I stopped shaving my legs. What now?
April 30, 2014 12:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm a fairly pale woman with a bit of farmer's tan from walking for exercise (moreso on arms and face than legs). I unintentionally stopped shaving my legs below the knees, and now I don't want to start again. How long will it be before the dark, sharp leg hair goes away, if it does? My arm hair is pale and soft; so is the hair on my upper legs that I've never shaved. Will the hair on my lower legs grow back softer and paler eventually? What, if anything, can I do to encourage this? Is there anything I should be doing for my legs other than maybe exfoliating a bit more and the usual moisturizer for dry climate? I'm looking for anecdotal experiences and product suggestions.
posted by immlass to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Your hair doesn't change its pigmentation or texture based on whether you're shaving it or not. Check out the picture showing post-pubertal hair distribution; lower leg hair's generally what changes (that is, darkens and thickens) for women. There have been some body lotions that claim to thin out hair, but in my experience they they don't work especially well.

The ends will get a bit less pointy-feeling as you let the hair grow out, but that's probably the only change to expect. It's your decision how you want to deal with your leg hair (options: ignore, remove, cover), though I'd recommend regular sunblock use.
posted by asperity at 1:05 PM on April 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

I went for years au naturale and it never became fine and thin for me.

And the type of hair varies all over the leg.

You could try to bleach it in the sun with some spray-on hair bleach or lemon.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:05 PM on April 30, 2014

If it's growing in dark now, it's not going to stop growing in dark. If you want it to be paler, you'd need to bleach it or similar.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:06 PM on April 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, its not possible to get softer hair from simply not shaving, or tons of people (including me) would have ditched the razor ages ago.
posted by agregoli at 1:07 PM on April 30, 2014

Mine was still quite dark - darker than my arm and thigh hair - and scraggly-looking (though very soft) even after several years.

This year I've started using a wet-dry electric from the knee down, once every month or so. It doesn't seem to make so sharp a point on the hair and I don't seem to have such distinct pores. It's really hard to see the stubble and it's not especially sheet-snaggy or anything.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:10 PM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hey there! I'm a lazy shaver! Let me tell you of my lore!

I am a medium hairy person with relatively prominent dark leg hair. YMMV if you are one of those Anglo/Northern European types with naturally very blond and sparse leg hair, or in the opposite direction, if you are especially hirsute.

1. My arm hair and my leg hair are nothing alike. Fair and soft arm hair, dark and coarse leg hair. Obviously this isn't true of everyone, but you can't just assume your leg hair will level out to be like your arm hair.

2. I shave my legs every few months (sometimes more often, sometimes less often, depending on time of year), and here's my Leg Hair Timeline:

Day 0: hairless to the point of being kind of freaky.

Day 2-3: stubble that I notice, but that is probably not visible to others.

Day 7-10: stubble that is visible to a critical bystander who needs to mind their own damn business.

Day 10-14: leg hair softens to the point where it's not really stubble anymore. If I were going to the beach or wearing shorts in public, I would probably shave at this point.

Day 14-30: leg hair becomes long enough that wearing crew-length socks is painful. (Seriously, dudes, how do you even stand it?) This is usually the point where I start thinking about shaving for my own comfort.

Day 30+: Hobbit Leg Phase. This is the terminal period, where my leg hair just sort of is what it is (dark, wiry) and not going to change at all.

3. There are no products for this, sorry. Then again, I suppose that's a good thing. If companies started selling moisturizing leg shampoo I would roll my eyes so hard I'd risk ocular damage. I'm pretty sure it would be unwise to use mustache bleach to lighten your leg hair, but I dunno, you can just shave again if that goes wrong, I guess.
posted by Sara C. at 1:11 PM on April 30, 2014 [16 favorites]

It's a myth that shaving changes the color and texture of fully grown body hair. I had a friend whose leg hair became finer and sparser....after years of waxing, and it doesn't sound like this is what you're looking for.
posted by blue suede stockings at 1:12 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

If your head hair is any color except blond, it's likely that your lower-leg hair will be closer to that color than to the short, fine, pale hair that grows elsewhere on your body -- it's a different type of hair.

