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Facial Hair Removal: To Shave or Not To Shave

Facial hair removal can be a daunting task for any female.

Using facial razors for hair removal has become increasingly popular as this is typically very quick, can be done at home, cost-effective, lasts for several hours and has the added benefit of exfoliating the skin.

Despite the effectiveness of waxing, tweezing and threading, these techniques are often painful and if performed routinely may be costly. Depilatory creams are relatively inexpensive and widely available in grocery stores, Amazon and personal care stores; however, they may have an unpleasant odor, may result in skin burning, rashes and irritation.

As dermatologists, we often encounter the several drawbacks with using facial razors including irritation, razor burn, small cuts, skin infections and the unpleasant ingrown hair. Using the same razor to shave one’s legs or armpits for the face increases the risk for spreading skin infection (bacterial and fungal).

There are hair removal razors that are available at personal care stores and on amazon that are more delicate and designed for use on sensitive areas, such as the face and neck. It is important to note that razors cut the hair where the hair begins to emanate from the skin and does not remove the entire hair follicle itself. So it may not come to a surprise that a dull or frequently used razor may result in facial stubble.

In comparison to threading and waxing, shaving facial hair is less superior to these methods of hair removal as the hair follicle is not completely removed. Shaving hair only removes a part of the hair follicle (the part that is visible). I liken it to cutting the stem from the flower—the flower will grow back as the root and the bulb (“life of the flower”) is still present.

Is the myth regarding hair that is shaved grows back thicker and faster? No this is not true. As we shave, we are cutting the ends of the hair and that cut or blunt end, also referred to as “stubble” feels thicker, but in reality the thickness of the hair shaft is unchanged. With time, that hair shaft will begin to taper and have a fine end.

When waxing, plucking or threading we remove the entire hair follicle from it’s root and so, hair growth does take longer than shaving the hair as we are only removing the visible part of the hair. With that being said, if you were to shave, it doesn’t make the hair grow faster than a normal rate.


For those that do decide to shave their face, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Prior to shaving, wash your face using a gentle hydrating cleanser. A few recommendations are LaRoche Posay Facial Cleanser and Cerave Hydrating Cleanser. Pat the skin dry gently (avoid scrubbing, rubbing). Avoid any exfoliating cleansers or masks 1-2 days prior to shaving as this may further irritate the skin and strip the protective layer of the skin.

  2. Apply a thin layer of a facial moisturizer on the face and gently shave the areas on the face. In areas around the lips (i.e. upper and lower lip), it may be helpful to stretch out the skin or protrude the skin using your tongue to prevent redundant skin and skin cuts. Using short and light strokes in the direction of hair growth is essential to avoid skin burn, irritation and ingrown hairs. Holding the razor at about 45 degree angle helps to prevent skin cuts. Most importantly, do not use the same razor for the face as the remainder of your body. Revlon Facial Hair Razor ($4.88 Amazon, 2 pack) for safe facial hair removal.

  3. Avoid shaving in sensitive areas such as around the opening of the nose and around the eyes. Skin cuts in these areas may not only be painful, but also have a high risk of serious bacterial skin infections that may require oral and/or topical treatment.

  4. After you had successfully shaved the areas on the face, it is essential to apply a noncomedogenic facial moisturizer that will help hydrate the dry skin as well as prevent breakouts.

If you develop razor bumps, skin rashes, ingrown hairs it is important to contact your board-certified dermatologist for further guidance.

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