Mellissa’s Beauty Corner
Greetings, everyone! My name is Mellissalynn, Mellissa for short. I’m a licensed cosmetologist and esthetician located in central Illinois. I’ve been writing a makeup tips and tricks column for the Pretty T-Girls Yahoo group magazine for six years, and my columns are now being published in two other magazines as well. Tasi has asked me to contribute some knowledge to Sister House, so here I am.
I hope this column will be a monthly thing. I intend to do my best to make it so. Any input, advice, or questions are always welcome; you may find yourself suggesting the next month’s column. My e-mail address is listed at the bottom of this column.
This month’s column is derived from a question that Vivienne, another of Tasi’s writers, asked on the TG Woman Yahoo group. I have to credit several of the other members of that group here. I’ve incorporated many of their thoughts in this column.
Shaving…the bane of every woman no matter what her genetic makeup. It’s time consuming, you have to be a contortionist to get everywhere that needs to be gotten, and all that work for something so temporary. It’s enough to make you want to scream!
Personally, I prefer depilatories or, even better, waxing, but I realize that waxing can be both expensive and potentially not possible, particularly for someone not willing to go to a salon. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to get a better shave and also the basics on how to avoid the nasty red bumps that can accompany a good shave.
The very first thing to remember is that time is both your friend and your enemy on this subject. Try to give yourself at least twelve hours before you’ll be going out to do your hair removal rituals. The longer your skin can rest before you start putting confining clothing on, the better…especially for us fuller-figured women who tend to need tighter undergarments to pull off a stunning look.
For really long hair, I would recommend using an electric shaver first, before getting in the tub. The longer the hair is, the longer the time it takes to remove it. After using the electricshaver, wipe the freshly shaven area down with witch hazel or another astringent and
let your skin rest a few moments. This would be a good time to get the tub ready for your use.
If you have the time, I recommend taking a bath as opposed to a shower. Not only does this keep your skin immersed in the water, thereby keeping the hair shafts softer, it’s also more relaxing. I understand that some of us, myself included, are too tall for this to really be an option, but if you can do this, I highly recommend it.
The first step is to perform a good exfoliation on your legs, or whatever area you’re going to shave, prior to shaving. The less debris and detritus there is on your skin prior to shaving, the easier your razor will work. When you exfoliate, DON’T USE APRICOT SCRUBS! They contain tiny pieces of apricot shells, which can be too abrasive on the skin and cause small nicks that the razor can catch and amplify. Look for a scrub that contains spherical beads that will remove debris without cutting the skin. Also, use a washcloth to do this; the plastic scrubbies, while seeming to do a better job of exfoliating, can also cause abrasions to the skin that the razor then amplifies.
After exfoliating, if you have the luxury of a bathtub, soak a few minutes in it in warm, but not super-hot, water. This opens the pores and loosens the follicles a small bit, making it easier to get a closer shave. Don’t linger in the water too long, though; more than ten minutes soaking is too much for the skin. When you start seeing the wrinkled skin, you’ve been in too long.
Look at what you’re using as a shaving cream to ensure that there’s nothing in the ingredients that you’re allergic to. Sample a few different brands as well, if only to see what you think gives a better result. Many women use hair conditioners for shaving; it’s inexpensive and works well. However, I recommend that you use a moisturizing shaving gel. This helps replenish the moisture that you’ll remove from the skin when you shave.
When you apply the cream to the area you’re shaving, be sure to get an even layer on the skin. Let it sit for a moment before applying the razor. This helps to soften the hair shaft and make it easier to trim.
So. It’s time to put the razor to the skin. Use even strokes going with the direction of the hair growth to start, especially for longer hair (if you weren’t able to take my advice from above). Don’t worry, I know, this isn’t going to get it as close as you might like. We’ll get back to this. The first time through is to remove the bulk of the hair. We all have our own rhythm and pattern for shaving. For myself, I go in this order: legs (they take the longest so I do them first while my water is warm), arms, chest, stomach, bikini line and buttocks (including the anal area). I don’t shave the genital area, but I do have a small pair of shears to keep the hair there neat and trimmed.
