I Love You Mr Disposable Razors
June 14, 2012 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Is it worth buying an electric razor, or is shaving underarms/legs with a regular disposable just as good?

For years I bought the cheapest disposable razors, thinking that if they could shave a man's face, they'd be fine on legs. When I bought some Wilkinson Sword women's razors (don;'t know the name but they have three blades) the difference was astounding, much better than I thought a couple of quid extra would get me.

However, I am not very good at shaving. I am dyspraxic, I have sensitive skin, and I am so short sighted that I can't shave in the shower as I either cut my skin or, in one memorable incident, actually slice some of my nailbed off. I am wondering whether an electric shaver will help with this. A friend suggested something called an IPL ('what is this, 1986?') but I have no idea what this is. I was looking on Amazon as I have some credit there, but I'm none the wiser. I'm also thinking that I don't want to add any more gadgets to my life unless they'll make my life better.

So tell me about your shaving equipment! Will a basic one do for the usual female grooming tasks or should I be looking to spend a bit more? Are they significantly better or easier than manual razors? I'm in the UK but I think most brands are international.
posted by mippy to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (35 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have only used a cheap electric razor (not a good quality one), but it didn't give me a close shave and I cut myself with it frequently. I much, much prefer regular razors - even cheap disposable razors are better than cheap electric razors. I do agree that slightly more expensive/ better quality razors are, as you've discovered, better than the cheapest disposable razors.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:20 AM on June 14, 2012

Electric razors eat my underarm skin. Not recommended!
posted by jgirl at 8:27 AM on June 14, 2012

No experience with electric razors.

IPL is laser treatment so that you don't have to keep shaving.
posted by cheemee at 8:28 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I don't want laser treatment! It's expensive and would be really boring. Also, I'm not sure I'd want to be hairless permanently.
posted by mippy at 8:30 AM on June 14, 2012

Electric razors eat my underarm skin. Not recommended!

Ditto this! I've never found an electric razor that works for my underarms. And as for my legs - I find that I can't get a close shave and my skin gets really irritated to boot.

I just go get everything waxed.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:31 AM on June 14, 2012

I wonder if your friend may have meant to suggest an epilator? It sounds a little like IPL, and the Braun ones are called "Silk-Epil" which sounds even more like IPL. Although some googling suggests that IPL stands for "intense pulsed light", i.e. laser hair removal, but that doesn't seem to be a common name.

Either way, an epilator is something that might work for you, or is at least worth considering. They basically consist of a rotating, tweezering mechanism. Because of the way they work, it's pretty much impossible to cut yourself, but they're somewhat painful to use, and using one ended up causing a lot of ingrown hairs for me. I get the impression that it's not a problem for most people, though. It's also something you use dry, so the shower issue would be easier. There's a ton of them available on Amazon.
posted by duien at 8:31 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, meant to add: I used the epilator only on my legs, and use cheapie disposable razors under my arms. It seems like the epilator would be really painful for underarms, but apparently some people do use them for that.
posted by duien at 8:33 AM on June 14, 2012

I used to use an old-school electric one in high school because I tended to make the shower look like a crime scene with bits of blood everywhere. There are many, many different models, and I actually quite liked using it, although the shave was not at all as close as the raxor blades I use now. One advantage is that you don't have to be in the shower, so you could wear glasses. Even if your skin is sensitive, though, have you ever tried lotion + warm water + shaving, outside of the bath? I use the five blade whatever with gel bits and buffers from Venus and I hardly ever cut myself, plus I can use it for touch-ups whenever I don't have time to get in the shower. The price of the better blades is absolutely worth the upgrade from disposables, and I find that if I make sure to dry it, they last at least a month or so.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:35 AM on June 14, 2012

Response by poster: I saw something called a Silk-Epil on Amazon, and as most of the reviews started with 'This isn't actually too painful' I wondered whether I would get one, find it unpleasant and be put off using it. Difficult to try these things before buying really! Is it more or less painful than plucking eyebrows?
posted by mippy at 8:35 AM on June 14, 2012

If you have sensitive skin, then anything that pulls hair forcefully out of your skin will be a very bad thing. (Speaking from experience.)

