When L.A.-based facialist-to-the-stars Kate Somerville spills her secrets for perfect skin, you immediately obey. After all, her clients include the ever-glowy Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson. But when she recently gushed that she’s been shaving her face for almost 20 years—hold up.
Similar to dermaplaning, a decades-old $100-plus spa procedure that uses a surgical blade, the idea is to both exfoliate and remove peach fuzz in order to create a super smooth surface that can better absorb skincare and establish the perfect canvas for makeup. Rumour has it that Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor were fans of the razor, and today, Japanese women go to kao sori salons for a girlier version of the barbershop shave. But if there’s one thing I know about hair removal (aside from the fact that Brazilian waxes are the pain equivalent of jogging on Lego), it’s that shaving makes stubble grow back darker. Thicker. Worse than before.
So to make sure I wouldn’t end up with a Justin Bieber ’stache, I asked an expert. Dr. Shannon Humphrey, a cosmetic dermatologist and professor in the department of dermatology and skin science at the University of British Columbia, assures me that shaving won’t change my hair’s texture or colour. However, she does note that regrowth may occasionally look hardier than what came before. “When you shave, you cut the shaft off halfway through and sometimes at an angle, which can make it appear somewhat darker and thicker,” she says, “whereas an uncut hair comes to a tapered end, so it will appear finer.” Assuaged, I gave it a go.
Materials: At the drugstore, I bought a men’s razor because (a) they’re designed for faces and (b) that’s what Somerville uses. I decided to keep it authentic with men’s shaving gel, too.
Process: I’ve never shaved above my armpits, so I got my boyfriend to teach me the basics. It was totally romantic. He showed me how to wet the razor and my skin, because the last thing you want, he said, is a “too-dry face.” I pumped “not too much but not too little” shave gel into my palm and spread it on in a goopy Mrs. Doubtfire–style mask, leaving holes for my eyes and lips. I manoeuvred the razor along my forehead, cheeks, nose, chin—everywhere except my eyebrows, which I carefully dodged. After 20 very slow-moving minutes, I’d removed just about all the shave gel. No cuts! Is it possible that I’m better at this than every guy I’ve ever met? I didn’t notice any major differences in how my makeup went on, but my skin was definitely shinier and silkier than before—though it’s hard to say if that was the shaving or the shaving gel’s glycerine. More importantly, I didn’t turn into Teen Wolf four weeks later when my little blonde hairs grew back.
1. Safety first. Razors can harbour bacteria and hurt your skin if they’re too dull, so don’t grab someone else’s (or the one you’ve been using on your pits all month). If the razor tugs rather than glides, it’s time to buy a replacement. (Do so about every month or two if you shave once a week like Somerville.)
2. Shelve your beard fears. If you only have fine hair on your face to begin with, don’t worry about aggressive regrowth. If things get darker and thicker over time, Dr. Humphrey says there could be a medical condition at play. Talk to your doc.
3. Treat your face like your underarms. As with any other body part, follow the standard commandments of shaving: don’t go over the same area more than twice, tread carefully around curved places to avoid nicks, and moisturize afterwards to soothe skin. Need help? Asking your man for face-shaving lessons is a great way to gauge how much he loves you.