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Do You Exfoliate Before or After Shaving? The Step-by-Step Process

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Back when I was very young and naive, I was a big-time sun-worshipper. I spent every weekend at the beach, a classic California girl, born and raised. Part of my sun-worshipping routine was to shave my legs before heading to the beach, so I would look fresh and clean in my bikini. (Ah, the fresh and clean bikini days. So long ago now.) At the same time, I was growing increasingly interested in bath and shaving products, including body washes and lotions, as well as exfoliants and scrubs. Back then, I had no concept of what ingredients went into my products, or even that I should care. My very first lesson came the hard way. One sunny California Saturday, I jumped in the shower, shaved my legs as usual, and exfoliated my legs with a new scrub from one of the hip shops at the mall. “AHHHHHHHHH!” I yelled out as the harsh chemicals from the scrub seeped into my freshly shaved skin and open pores. To say that it burned is an understatement. From that day on, I began to understand why you should always exfoliate before you shave, for more reasons than one.  

Table of Contents:  

  • Do You Exfoliate Before or After Shaving?  
  • 5 Steps to Smooth Legs 
  • After Shower Care 
  • Wow Skin Science for Your Shaving Needs 

Do You Exfoliate Before or After Shaving? 

I fell in love with exfoliation long before I understood its personal care value. I just love the feel of scrubbing my skin down and getting the shiniest, smoothest clean I can. Then, when I learned all the crazy statistics about dead skin cells on our bodies and in the air, I invested in the process entirely. We are covered in and surrounded by dead skin cells. Did you know that 90% of the dust in your home is dead skin cells? I did. Exfoliating once a week ensures those dead skin cells are not sitting on your skin and collecting dirt on your new skin.  

As to when to exfoliate, you should always exfoliate before you shave. Essentially, exfoliation is a critical part of prepping your workspace. You are clearing away all surface dust and dirt before lathering on your shave product and shaving your legs. You create an ideal workspace for your razor to get you the smoothest possible shave when you exfoliate and clean your legs first. This same advice works for any other body part you shave as well. Now, what are the other steps to smooth legs?  

5 Steps to Smooth Legs 

1. Wait a Few Minutes After Bath or Shower Begins 

I cannot tell you how many commercials I have seen with women shaving outside the shower, with their legs up on the toilet or the side of the bathtub. “No!” I practically scream at the television. Cold, dry legs are the most susceptible to razor burn, even if you use a gel or cream. Your first step to shaving is to get your skin soft and supple in warm water for a few minutes before you press a razor to it. I usually use this time shampooing and then applying conditioner to sit in my hair while I finish my shower.  

2.  Exfoliate 

    Now you can exfoliate your legs, your face, your underarm area, and any other area you wish to scrub. I like to get my whole body.  

    3. Wash 

      Next, if your exfoliant is not also a cleanser, you can wash your body with your usual soap or body wash, rinsing away any leftover fine materials from your exfoliant.  

      body wash

      4. Shave Cream  

        You can skip this step if you use body wash as your shave cream. If not, now would be when to apply your shave cream, gel, or bar of choice, fully lathering up so that when you shave you can see the lather disappear with each stroke.  

        5. Shave Down 

          Finally, shave. Remember to shave with the grain and not against it. Shaving against the grain may seem like the commonsense thing to do, but you may be causing ingrown hairs and causing your hair to grow back in more coarsely when you do this. Instead, shave in a downward motion, with the direction your hair grows.  

          After Shower Care 

          Once you step out of the shower, to maintain soft, smooth skin, you want to make sure you gently pat yourself dry and apply a moisturizing lotion, cream, or gel to your body while you are still slightly damp. This step will allow you to maintain the moisture you already have in your skin. Be sure you invest in products that are all-natural, plant-based, and free of harsh chemicals and alcohol. You do not want to burn your freshly shaven skin!  

          Ideally, get into the habit of applying lotion after every shower, all over, to support soft, smooth skin. This step has even been shown to make your shave last longer.  

          As an alternative to lotion, you can also apply body oil to your whole body before stepping out of the shower, before drying off. You can allow your skin to air dry from that point. If you have the luxury of time during your shower process, I love this option the best because it promotes your body’s natural oils.  

          Wow Skin Science for Your Shaving Needs 

          Below you will find links to a couple of products to help your shaving process go even smoother (pun intended).  

          Ubtan Face and Body Scrub 

          Ubtan Face and Body Scrub


          I love this face and body scrub for a weekly all-over exfoliating experience. It has almond shell powder for a fine scrub and turmeric to reduce inflammation in your skin, which is perfect for a pre-shave process.  

          Body Moisturizers for Dry Sensitive Skin 


          Check out the full range of lotions, butters, and oils to invest in for smoothly shaven skin. They are all made with natural, rich ingredients to support your skincare routine.  

          Click the links and take your time perusing the site. You will undoubtedly find everything you need for the step-by-step shaving process. 

          Shanna Mendez

          Shanna Mathews Mendez is a freelance writer and blogger on topics related to self-care, naturopathy, female empowerment, and motherhood. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children, where she enjoys traveling, being active outdoors, and studying herbalism and plant-based remedies in her free time. Drawing on her graduate degree in comparative literature and her own life experiences, she is currently writing her first book. She can be found online at her website thewordywitch.com

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