Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shaving for Women: Simple Guide

Shaving the pubic hair can be a tricky business - many women would like to try but are uncertain about how to proceed. Before you decide what to do, it's useful to review the pros and cons of the question.

Shaving frees you from any inconvenience your pubic hair may have presented - that awful moment when you unsuspectingly pull down your underpants and discover that a hair or two is stuck under your pantyshield, for instance. (OW!) It presents an appearance that some people find very attractive. And it certainly eliminates the problem of little curly escapers peeping out at the world from the inner legline of your swimsuit. Shaving prevents odour caused by bacteria or just plain detritus being caught in the pubic hair, and makes cunnilingus easier (and to many people more appetising - pubic hair is not very firmly rooted and a lot can come loose into the mouth of your partner). However, there are a few inconveniences associated with shaving itself. Just as some people find a bare mons veneris very attractive, others are put off by it. (Some discussion with your partner may be necessary. You should also think about what you like in your appearance.) You'll have to either maintain your newfound bareness by shaving approximately every second day, or endure the itchy, prickly feeling of hair growing back in a sensitive area, and sometimes the ache of razor burn. And it needs to be done with care to avoid injury or discomfort.

Middle ground can be found if you don't wish to go totally prepubescently bare. Some women choose to shave the area around the vulva while leaving some or all of the triangle of hair covering the front of the mons veneris (what's visible when you're standing up with your legs together). Some trim the hair short rather than shaving it right off - you can do this with a pair of small, sharp scissors or an electric beard trimmer. Others practise a form of topiary, trimming and/or shaving the hair into a pattern - a heart, a lightning bolt (for Harry Potter fans?), an arrow pointing down (for the benefit of partners with no sense of direction)... Once you've picked an approach you can have fun with it as an expression of your individuality and creative flair. And if you get a result you don't like and want to let it grow back, well, you'll have an itchy week or so but the hair will return to its original condition - many of us, when we want to start shaving our legs or underarms, are told that the hair will grow back thicker and darker, but this is simply not true. Any difference in appearance or texture that you notice in the stubble is just caused by the fact that it's been cut off short with a flat end to the hair, and thus reflects light differently.

If you've decided to go ahead with it, instructions follow. These are written on the assumption that you're shaving yourself, but if your partner would like to do it for you (or if you want to do it for her), the same information will be useful.

There are two basic practical approaches to pubic shaving, using a conventional razor (the kind with disposable blades) or using an electric shaver.

Conventional Razor

First thing first: begin with a clean, brand new, sharp blade. A dull blade will drag, scrape and nick your most delicate skin. If possible, use the type of blade that has a moisturiser strip and rubber 'micro-fins' or cushions (e.g. Gilette SensorExcel or Venus) to give extra protection and a closer shave.

You can also ensure a closer shave by softening the hair prior to shaving. A good way to do this is by soaking in a warm, relaxing bath. If you're shaving your legs and/or underarms at the same time, another method is to apply shaving cream/gel/foam (soap lather will dry out your skin rather harshly) to the pubic area at the same time as applying it to the other areas, and let it sit and soak in while you shave elsewhere. (Thanks to Jaime for this tip!) You can also place a washcloth soaked in warm water over the area to be shaved for a few minutes, which will be handier if you're doing this in bed.

If you've never shaved your pubic hair before, or if the last time was a while ago and you have a full growth again, it's a good idea to trim the hair short and close with scissors or a beard trimmer, so you won't waste the fresh edge of the razor reducing it to a shaveable length. This also makes it easier to see what you're doing.

You should sit (if you're shaving yourself) or lie (if your partner is doing it and you don't need/wish to watch) with your legs spread apart. The wider they're spread, the better the visibility and the less likelihood of the blade snagging on a fold of skin. Do some warm-up stretches if that helps *^.^*

Relax. If you haven't done this before you may be nervous; if you're letting your partner do it you will have to trust him or her. (Never try to do this if you're drunk, very sleepy, or otherwise not totally on the ball.) As long as you've read all the instructions through, you should be fine. Go on calmly.

Where you begin is up to you. Use your free hand to spread the skin out smooth and flat, and shave with smooth medium-length strokes, against the direction of hair growth. Be careful, obviously, and don't hurry. A nick here will sting like the devil. Rinse the blade frequently (after each stroke is good) so it won't become clogged with hair and/or shaving cream.

As you proceed you may find fine hair in places you didn't suspect - on the lower slopes, as it were, of your buttocks, and on the very edges of your outer labia. This is normal - no need to feel that you're a hairy freak. You may want to steer clear of shaving very low down as you will be more conscious of any regrowth when your buttocks rub together as you walk.

When you've shaved as much as you want to, rinse the area with clean warm water, and apply a soothing, moisturising lotion or gel. Aloe vera is particularly good, and there are specialised 'bikini line' lotions available in pharmacies. Aloe will also help any shaving rash or nicks to heal.

Aftercare and Maintenance

To maintain a smooth finish, you'll need to shave about every second day. Regular applications of your chosen moisturiser will help to keep the skin healthy and comfortable and to soften the regrowth.

Especially if you're a first-time shaver, you may find that you get some razor burn, shaving rash, hives, call 'em what you will - inflammation of the shaved skin, little raw spots, tiny pimples. (The sharper and cleaner your blade, the less trouble this should be.) This can be very uncomfortable and rather embarrassing, but it will heal. If you're concerned about infection, use a soothing antiseptic cream or lotion on the affected area, but don't apply this stuff to the inner labia or inside the vagina.

For general skin care in the pubic area, use moisturiser as discussed above. It's very important to keep yourself scrupulously clean, because your genitals no longer have pubic hair protecting them from bacteria, dirt, friction, etcetera. Wash every day with soap and warm water - anti-bacterial soap, left to sit for fifteen seconds before rinsing, will do a really hygienic job. This applies to the vulva and mons, but there is no need to wash inside a healthy vagina with soap. The vagina keeps itself clean with secretions - you only need to wash these away when they emerge from the body. Washing with soap or using douches will only dry and irritate the mucous membranes.


Electric Shaver

You need to use a good shaver (look for a reputable brand, like Braun or Remington), and it must be the kind with blades behind perforated shaving foils - not the kind with three little circles that go round and round. You can get all kinds of marvellous shavers with 24K gold-plated foils and adjustable heads for different lengths of hair and waterproofing so you can use them in the shower or bath without electrocuting yourself - choose carefully.

The advantages of using an electric shaver are that you don't have to use shaving cream or have water handy. It won't give you razor burn and is much less likely to nick you. It also tends to be simpler and easier to give yourself a quick shave or touch-up.

Most of the advice for conventional razor users will also apply to you, except that soaking with warm water will not be beneficial, so don't bother. Remember also to trim longer hair short before you start. That's about it!

Good luck with your shaving - and if you have comments, questions, complaints, or if you make some discovery you want to share, that's what our message boards are there for!

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