legs, but my armpits, maybe once a month.”
A 28-year-old woman notes, “As a teen I used to shave my legs and armpits a few times a week. In college I still shaved legs and armpits a few times a week, but then my skin got so sensitive from the waxes and shaving that I had to take a break. It improved my skin so much that now I shave only every few months.”
She adds, “I used to think the hair, especially the armpit hair, was smelly and gross, but as years have gone by I’ve gotten used to it and it’s been much more comfortable than shaving, which would get scratchy and itchy.”
But another woman, 27, says she prefers to be as hair-free as possible, noting, “I shave every day, but hopefully not for much longer because I’m on my laser hair-removal journey.”
While the decision of whether or not to shave — and the frequency of shaving — is a personal choice, dermatologists have suggestions for those who do choose to shave. Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, a board-certified dermatologist practicing on the Gulf Coast, notes, “How often you choose to shave is an individual preference and entirely dependent on your skin and hair type. Those who tend to grow hair more rapidly and want to achieve a hairless look, it's likely fine to shave every day if desired, as long as there is no irritation, redness, rashes, or bumps."
However, those with sensitive skin or "poor shaving techniques," Zubritsky adds, "may find that everyday shaving is too much and leads to razor burn or razor bumps.”
Colorado-based dermatologist Dr. Scott Walter adds that, despite myths to the contrary (like, say, that your hair will grow back thicker if you shave), shaving more or less frequently isn’t inherently more effective at keeping hair at bay longterm.
“Shaving every day has been shown to be as effective as shaving less frequently,” he says. “It depends on the individual and how fast their hair grows.”
But Dr. Nava Greenfield, a New York City dermatologist, adds that if someone is prone to developing ingrown hairs or inflamed bumps from shaving, then doing so “less often is preferable.”
“When shaving, leaving some hair length and not shaving hair all the way to the skin is also preferable so that when the hair grows out, it doesn’t not get stuck beneath the skin. Using an electric shaver instead of a razor can help prevent the development of ingrowns because the hair is not shaved down to the skin,” she adds.
When it comes to technique, there are some things that can make your shaving experience more pleasurable — or at least, way less painful. Dr. Fatima Fahs, a board-certified dermatologist in Michigan and founder of Dermy Doc Box, stresses that it’s important to avoid dry shaving.
“Always shave in the bath or shower and with a hydrating cream or gel, so that the hairs are wet and the follicle is warmed, which will make removal safer and easier,” she adds. “Using a gel or cream instead of dry shaving also avoids micronicks in the skin.”
She says that those prone to acne or bumps after shaving may want to use a benzoyl peroxide wash prior to shaving.
“This removes the surface bacteria off the skin that tend to inflame the hair follicle. Exfoliating prior to shaving can also help prevent bumps and keep the skin smooth," she says, adding, "Don’t forget to moisturize after you are done!”
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