For the second time over the area, apply a new layer of shaving lotion or cream or what have you. This time, you will go GENTLY against the direction of hair growth. I stress gently because if you go too roughly, you can easily nick yourself up very well. You will find this takes less time than the first trip through.
After you’ve finished shaving, give yourself a good warm lather of liquid soap and wash. This will remove any residue. Use a washcloth, but be delicate about it. Your skin will be a bit sensitive after shaving. Follow this with a cool rinse. This is to cool your skin down and close pores.
As a side note, please remember that bar soap is bad for your skin. Bar soap is a breeding ground for bacteria, and freshly shaven skin is a ripe area for infection to settle into. Remember that, along with the hair, you’ve just removed part of the skin’s acid mantle; that’s the delicate combination of sweat and oil that keeps your skin supple and helps protect from infections. As per my cosmetology courses, the first and best barrier against diseases and infections is healthy, unbroken skin. Additionally, bar soap creates friction as you use it on the skin, which can abrade and cause microscopic tears in the flesh. More areas for bacteria to get in…so please, use a liquid soap.
All right. You’ve just stepped out of the shower, dripping wet and for a short time, hairless. A small note for you to consider: you want your bathroom to be warm when you get out of the shower. Have you ever had the goosebumps? That’s the arrector pili muscles in your skin causing your hair to stand up. Well, when this happens with freshly shaven hair, the follicle standing up is under the skin. That means one of two things will happen. One, it will shorten the length of time your freshly shaven skin stays smooth. That sucks, after all the time you’ve put in making the hair be gone.
Two, the hair can catch under the skin and instead of standing up, can cause the skin to become irritated. This is what causes the red bumps that we all hate, the hair not poking through the skin. We call this an ingrown hair. They can happen on any part of the body that grows hair, but generally they occur on the thighs, in the bikini area, and on the face and neck. Shaving or waxing are the most common causes of ingrown hairs. We’ll come back to this subject in a moment.
Your towel can be another source of abrasion for your skin, especially freshly shaven skin. When you dry off (and I’m sure you’ve all heard this before), pat your skin softly with the towel. Don’t rub it or slide it across the skin, as that creates friction. Some women I know like to wipe down with an astringent after getting out of the shower. While this can protect against bacteria, astringents can also be drying. If you’re going to do this, make sure that you apply a good moisturizing lotion as well.
After you’ve dried yourself, wear loose clothing for a while. This is to let the skin recuperate from the trauma you’ve put it through. Also, looser clothing will be less abrasive to the shaved areas. Tight clothing is another cause of ingrown hairs.
To make your shave last longer, there is maintenance required. Gently exfoliate your legs every day after shaving. This keeps dead skin cells, oils, dirt, and debris from clogging the pore that the hair follicle rests in, letting the hair grow back straight without causing trauma to the surrounding skin.
Treating ingrown hairs can be time consuming and frustrating. The simplest treatment, although generally the least satisfying, it to just let the skin take care of itself. This can be annoying and less than aesthetically pleasing. The ingrown hair can leave marks that will last awhile. At school, we saw a video that showed a person with ingrown hairs, having then pulled back out of the skin with a pair of point-tip tweezers. This can be painful and time consuming as well.
The best method is, again, gentle exfoliation. With luck, you’ll remove any detritus clogging the pore and the hair will work itself out. There are plenty of different solutions people swear by for doing this. Salicylic acid (usually found in regular aspirin) is often used for exfoliation; others swear by salt or olive oil. No matter what you decide to try, you must be gentle in the application.
I’m including a link to another article on treatment for ingrown hairs. This goes more in depth on the subject than I have space to do here. The link is: http://www.wikihow.com/Remove-an-Ingrown-Hair .
In closing, there’s no sure-fire way to completely avoid getting ingrown hairs. There are too many variables to keep from ever having one happen. These tips will help to keep them to a minimum, and will also help you have a longer-lasting shave. If you have any further questions on the matter, or have another topic that you’d like me to discuss, feel free to write me at MellissaLynn@sisterhouse.net .