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Should You Exfoliate Before or After Shaving?

Your smoothest shave depends on the order.
November 13, 2023

Hair removal is one of those grooming activities that almost everyone has done at least once. Whether you’re a dedicated leg shaver or just curiously waxed your underarms once, it’s a pretty common shared experience. For the grooming obsessed, you may have mastered how to exfoliate from head to toe and you may also know how to shave your legs like a pro, but what about combining these two beautification activities?


You don’t need to be an expert to know the importance of exfoliating for shaving, but the specific order of exfoliating before or after shaving and waxing is where it gets tricky. Ahead, learn everything you need to know about exfoliation, hair removal and when to do each in a shaving or waxing routine for the body.


Should You Exfoliate Before or After Shaving?

Let’s get down to business — do you exfoliate before you shave? The quick answer is yes, according to the Cleveland Clinic. You should exfoliate skin prior to shaving as exfoliating first will help prevent the razor from becoming overloaded with dead skin cells — which reduces its effectiveness. Basically, exfoliating first is a serious pro tip for a closer shave.


Not only can exfoliating prior to shaving help you get a more thorough shave and, in turn, smoother skin, but it can also help prevent ingrown hairs. According to the Cleveland Clinic, you should exfoliate with products containing ingredients like salicylic acid or other forms of beta hydroxy acids to clear pores and reduce oil which causes ingrown hairs.


If you’re shaving your face, wash it with a gentle exfoliating cleanser like L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 3.5% Glycolic Acid Cleanser beforehand to rid your complexion of dead skin cells for a smoother shave. This cleanser is formulated with two well-known exfoliants, glycolic acid and salicylic acid, to resurface skin for a brighter and more even skin texture. 


For your body, try a physical exfoliant like a body scrub or body washes formulated with an ingredient, like sugar, salt or micro-pearls, to mechanically rid skin of dead cell build-up. Make sure you pick a product specifically for the skin on the body over the skin on your face, to minimize irritating your skin. 


And if a physical body scrub seems too harsh for you, opt for a chemical exfoliant body wash, per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), that offers the same skin exfoliating benefits, but in a liquid or gel formulation that doesn’t have those scrubbing ingredients. 


How Long Should You Wait to Shave After Exfoliating?

The best part about exfoliating before shaving is that you don’t need to wait before using your razor. After exfoliating your skin with either a physical or chemical exfoliant, you can immediately start shaving as you normally would. You’ll get a smoother shave since your skin surface is buffed and prepped for hair removal. 


Can You Exfoliate After Shaving?

The goal of exfoliating your skin with a physical or chemical wash before shaving is to eliminate dead cells, dirt and other buildup that disturbs the hair removal process. However, it’s also a useful step to keep ingrown hairs from sprouting as your hair grows back. 


You won’t need to exfoliate again immediately after shaving, however, the Mayo Clinic recommends exfoliating a day or two after a shaving session to minimize ingrown hairs and to keep follicles clean for new growth.


Should You Exfoliate Before or After Waxing?

Similar to shaving, for the best hair removal results it’s a good idea to exfoliate prior to waxing to help ensure that the buildup of dead skin cells is reduced. However, unlike exfoliation before shaving, you don’t need to exfoliate immediately before waxing. To avoid irritating your skin, use a gentle exfoliant a day or two before your hair removal appointment for a smoother process and to combat ingrown hairs, per the Cleveland Clinic.


How Can You Care For Skin After Exfoliating and Shaving?

After exfoliating, remove hair by shaving or waxing, then finish with a moisturizing cream or lotion to help soothe the skin and replenish its natural oils. if you want to add a little glow afterward, use a long-lasting self-tanner like L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Water Mousse for a gradual bronze tint that will also help hydrate your freshly waxed skin.


Next: 7 Shaving Cream Alternatives You Can Find Around The House


Photo Credit: Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Associate, Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Production Assistant: Jason Parigian, Digital Tech: Sam Kang, Photo Assistant: Hannah Lewis-Lopes, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi, Wardrobe Stylist: Melina Kemph, Wardrobe Assistant: Kayla Martinez, Prop Stylist: Katrina Rozeville, Prop Assistant: Zach Molina, Model: Avery McMahon

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