(more painful than eyebrows)
posted by Melismata at 8:42 AM on June 14, 2012

They have razors with protective wires to stop you cutting yourself. I have only ever seen them in the UK and Australia, but someone else might know if they sell them in the US. They are really good and I used to use them on my legs on the time, they shaved as close as any other blade I'd used, but the wires stopped me cutting and nicking myself.
posted by wwax at 8:49 AM on June 14, 2012

Much, much, much more painful than eyebrows. I also find it time-consuming and gives me ingrown hairs like you wouldn't believe.

I have a ladies razor with disposable blades and an epilator which also has a shaving head on it. The real razor gets used for my legs and armpits, the epilator gets used for bikini line. The electric razor doesn't do a very good job but is used when I'm too lazy to get in the shower.

The only time I've used super cheap disposable razors I did myself a lot of damage. You might want to try a nicer razor with proper shaving gel first and see if that helps. You can always put your glasses on at the end of your shower to shave.
posted by kadia_a at 8:49 AM on June 14, 2012

Wilkinson Sword is known as Schick in the US.

I'd like to recommend that you switch to wet-shaving. Instead of multi-blade or electric razors, go for a single-bladed double-edge razor, often better known as a safety razor. In this case you'd buy the handle for at least $25 and then get blades for less than a dollar apiece. You can also throw out the expensive gel you lather up with, and use a brush for lather.

Proper wet-shaving includes a little more prep of the area to be shaved, and it takes a bit more time, but it doesn't mean leaving your skin care to a small strip allegedly containing aloe on your 3-bladed razor. Once can (and some do) spend a bit of money trying out new soaps, creams, brushes, handles, and even blades, but you can also buy in for about $50 and that kit'll last you for months. Being a Londoner, you have good access to some incredible old stores that have been selling great shaving stuff for generations.

I learned all of this on a subreddit called Wicked_Edge, which includes this section of their wetshaving FAQ, "Ladies, too?" covering shaving the legs, the pits, and even the pubes. (Most guy wet-shavers elect to stick with the cartridge razor when shaving their pubes, to be honest.)

You'll cut and burn yourself on the first couple wet-shaves, but even if you don't shave daily (I don't) you can get the technique down in no time and you'll have better shaves and better post-shave skin if you get a good shaving regimen going.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:51 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've never been impressed with electric razors; they just don't seem to get close at all.

I like disposables, and I've found you really do get what you pay for (as long as we're talking about the blades and not useless extras like Even Better Lubrication Strips! and This One Vibrates!). I always get men's razors for two reasons: first, any advances in razor technology usually show up in men's models first; second, most women's models have huge bumpers and padding that get in my way.

The most accident-proof razor I've ever owned is the Schick Intuition. It's expensive, looks and feels like the Duplo of razors, and isn't great for maneuvering into small spots, but it gives you a really smooth shave and it's close to impossible to nick yourself.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:59 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

re: short-sightedness - turn off the shower! Sit down on the floor and put your glasses on. If you lick them first (I know, weird) they won't get fogged up. If you don't feel like licking them, run them under hot water for 10 seconds or so.
posted by elizardbits at 9:01 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sunburnt, I love you, but people who are dyspraxic should NOT shave their legs with a safety razor. You can cut yourself really badly, like go-to-the-emergency-room badly. If mippy's fine motor control issues are such that she is cutting herself up with disposables, she could really do herself an injury with a safety razor.

