To Shave or Not to Shave

by Wendy Camassar

It’s that time of year again…warm, sunny days mean wearing shorts and bathing suits. Baring one’s legs has gotten my teenage daughters in a tizzy about, gasp, unsightly hair. They started shaving their legs last summer but with minimal success. After a few unsuccessful attempts at finishing the job, and a nasty case of razor burn, they gave up and just focused on smaller areas like the underarm. It seemed more manageable, and I didn’t have to be involved! Well, this year they are even more concerned about the hair on their legs. So once again I decided to teach them the proper ways of shaving. I realized, however, that I never really learned the basics myself! I vaguely remember asking my mother about shaving, and I believe she handed me a razor and said, “Just don’t cut yourself.” That was it!

Since I typically research most things online, I took to the Internet to find tips on shaving for first timers. Surprisingly, I learned quite a bit myself. To start with, invest in a decent razor! My first mistake was buying a bulk quantity of cheap, disposable, single-blade razors. These really aren’t the best for new shavers out there. If you have a lot of hair to shave, you’ll want a razor with multiple blades that tilts as you glide it over knees, ankles, and underarms too. Then decide what part of your legs you want to shave. If you have light, fine hair, you may be comfortable with just shaving the knee to the ankle. If you have hair that is dark and thick, you may want to shave the whole leg. My daughters often ask how high up their legs they should shave. I usually recommend to do what they are comfortable with but to remember that shaving is a long-term commitment that requires a bit of time.

Another tip I found helpful is to shave during a warm shower or bath. The warm water softens the skin and hair making it easier to cut with the razor blade. Also, it’s important to use a shaving cream or gel to help the hair stand up, priming it for the razor. If you are short on time, you can skip this step but make sure you buy a razor that has a lotion strip on it. I used to think you had to shave in a downward motion, moving in the same direction as the hair grows. Not so! You can shave in an upward direction using long even strokes. Just make sure you are always moving the razor in one direction–up or down. This will be the best way to avoid cutting yourself. Once you are done, you can follow up with a mild moisturizer that is alcohol and fragrance free so as to avoid causing irritation.

Still wary about trying to shave? Perhaps consider using a depilatory. Years ago, they were not so attractive to use because of the way they smelled. Now, you can get them sent free and for sensitive skin too. Still not convinced? You can also try waxing. This is a much more expensive way for hair removal, and not pain free, but it’s another option. Some say the more you wax, the less the hair will grow back, so it may have long-term pay off in the end.

Here are some useful resources:

The Care and Keeping of You by Valorie Lee Schaefer

The Care and Keeping of You 2 by Cara Familian Natterson

Shaving Tips for Teen Girls

At What Age Should Girls Start Shaving Their Legs?

Wendy Camassar is an Instruction and Research Specialist at the Central Branch of the Howard County Library System.  Prior to joining HCLS, she worked as a freelance makeup artist for several years.  She enjoys hiking with her family, exercising, reading, and organic foods and skin care products.



  1. I would never have considered it as a teen either, but I would think it’s also a bit of a teaching moment to talk about NOT shaving. Or maybe why we shave, why it’s okay to do it, reasons not to bother.

    Acting like it is a de facto must-happen thing is a little bit narrow in focus, I think.

    • hclibrary


      Thank you for your comment. We agree that shaving or not is a personal choice. As Wendy states in the beginning of her post, it was her girls who expressed interest in shaving their legs. She just wanted to teach them how to do it safely and responsibly and thought she’d share the knowledge she gained through that experience on our blog, for which we are grateful. Wendy and all affiliated with Well & Wise would never suggest that shaving is an absolute for any person.