(Editor’s Note: We are proud to introduce our new column, “Ask Dr. Damery.” Greg Damery, MD, FACOG is board certified in OB-GYN and practices in Sarasota, Florida. He also provides aesthetic services to men and women and brings us a professional view of skin & hair care down there. )
If I run out of shaving gel, can I just use soap?
You can, but remember that soap and other cleansers weren’t designed to minimize friction and irritation, so there’s no guarantee you won’t have a reaction. Your best bet is to stick with specially designed shaving products.
How can I get the closest shave possible?
Always use a specially designed shaving gel, for starters. A sharp blade is also key. How often you replace the blade will depend on a) how often you shave and b) how coarse your hair is. Two weeks is probably average.
Are you supposed to shave with the hair or against it?
If your skin isn’t sensitive, shave against the direction of hair growth for the smoothest results. If you’re new to shaving, trying a new look or tend to get red, itchy bumps, try shaving with the direction of hair growth. You won’t get as close of a shave, but it will be worth it. Most women do well by shaving first with the hair to remove the bulk of it, then against the grain to finish the job.
Is it true that hair grows in thicker and coarser after you shave?
Actually, this is NOT true, although we hear this comment all the time. It is a widespread MYTH that shaving causes a darkening and thickening of hair.
The part of the hair that protrudes out of our skin is called the hair shaft. The part that penetrates the skin layer and is contained within the follicle is called the hair root. The deepest part of the hair is the hair bulb or matrix. It is in the matrix where the hair growth takes place. The hair itself is made up of several layers that are applied as the hair grows outward.
If hair is shaven then the shaft of the cut hair is trimmed off at the skin level. This doesn’t affect the growth of the hair, which is occurring at the base of the hair in the matrix. Usually within a day or two the cut shaft will once again protrude from the skin, with its same diameter and color. The cut surface will be sharper than before due to the recent cut.
What do you do when you don’t have much hair down there to begin with?
Keeping hair trimmed and neatly groomed helps things look fuller and prettier. Use brush to fluff up hair daily. You might also consider going completely bare (it works for balding men, why not you?).
Is there one bikini-area “look” that’s most popular?
As with hair styles and beauty looks, it changes with the times. Right now, jeans are slung super-low, bikinis are teenier than ever, thong underwear are more de riguer than risqué—and a less-is-more approach to shaving just goes along with the territory. If you’re the type who can’t let a trend pass you by, try your new stencils to create a little heart or tidy landing strip—or go bold and take it all off. If that’s all a bit much for you, forget the trend-talk and go with what makes you comfortable.
How wide should the landing strip be?
There are no rules regarding the length or width of the strip—if you have lots of unruly hair, you might enjoy a whisper-thin line. On the other hand, if you’re a little sparse down there, a thicker, neatly trimmed strip can create the illusion of fullness. Experiment and see which one suits you better.
Are there any health risks to taking it all off?
As long as you don’t cut yourself, it’s all good. Again, make sure you use your own clean, rust-free razor. No borrowing from a friend—that’s how bacteria spread.
Skin Care Down There
I almost always get “razor burn” around my bikini line. What causes it and how do you get rid of it?
Basically, razor burn is friction-induced irritation. To avoid it, always use a fresh, clean razor blade and don’t share razors; soak in a warm bath or steamy shower before shaving to soften hair; and avoid skintight, restrictive clothing whenever possible.
What are ingrown hairs and how do you prevent or treat them?
Rather than growing out of the follicle, an “ingrown hair” turns and grows under the skin. Pressing too hard when you shave, tweezing incorrectly and wearing tight clothes can all be culprits. If you’re prone, you may be able to avoid ingrown hairs by shaving only in the direction of hair growth. If the bump is painful or appears to be getting bigger, it could be infected—and trying to remove it yourself with a needle or tweezers can cause scarring. See your dermatologist instead.
Is there a product to lighten my skin in the shaved area?
A chemical called hydroquinone is found in many skin lightening and bleaching products. It is available as a cream or gel and is rubbed into the darkly pigmented skin. Over a period of several months, it will lighten the affected area. Remember, however, that in the area “down there” the skin which makes up the vaginal lips or the scrotum is a naturally darker skin than elsewhere on the body.
What do you do when you constantly get ingrown hairs down there and they swell or hair keeps growing under the skin? Would you know how to cure or prevent the reoccurrence?
What you are describing are commonly called razor bumps. These are raised, sometimes inflamed, areas which occur one or two days after shaving. Razor bumps occur because the hair is shaved so close to the skin that the cut end of the hair is actually below skin level. Without the hair shaft protruding through the skin, the skin will sometimes close over the hair’s pore. With further hair growth, and no pore to pass through, the hair pushes the skin upward resulting in a tiny bump, a “razor bump”. Sometimes a cut hair may curl before exiting the skin, resulting in a red inflamed area, which many also call a razor bump, although technically this is more of an “ingrown hair”. In either case, the cause is the same. The hair is cut short and lies below skin level.
One trick to help prevent razor bumps is to shave in the same direction that the hair grows. This works because shaving in the direction of hair growth leaves the hair longer and often the hair shaft is left protruding through the skin. The downside is that you will feel a fine stubble after shaving, since the hair is left a bit longer. Another idea is to use a good moisturizing lotion.