Seconding the recommendation for a cartridge razor with wire skin guards. Silk Effects Plus seems to be widely available online, at least, in the UK.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:02 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a silk-epil epilator. It hurts a lot the first few times and then it doesn't really. I don't think it hurts at all anymore. I use it on my legs and under my arms. My incredibly wimpy 14 year old just started using it. She takes Tylenol a little while beforehand and loves it. (She is too chicken to get her ears pierced or wear her contact lenses.) I do get some ingrowns, but I always did a bit. One strange drawback is that the hair grows back thinner and then some of it is too thin for the epilator to grab the hair easily. So sometimes I start shaving again for a while.
posted by artychoke at 9:04 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use disposables. Every electric shaver I've ever had doesn't actually shave the hair and I went with both high and low-end models. For my legs (finer hair) I can use any cheap two-bladed disposable + cheapest shaving cream but for the bikini and underarm area (coarser hair) I use a triple blade with a built in shaving bar - I havne't found any particular brands to be better than the other (currently using one by Schick but I think every brand has one of these) but I need at least three blades. If they have the shaving cream built in as a bar you don't need the shower, just wet your legs and the razor. I've never cut myself with oneo f these, either.
posted by sm1tten at 9:04 AM on June 14, 2012

I wrote a comment about IPL devices and specifically the Silk'n SenseEpil-- just going to link to it here in case you want more info on the process, though it sounds like you're getting good advice on the various types of razors available.
posted by mireille at 9:05 AM on June 14, 2012

Response by poster: Wet-shaving sounds like something people take seriously, but I will read up on it. I have limited space as I house-share, so I don't want to have an array of shaving paraphernalia - I just want something that works well and doesn't leave me with prickly patches or cuts. If that means spending a bit more, I can do that, but I want to keep things simple. And as Sidhevil has said, I am very very accident prone so I need to think about that - I've currently got really badly split fingernails from using an unpicker yesterday so god knows what running a stanley knife down my armpits would do.

At the moment I just wet the 'area' (that sounds gross written down) and use the razor in front of the mirror or with my leg tilted toward the light. I often miss patches, and when I tried using lotion as well it seemed to gunk up the razor and got on my nerves.
posted by mippy at 9:14 AM on June 14, 2012

use the razor in front of the mirror or with my leg tilted toward the light.

Something that you may find helpful is letting the hair grown out a little bit, and then using your fingers to discern the grain - that is, the direction your hair grows in. It can move, shift direction, create whorls or other patterns. Shaving with the grain is highly recommended (at least, on the first 'pass').
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:32 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is lotion the same as shaving cream? I use shaving cream in part to tell where I've missed, but also because it helps to avoid razor burn. But I don't like the gel stuff they market mostly to women. It smells gross and is overpriced. The cheapest men's shaving cream is fine for me.

I honestly like disposables better than anything else.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:37 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know if these are available in the UK, or what the brand is called, but I use a shaver that is apparently designed with leg/underarm shaving in mind (it's more bulbous with special grips in specific parts that I guess get more pressure when shaving those parts of the body). They have corresponding blades that are apparently also designed for body shaving as opposed to face shaving, though I have a little less confidence in the blades than I do in the shaver itself. In the US the whole system is called "Venus", and I think it's made by Gillette. No idea how this translates to UK branding.

I also don't shave in the shower. If I'm going to shave, I run a bath. I make it an "experience", with the good quality razors and shaving cream that smells nice.

Once upon a time I had a bathroom that was wonderfully set up so that I could stand in the bathtub and shave into the sink, and when I lived there I shaved in the "shower", in that the shower was on behind me and I was standing at the opposite end of the tub with my leg propped on the sink. But assuming you're not going to gut renovate for optimal shaving efficiency, just give yourself permission to have a bath and relax and maybe even try to enjoy it.

If you only have a shower stall with a door, I think the best option is to just go full on dirty hippie.
posted by Sara C. at 10:01 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

My goodness, if I shaved with just wet skin, I'd get terrible, terrible irritation and I don't think I'm particularly sensitive.

I'm also very nearsighted, so I shave in the shower by feel. I use conditioner as lubrication (sounds weird, but cheaper in my experience and just as effective as shaving cream), then use long strokes up the leg in an overlapping typewriter-style pattern. The key is sticking to a pattern to avoid nicks. Then I run my hand over my legs to find any rough patches, and remove those as well. It's a lot easier to do this sitting down, or with one leg up on the edge of the tub-shower. If you just have a stall, finding some sort of stool or perch you could use in there could do worlds for the clumsiness problem.

