So you’ve done the maths, waged the internal war, consulted your feminist ancestors, and you’ve come to the conclusion that yes, actually, you would rather like to shave some/all of your body hair and it doesn’t make you any less of a bloody feminist, thank-you-very-much. Or maybe you never had any such internal battle and have always regarded doing whatever the hell you want with your body the most feminist way to live. In which case – good for you babe, we’re with ya.
But when it comes to shaving your vulva, you’ve probably noticed that it rarely ends up looking as smooth as a baby dolphin like your legs do, but rather ends up looking more like the surface of the moon. So in the interest of saving vaginas everywhere (which is, after all, what we’re in the business of here at OHNE) from the horrors of ingrown hairs, rage-red irritated skin, and tiny-but-mighty cuts, here’s a handy how-to guide for shaving your vulva.
Vulva Shaving 101
Let’s start with the disclaimer that, obviously, you don’t have to shave, wax, or otherwise remove any of your hair from your body. You do you n all that. And let’s also clarify (for the beauty salon regulars among you) that yes, there are other options available, such as waxing.
This one’s for the folk who can’t afford a salon, don’t want to drop the money, don’t much feel like being stark naked in front of a stranger, or want a quick-fix that doesn’t involve waiting days for an appointment.
Before the blades come out
- Exfoliate the area you plan to shave. But be careful not to get any inside your actual vagina – remember that the vagina is self-cleaning and any soaps or product getting inside it can upset the pH balance. Exfoliate gently – your vulva is still very sensitive – to remove any dead skin which could trap the hairs. And avoiding ingrown hairs is basically priority number one throughout this whole process, okay? You can use a wet cloth or a gentle scrub.
- Soak in warm water for about 10 minutes prior to shaving. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place with a bath, we’d definitely suggest doing it in the bath rather than the shower for this reason. But if you’re going to be using the shower, fear not, spending a little longer in there than usual under the warm stream of water should do just fine.
- Use a shaving cream. Shaving takes off the top layers of skin, too, and we really want to do everything we can to prevent the area becoming irritated. As with most beauty products, we’d recommend looking for one with just a few natural ingredients – avoid ones with long ingredient lists comprised of chemical-sounding words you can’t even pronounce. If you don’t have access to shaving cream, a good lather of some soft, organic soap will do just fine.
The blades are out
- First things first: invest in a decent razor. Seriously, your skin will thank you. And replace your razor heads often – especially if you’re using disposable ones. In fact, right now I want you to march into your bathroom and chuck that flimsy, pink, plastic thing in the bin where it should’ve been thrown a year ago. Check out brands like Billie or Dollar Shave Club for good deals on subscription razor blades so you never again leave it until your razor blades turn rust brown.
- Shave in one direction – definitely don’t hack away at the same spot from a bunch of different angles hoping it’ll ensure you catch ‘em all. Most of the advice you’ll read about shaving your bikini line will recommend shaving with the grain – aka, in the direction the hair is growing. While this is good advice when it comes to avoiding ingrown hairs, it’s not such good advice when it comes to successfully removing hairs. We recommend going slightly sideways – not directly against the grain, as this will irritate the skin, but just enough that the razor blades have some hope of sliding underneath the hair and catching it in its metallic gnashers.
- Be gentle – only go over each spot once or twice and only apply a light pressure – you want to do as little as possible to irritate the skin, and rough, repetitive shaving strokes are a surefire way of making your vulva look like the angry bird avatar.
- After shaving, apply a cool, damp cloth to the area and pat down – don’t rub the cloth around as this may (say it with me) irritate the skin.
- Moisturiser is your best friend. You know how your freshly shaved legs feel about a million times more dolphin-like after you’ve given them a good moisturise? Your vulva deserves the same lovin’.
- Clean your razor before and after use. I mean, this one goes without saying, right?
- A final, less obvious, tip is to store your razor away from the shower/bath. Bacteria thrives in warm, damp environments and Bacterial Vaginosis, the most common vaginal infection in women aged 15-44, is caused by an imbalance of naturally-occurring bacterial flora, while TSS is caused by bacteria getting into the bloodstream and releasing harmful toxins. Keep your razor fresh by storing it somewhere cool and dry.
Now go forth, my shaving rookies, and bask in the glory of getting to cosplay as a slippery shiny dolphin for a few days… until it’s time to do it all again. Or, you know, decide it’s entirely too much hassle and embrace the fuzz 😉
After more top tips on caring for your vulva? Check out our Vagina 101 Guide.
Header image via ohne Ambassador @thisisnaomigale