The key to a great shave is to really get really close to where those teeny-tiny, pesky hairs meet the skin. All the while, you're trying to avoid irritating or nicking the skin, which could lead to ingrown hairs, discomfort, and discoloration. (Bleeding? Pain? Red bumps? Yep — and also no, thanks.) And perhaps the biggest challenge with shaving is understanding the topography of hair-bearing areas. "Shaving hair is not like mowing the lawn on a baseball field," says Erum Ilyas, a board-certified dermatologist in Pennsylvania. "Skin with thick, coarse hairs is not a smooth surface that can be closely shaved easily."
Your smartest move is to find the right type of razor for different areas, and you can do that by considering its main components: the blade, the leading edge, and the handle.
"The leading edge is designed to gently stretch the skin taut prior to the blade's arrival," explains Ilyas, who says that it helps to have an edge that uniformly stretches the surface flat to allow the blade to come through with minimal nicks. As for blades, razors can come in single- or multiple-blade formats, and they can be spaced in different ways.
"Multiple blades can achieve a closer shave with fewer strokes. Ideally, the blades should be closer together to avoid nicking the skin. If they are too widely spaced, once the first blade drags across a hair, the skin can start to bulge slightly and get nicked by the next blade," Ilyas says. And lastly, the handle should be comfortable enough to avoid the need to vary the pressure applied during the shave.
Now, let's get down to the specific razors you can choose from for your closest, smoothest, most comfortable shave, as there are plenty.
Cartridge razors' blades are located inside a disposable cartridge, where there can be two to six blades tightly spaced for a quick, close shave, says Ilyas. "The cartridge can often be flexible or gently bend to allow the blades in the cartridge to curve," she explains, noting that it can be used in areas that require the blade to move with the contours of your skin. "This is a safe, close, but potentially pricey shave.”
If you're pressed for time, cartridge razors allow for a fast shave because multiple blades are at work. However, Ilyas says, the cartridges should be changed routinely, which can add to the cost. And there's no getting around it — if you use it for too long, you may injure yourself. "Hairs often get trapped between the blades as well, making it less effective over multiple uses," Ilyas explains.
One to try: Billie Razor ($9).
Disposable razors feature plastic handles attached to a blade. They are designed for one or two uses, says Sonia Batra, a board-certified dermatologist in California and a co-host of the television show The Doctors, and they can be used in the same areas as cartridge razors.
"A disposable razor generally has lower-quality blades, so the shave is less close and you are more likely to nick or cut yourself," Batra explains. Therefore, these may not be ideal for more sensitive areas of skin. However, "There is a wide range of quality of disposable razors ranging from a single blade that costs less than $1 to those that mimic cartridge-style."
While these are good for travel or camping, Batra says, in general, they are more wasteful and become more expensive in the long run.
Straight razors have a metal blade and a handle that doubles as storage for said blade. These are the sharpest razors you’ll find, and they provide the closest shave, but they’re also the hardest to learn to use; if you’re not too skilled in the shaving department, you might struggle a bit at first.
"The blade is fully exposed and can easily cause deep cuts and nicks," Batra says. "It's also likely overkill for most of the areas women shave, like the legs or armpits, and will cause a lot of cuts during the learning process," Batra says.
If you are skilled at using a safety razor, it will save you money over time because the blade lasts forever and only needs to be sharpened. However, you might want to pass on this one for certain areas or unless you have the confidence or experience.
One to try: The Art of Shaving Shavette Straight Razor ($60)
These are single-blade razors for long-term use that have a protective device positioned between the edge of the blade and the skin. Batra says they use disposable blades that are much cheaper (10 to 20 cents) than those used in cartridge razors (which are typically $2 and up). “These still have a learning curve despite the protective device; however, they are not as difficult to master as a straight razor,” she says.
People who develop razor burn from cartridge razors would benefit from these. "There are safety razors with closed combs and longer handles that are recommended for women’s legs and armpits," says Batra, who notes they can also be used on the face as a dermaplaning tool to exfoliate the skin while removing peach fuzz.
One to try: Oui Rose Gold Single-Blade Razor ($75)
Electric razors have a blade and motor, and they fall under either foil or rotary options. Foil electric razors have a "foil" or thin metal sheet with holes overlying the blades. “The tiny holes in the foil capture the hair, and the oscillating blades come by and cut it,” says Ilyas. "This makes for a safe and fast shave, but not necessarily as close as with a traditional razor."
It's worth noting that even though these are thought to be less irritating, they still can be. It’s possible that not only hair gets pulled into the foil, but skin as well. (Ouch.) Rotary electric razors have three circular heads that are spaced out like a triangle. “The round guard of each head captures hairs, and an internal spinning blade or cutter shaves these hairs,” says Ilyas. This is also a safe and fast shave that permits quick movement around the contours of the neck and jaw line, where hairs are captured at multiple angles. Electric razors tend to be favored by men on the go who need a quick shave. "They are not necessarily great at catching fine or peach-fuzz types of hair growth," Ilyas says. "Coarse, thick hair is ideal for these as the blade of hair can get trapped in the mechanism to allow it to be cut."
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More on shaving:
- The Hack for Avoiding Ingrown Hairs While Shaving Your Bikini Line
- Allure's Head-to-Toe Guide to Hair Removal
- Facebook Banned This Ad of a Woman Shaving Her Legs
Now check out all the methods you can use to remove leg hair:
Originally Appeared on Allure