A longer lasting shave? Yes, please!

By Daley Quinn
May 21, 2021
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If you're looking to make the ever-annoying process of shaving a bit more effective (with longer-lasting, smooth legs), you might want to consider exfoliation. But should we be exfoliating before or after we shave for best results? Below, we've asked a professional to explain which method is ideal and why.

Should you exfoliate before or after shaving? 

According to Sarah Allen, MD, a board-certified Internal Medicine physician and co-founder of The SkinClique, it's best to exfoliate before shaving. "It is great to remove dead skin and debris to leave your skin feeling silky smooth," she says. "Additionally, many of the typical exfoliants could burn following shaving and your skin may appear red and angry—it's best to avoid that."

More importantly, you should be continuously exfoliating, according to Dr. Allen. "We believe everyone should exfoliate two to three times per week to remove dead skin and debris and promote healthy skin turnover," she explains. "Exfoliating removes the top layer of skin, called the stratum corneum, and leaves skin feeling clean and appearing bright."

What kind of exfoliation is best when shaving—chemical or physical? 

Prior to shaving, dermatologists prefer patients to use physical exfoliants. "Physical exfoliants typically contain crystals to slough off dead skin cells, while chemical exfoliants loosen dead skin cells making them easier to brush away," explains Dr. Allen. "These include alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid), and beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid)—chemical exfoliants are not ideal just prior to shaving because they may cause slightly more irritation than physical exfoliants." 

Why is exfoliation important when shaving? 

Interestingly, shaving is actually a form of exfoliation in and of itself. Again, Dr. Allen stresses the importance of exfoliating at a minimum of two to three times per week, where further physical exfoliation prior to shaving can leave skin appearing smooth, soft, and toned. 

What products are best to use?

Dr. Allen recommends multiple products to help you exfoliate effectively. "We love ZO® Skin Health ($67, zoskinhealth.com) as the magnesium crystals in this polish exfoliate dead skin cells and it's just delightful to use," she says. "We also love our 2/7 Scrub ($55, theskinclique.com)—it's one of our favorite products and contains salicylic and glycolic acid along with physical exfoliant beads. It's gentle, effective, and the best of both worlds."