Fortunately, the sharpness of the hair will go away after you let it grow for a while -- the reason it feels like that is because if you shave and then stop shaving, you've cut off the fine, pointed ends of the hair. After a while, if you continue not to shave, the last hairs whose ends you cut off will fall out from age and be replaced by new ones that won't be prickly on the ends.

Rule of thumb: Leg hair and eyebrow hair have always struck me as being pretty similar in color and texture, though obviously different in density. Check out a fallen-out eyebrow hair and observe the taper.
posted by ostro at 1:12 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, it is dependent on age and natural hair color and other factors out of your control, alas. I guess you could use stuff like Sun-In or plain lemon juice on it to lighten in the sun, but I'm not sure how good that would be on your skin. Something like Sally Hansen cream bleach would work to lighten it to white blonde but it is an annoying and time consuming thing to do, and it also looks weird when it is half grown out (ime as a person who uses that bleach on their arms).
posted by elizardbits at 1:17 PM on April 30, 2014

Sally Hansen cream bleach. I use that all over. It does soften the hair a bit, since it's essentially damaging/weakening.
posted by thebazilist at 1:23 PM on April 30, 2014

Yeah, I went about a year without shaving and my leg hair never became fine and soft like my arm hair. It was, as Sara C. says, permanent "hobbit phase". The hair on my upper leg is also rather fine and soft. The hair on my lower leg is more like... a man's beard. A sparse one, but beard nonetheless. I can't think of any way of improving this situation that wouldn't be more time, money, or labor intensive than just removing your hair.
posted by telegraph at 1:25 PM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: For the record, my head hair is medium to light brown and very fine; it used to pale quite a bit in the summer before I started coloring it in hues not known to human hair. My eyebrows are also brown, though lighter than my leg hairs are right now. I was hoping that there might be some sun bleaching effect but it sounds like not.

My legs are always going to be awkward to wear bare because I have a large and prominent birthmark on one of them. I guess they'll just have dark hair now too. Thanks!
posted by immlass at 1:29 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

As I've aged, my leg hair has become much more sparse. Shaving doesn't seem to change it at all, except after I shave it's pointier on the ends when it grows back. I'd say keep your legs moisturized if they tend toward dryness and exfoliate as needed, and enjoy your newfound fuzziness!
posted by bedhead at 1:32 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recommend getting a $20 wet-dry razor. I'm 40 and kinda lackadasical about leg shaving, but I can often find 4 minutes in my day to whack the hair once a week. :)
posted by heathrowga at 1:51 PM on April 30, 2014

For lower leg exfoliation and hair-softening purposes, I can't recommend sugar scrub highly enough. It feels super-luxurious and it's so easy to make at home with pantry ingredients.

My go-to recipe:
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 1/4 to 1/2 cup oil: coconut, sunflower, or sweet almond oil are best, but olive oil will work in a pinch
* splash of vanilla extract
* splash of Vitamin E oil (optional)

Mix everything together in a mason jar using a fork or tablespoon. Add a few tablespoons of kosher salt and 5-10 drops of peppermint essential oil to give it an invigorating kick. Use a heaping tablespoon per leg, scrub briskly, rinse with lukewarm water, and pat dry with a hand towel. Just make sure to give your tub a quick rinse and wipe down after you use it so you don't slip!
posted by divined by radio at 1:57 PM on April 30, 2014 [10 favorites]

My understanding is that waxing and sugaring are the only methods of hair removal that can potentially result in finer, less, and lighter hair growing back - no doubt due to the fact that you are removing the entire follicle.
posted by stubbehtail at 2:04 PM on April 30, 2014

In my experience the hair does seem to get softer as it grows but this is probably due to rubbing up against jeans for 10 hours a day.
posted by bleep at 2:07 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know a few dudes who have very little hair on their legs, whether all over or just in certain spots, and they say it's because of how clothing rubs against the hairs. I've noticed that after several months, my legs are nearly bald below the crew-length sock line and am hopeful that this method might be working for me. I haven't yet invested in knee high athletic socks, but I am actually thinking about it.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:07 PM on April 30, 2014

I'm a very rare shaver (about once every year or three), and my leg hair is slightly finer and straighter in texture compared to similar-complected men in my life, if that gives you a useful point of reference. It loses the prickly stubbliness pretty rapidly but it's considerably coarser than arm or thigh hair.