Kneecaps and the backs of the ankles are the places I tend to nick myself, so I stay away from those areas and then clean them up afterwards when I can see. Luckily the hair on the backs of my knees is very fine, so I don't shave there at all.

Also, it's a lot harder to nick yourself with the 3-bladed razors with the wide surface top and bottom than the cheap disposable ones with just that one strip. The wider head does a lot to keep the razor better aligned with your leg surface.
posted by psycheslamp at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not dyspraxic, but am I epileptic and know all about the ...excitement of shaving bits that may not be where you left them last.
Many moons ago (20 years) I tried an epilator and managed to "burn" myself by getting distracted and leaving it far longer than suggested. I now have a bald spot above my knee, but it does work.
These days I go with the triple blade disposable and shaving cream, and for me it leaves the fewest gouges.
posted by whowearsthepants at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2012

I admit I'm not familiar with dyspraxia, (I just now looked it up) but once the razor blade is in the handle, they call it a safety razor for a reason-- it should cut no deeper or more severely than a cartridge razor. If a dyspraxic person does go with a double-edge, she should go with a "butterfly"-style handle, which is more expensive, but much easier and safer to load the blade.

Okay, I can see how wet-shaving may not be such a good investment for the OP. However, I've used disposables and always molested the hell outta my face, and this is with good vision and visibility and good motor skills. How you ladies can take a disposable to your knees and pits I cannot fathom.

I would recommend a cartridge razor (2-3 blades is just fine--you can tell the first blade catches 99% of the hair anyway) and some glycerine-based soap to the the hair as soft as possible before bringing in the blade-- disposables are lousy. I refer you all again to the Wicked_Edge FAQ-- even if you don't switch your razors, improving your pre- and post-shave regimen goes a long way towards preserving your skin, easing the cut of the hairs, and fighting razorburn and ingrowns.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:42 AM on June 14, 2012

Do you shave every day? If so, is there some compelling reason you need to? I have sensitive skin and I only shave about once a week. It produces a much smoother shave and I don't nick myself.
posted by desjardins at 10:50 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Definitely agree about the every day thing. This makes it easier to slow down and do it in the most comfortable way, too.

I shave roughly once a month. Nobody seems to notice. I'm not particularly un-hairy, either.
posted by Sara C. at 11:00 AM on June 14, 2012

Response by poster: No, I don't shave everyday - I'm quite fair. Aside from the lets-call-it-bikini-line, I don't need to shave more than once a week, maybe. I take a 'when people can see it' approach, but I sometimes forget, wear a top with shorter sleeves than I remember (I am *very* groggy in the mornings) and realise I'm showing a bit of armpit hair. Making it easier and more effective will lessen the occurence, and that's why I was wondering about buying an electric shaver. Lots of things are better when they add electricity to them, right?
posted by mippy at 12:42 PM on June 14, 2012

I use an epilator that has an electric razor head; I used another electric razor previously. They're not going to give you as close feeling of a shave, but will give you results that are perfectly acceptable as far as appearance. The nice part of using the electric razor, for me, is that I don't have to do it in the shower or in the bathroom - I've done it out on the back deck in the sun ;) The epilating is much the same; it does help the hair grow back thinner and lighter. I tried it *once* on my arm pits and wow. NEVER again. The electric razor doesn't work on my pits because I've got moles and such that are too easy for it to grab onto.
posted by lemniskate at 1:40 PM on June 14, 2012

Oh my goodness, as a fellow near-sighted glasses-wearer, let me tell you about the best advance in razor technology ever: Gillette Venus. It's a razor with built-in shave gel so all you need to do is wet your leg and then run the razor over it a couple of times. It takes literally 30 seconds per leg. It is so good and so much easier than regular shaving, especially when you can barely see what you're doing.

(Another option: Schick Intuition. I like the Venus because it's smaller and more manoeuvrable, but you may actually prefer a more bulky option with your dyspraxia?)

