I first attempted to shave my legs in the seventh grade, when the hair on my gams was so light and fine that if you looked closely at my shin, you could probably see your reflection. But like many adolescent girls, I admit I was a little brainwashed by the “Who wears short shorts?” commercials all over TV at the time and therefore loath to expose any body hair, no matter how translucent. And so, while visiting my best friend at her family’s beach house, I helped myself to her dad’s manly razor—and promptly sliced off a chunk of skin in addition to my barely there leg hair. It bled for at least an hour and the scar remained a visible testament to my folly for several years. My first tangle with a depilatory cream ended just as gracelessly: The toxic stench almost overwhelmed me, and I gagged when I wiped away my hair with a cloth. My skills have improved considerably since those days. But whether shaving or waxing (I’m still not down with chemical-based creams for eighty-sixing stubble), I often experience bumps, dryness and irritation—and I’m not the only one. “Though the majority of people in America remove body hair in some fashion, there is a stunning number of misconceptions about how to do it correctly,” says Joel Schlessinger, M.D., an Omaha, Neb., dermatologist and founder of lovelyskin.com. In fact, many of these mistakes can cause skin damage and even doctor visits, Schlessinger notes. The key, he says, is to handle your hair removal with care— before, during and after. Here’s how.
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