How to Prepare Underarms for Shaving

Portrait of pretty young woman shaving underarm with razor
Avoid razor burn and nicks by preparing underarm skin before shaving.
Š Vitaly

Shaving can be an irritating affair that leaves you with stubble not long after you finish. And then there are those nicks, cuts and red bumps that the razor can leave in its wake. It's hardly a recipe for beauty or comfort.

But when you think about it, it's not difficult to understand why shaving can cause such effects on your skin. When you shave, you scrape away some of the protective layer of skin. For the underarm area, this causes particular problems, as your newly shaven skin might be more sensitive to stinging antiperspirants and deodorants. And if you've got itchy, bumpy skin on your underarms, you might be tempted to skip your deodorant altogether.


Getting a smooth shave is also important for aesthetic reasons. Scraping that razor over your tender skin all summer long will not give you the look you seek when you're wearing sleeveless tops and bathing suits during the warmer months.

There are several reasons why the underarms pose shaving challenges. Because of their curvy contour, it's harder for the razor to glide smoothly over the skin. Also, for many people, underarm hair does not grow in one direction, as it does on the legs and elsewhere on the body. As a result, good shaving practices, such as shaving in the direction of the hair growth to avoid ingrown hairs and irritation, can be very difficult to observe [source: Lawrence].

But it's not all bad news. Although shaving your underarms can pose a challenge, if you take a little time before you apply razor to hair, you can get a closer shave with fewer red bumps, nicks or cuts to show for it.

Read on for tips on how best to prepare your underarms for a smooth, close shave.


Preparing Underarms for Shaving

A big difference between shaving your underarms and shaving other parts of your body is sweat. The glands in your underarms are major manufacturers of perspiration, so make sure you wash well before you shave to avoid infection if you get cut.

Speaking of sweat, antiperspirants and deodorants can wreak havoc on newly shaved skin, so switch your schedule and start shaving at night. That'll give your pits a break before you slather on any potentially irritating creams, sprays or lotions. Shaving at night also allows your body fluids to redistribute instead of being swelled up around hair follicles. If you must shave in the morning, wait 20 minutes after you get out of bed to do it and then another 20 minutes before applying deodorant [source: Lawrence].


Next, choose the right tools. Using a specially designed contoured razor can help you maneuver around the curves of your underarm with fewer nicks. Also, pick a good quality shaving cream or soap to thoroughly lubricate the skin so that the razor will glide over it easily.

When you are ready to shave, wet your skin well with warm water, and massage your shaving cream or gel into the skin to stimulate your hairs into standing up. For best results, take a warm shower directly before shaving, or try shaving in the shower. Warm water helps the razor glide over your skin so you avoid the drag of the blade that causes irritation and those red shave bumps. Warm water also softens hair and opens the pores, making it smoother and easier to shave [source: Greenberg].

Finally, there is no truth to the old tale that shaving causes your hair to grow back coarser or thicker. The more you practice shaving while taking proper care of your skin, the better you should become at it. For more information on shaving your underarms, be sure to visit the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Clark, Christine, PhD, FRPharmS. "Sweating and hyperhidrosis." The Pharmaceutical Journal, Vol. 276. June 24, 2006. (Accessed Nov. 4, 2009)
  • Greenberg, Corey. "How to Get That Perfect Shave." MSNBC Weekend Today. Jan. 30, 2005 (Accessed Sept. 29, 2009)
  • Lawrence, Star. "Getting a Close Shave." WebMD feature from MedicineNet. Oct. 4, 2005. (Accessed Sept. 29, 2009)
  • Seethaler, Sherry. "Lies, Damned Lies and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims and Other Scientific Controversies." Pearson Education, New Jersey: 2009. (Accessed Sept. 29, 2009)
  • Subramaniam, Suganthi. "A Guide to Beauty and Skin Care." Lotus Press, New Delhi: 2006 (Accessed Sept. 29, 2009)