Should You Shave Before Or After Exfoliating?

We've all seen those models on advertisements with the flawless, smooth looking legs that go on for days and thought, "Jeez, how can I get my skin that smooth?" Well, aside from a bit of retouching and Photoshopping, the answer may be exfoliation.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), exfoliation is the "process of removing dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin." It is important to note that exfoliation can be done two different ways — physically or chemically. Physical exfoliation incorporates the use of products such as loofahs, washcloths, sponges, dry brushes, scrubs, or other products. Chemical exfoliation uses products containing ingredients such as alpha and beta hydroxy acids to remove dead skin.

So with exfoliation being the key to smooth skin and avoiding ingrown hairs, should you do it before or after shaving? And which is more effective with shaving, chemical or physical exfoliation? Turns out, it's best if you exfoliate before you shave (via Byrdie). Exfoliating beforehand ensures that your hair follicles are in prime condition for shaving, without excess dead skin cells sitting on their surface. These clog pore and often cause ingrown hairs — giving you those nasty, red bumps. Chemical exfoliation is also recommended over physical exfoliation. Since shaving in itself is abrasive to the skin and can lead to damage, there's no need to further compromise the skin.

The right way to shave

Whether it's on your arms, legs, or any place in between, the following steps can leave you with the softest skin after shaving. First, take your time basking in the warmth of that steaming shower, do not dry shave. Dry shaving can lead to pain, irritation, and even infections. The warm water of the shower helps soften the skin and open up hair follicles.

Next comes that important exfoliation step. The AAD recommends using a chemical exfoliator for 30 seconds, rubbing in small, circular motions over the skin. If you're unable to get your hands on a chemical exfoliator, skip the scrubs and gently exfoliate using a wash cloth or sponges. If you're experiencing a breakout of pimples or have cuts on the skin, skip the exfoliation and the shaving until all has cleared up.

Once the exfoliation is done, make sure you slather on some shaving cream and grab a sharp razor. The direction in which you shave depends on the location of the hair. In most areas, like the legs, going against the grain will give you a closer shave (via Glamour). However, in the bikini area, it is advisable to shave in the same direction as hair growth to avoid ingrowns.

Finally, there's one more step once you're out of the shower and about to get dressed. Before putting on your fancy garments — moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. This will leave your skin looking — and feeling — silky smooth.