You mention that you don't wear shorts, but be prepared for total strangers to comment on your grooming if you wear capris or tea-length skirts.
posted by tchemgrrl at 2:20 PM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

It takes me about 6 months to a year before it starts to feel softer. There really is something to the hair having a blunt tip or a natural one. However, it never gets lighter (but you know me -- my hair is very dark in general). There is definitely a difference between a month of growth and a year, softness-wise.

I don't get comments from strangers in Austin. I do get my parents relentlessly bothering me to shave. FWIW, I shave in the summer because I like it, but every winter I let my winter coat grow in.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:42 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't shaved my legs for at least six months - possibly longer. Although the color hasn't changed, the hairs have definitely gotten softer as the cut-edged hairs slough off and are replaced.

I've been outside in shorts a bunch recently, and as my legs get tanner, the hairs seem much less noticeable. I have naturally pasty-white skin that tans/burns very easily so YMMV.
posted by muddgirl at 2:44 PM on April 30, 2014

This is not the info you want, but as a data point, laser hair removal takes about six sessions or so to be permanent. By about session 3, everything is growing back in much, much softer and finer.
posted by megancita at 2:55 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have similar color differences among my head/arms/legs. Medium brown on my head (medium-dark brown eyebrows), fair and thin on my arms, dark brown on my legs.

TBH, people's attitudes about natural legs just make me SO MAD. Maybe even moreso than my unwillingness to ignore these stupid attitudes. (And now I've moved where it's regularly over 100 in the summer. Ugh. Heatstroke before humiliation, apparently...)

Seconding what other people said about gradual softening, but that's about it.
posted by wintersweet at 3:56 PM on April 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I stopped shaving my legs at age 26 (I'm 47 now) when I noticed that I missed an entire line of hair while shaving. I figured if I couldn't see it then no one else could either, so why bother? I guess it's a little different when the hair is blonde...

Anyway, the first few years were kinda odd with long-ish hair that felt funny whenever the wind caught it. Kinda tickled. But now... after all this time I don't even notice that I have hair on my legs at all. Actually, I have to really look close to see it at all. So I guess I'm saying that it does thin out, but it takes time. I should note that I hardly ever wear shorts or short skirts. It's always been long pants and ankle length skirts for me -- mostly because I burn so easily -- so there is that.
posted by patheral at 5:12 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Softer and paler hair probably isn't possible, but sparser is. I started using an epilator last summer and it's great. Because it actually pulls the hair out, and hair grows back at different rates, you never have more than a sparse dusting of leg hair. And instead of shaving frequently you use the epilator every other week or so. It's a lot easier and less messy than waxing but has similar advantages.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:34 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I use wax strips every two weeks or so. It's not messy at all and the growth in the interim is quite fine and sparse. I never cut myself and I can do it in front of the TV.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 3:33 AM on May 1, 2014

Yeah, when I grow out my shin hair it is as luxuriant and thicker than some men's leg hair and super obvious (and much darker and coarser than my arm hair). My sister, who has a similar hair color and coloring, rarely shaves, and I'd never notice. So... ymmv, but in my experience it doesn't get any lighter or finer as it grows out, just longer. And a little softer, but I think that's just because it's longer and bends more.
posted by mskyle at 6:25 AM on May 1, 2014

Another vote for epilators, which have come a long way since the scary yank-y ones and are much more efficient these days. I'm a pain wuss but epilating is no big deal (after the first time, which does kind of kill, but is manageable and you can go at your own speed). Hairlessness lasts for quite a while, and regrowth is soft.
posted by jessicapierce at 1:38 PM on May 1, 2014

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