My favourite way to shave is to sit on the edge of the bath, wet my leg and the razor under the tap, and go to it (glasses on), but if I'm in a hurry I'll do it under the shower with my glasses off and it still turns out okay.

Yes, they're more expensive than regular disposables, but trust me. So worth it!
posted by Georgina at 11:44 PM on June 14, 2012

I use a Venus, it's pretty nice but you still need some kind of shaving cream/gel/something. Even with the fancy cartridges that have the really thick extra bar of stuff on them, which I don't care for anyway because 1) they are crazy expensive, 2) the stuff dissolves off really quickly, 3) even before the stuff dissolves you still need shaving cream anyway, and 4) where do you put one when wet? If you put it on the little holder, then it gets the holder all gunky. If you carefully prop it on the counter then you will accidentally knock it off and have to fish around for it...

Anyway, the plain Venus3 is approximately equivalent to the nice razor you were using, except it's the version where the head pops off and can be replaced, which is slightly cheaper than buying a full (nice) razor every time.

No, electric trimmers are not the way to go for most hair. I do use one on my bikini line, though, because it's sensitive and I don't care about getting a super close shave.

Epilators are, well, probably worse than plucking eyebrows. (Although my eyebrows have toughened up--is the first time with an epilator worse than the first time I plucked my brows? No idea.) I did eventually get bored and go back to normal shaving, so there's that.

I will go slightly counter and suggest that you shave your armpits every shower. (Although, I think this is what a lot of people mean when they say don't shave every time--they only mean don't shave your legs every time, but shave your armpits anyway. Maybe it is different in the UK, though?) My armpits are much less sensitive, don't take more than a minute to shave, and shaving every day means if I do miss a patch it's only one day's growth which is unnoticeable. Also, your armpits are right there, so you can probably see them even in the shower. My general formula is to jump in the shower, soap myself up using a moisturizing body wash, and then shave my armpits before I rinse them. Lift your arm up hiiigh so the skin is tight and cutting yourself becomes much less likely. Double check that you got the far side, which is harder to see and easy to forget about.

(Side note--I have no medical reason for being slightly clumsy and I have definitely cut myself while shaving, including putting a notch in my fingernail on more than one occasion.)

Sorry this is so ramble-y.
posted by anaelith at 2:31 AM on June 15, 2012

Sorry, anaelith made me realise I linked to the wrong thing. It's the Gillette Venus Spa Breeze that's awesome. That's the one with the gel.

(For what it's worth, I use it without needing any additional shaving cream, and I put it on the little shelf in my shower to dry. At my old place, which had no storage in the shower, I used to put it in the same cup I kept my toothbrush in, angling the blades towards the wall so I didn't accidentally scrape against them. YMMV and all that.)
posted by Georgina at 2:51 AM on June 15, 2012

I started using a disposable razor with 5 blades (Schick Hydro 5) and I was very surprised at how much better it performed compared to the triple-blade razors I was using previously.
posted by healthytext at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, in my opinion (experience) electric razors are generally more likely to leave you uncut, but more stubbly in general (though not with random patches, just all-over fuzz). They don't get that close due to the guards on them.

Epilators hurt like the devil and aren't good for the bikini area or underarms due to the possibility of skin getting 'munched' if you're not super careful. Think getting trapped under the top of an escalator. No blood, but likely to have blood blisters.

The only blood-free solution is going to be laser (which you're against) or waxing. I would just say, book a wax every four weeks and have it done with. No more surprises.

Otherwise, I would recommend getting an Azor. Yeah you can still cut yourself with them, but they're generally a better shape for leg and armpit shaving. And yeah they're designed for men (though you can now buy a lady version! it's pink! and about £3 more expensive as a result!) but I figure if men have to use this stuff every single day, then something marketed for them might be the best. I've been using one for inbetween-waxing shaves for several years now and can't go back to 'normal' shapes due to increased accidents and bloodloss.
posted by citands at 1:53 PM on June 15, 2012

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