Shaving is the removal of hair, by using razor or any other kind of bladed implement, to slice it down to the level of the skin. Shaving is most commonly practiced by men to remove their facial hair and by women to remove their leg, underarm, and pubic hair. A man is called clean-shaven if he has had his beard entirely removed.
Both men and women sometimes shave their facial hair, undercheek hair, chest hair, abdominal hair, leg hair, underarm hair, pubic hair or any other bodily hair. Head shaving is much more common among men. It is often associated with religious practice, the armed forces and some competitive sports such as swimming and extreme sports. It has become common for men with partial baldness. Head shaving has also been used to humiliate, punish and show submission to an authority.
In many societies there is a social stigma around the presence of perceptible beard growth on a woman and strong pressure to remove it.
Before the advent of razors, hair was sometimes removed using two shells to pull the hair out. Later, around 3,000 BC, when copper tools were developed, copper razors were developed. The idea of an aesthetic approach to personal hygiene may have begun at this time, though Egyptian priests may have practiced something similar to this earlier. Alexander the Great strongly promoted shaving during his reign in the 4th century BC.
Today, the average man will shave about 20,000 times between the ages of 15 and 75, which equates to five months. Ninety percent, or 94 million, of American men over the age of 15 shave, with 75 percent shaving daily. The average fifteen-to -twenty year old shaves 275 times per year, while shaving frequency rises to almost daily for men aged twenty to sixty-five.
Shaving can be done with a straight razor or safety razor (called 'manual shaving' or 'wet shaving') or an electric razor (called 'dry shaving'). If a manual wet razor is used, some lathering or lubricating agent such as cream, soap, gel, foam or oil is normally applied to the area to be shaved first; this helps avoid a painful razor burn. These lubricate the area to be shaved, moisturize the skin and lift, soften and swell the hairs. This enhances the cutting action and sometimes permits cutting the hairs deeper below the surface of the skin.
There are two types of manual razors: straight razor and safety razors. Safety razors are further subdivided into double-edged razors, single edge, injector razors, cartridge razors and disposable razors.
Straight razors are still made today, notably by Dovo, Zowada Razors, Thiers Issard, and Feather. Shaving with these razors requires some practice but one can pick up the art very quickly. Once it was more commonplace but now is seen mostly in use in barber shops wielded by a skilled barber.
While straight razors give a good shave, the invention of the double-edged razor offered freedom from the task of sharpening and honing the razor. Double-edge razors are also readily available and are still made by Merkur in Germany, Antique Gillette, Wilkinson Sword, Schick, and Feather (a Japanese company). Double-edge razors are named so because the blade that they use has two sharp edges. Cartridge razors are the most expensive type as the blades are designed to only fit the razors of the manufacturer. Current multi-bladed cartridge manufacturers attempt to differentiate themselves by having more or fewer blades than their competitors, each arguing that their product gives a greater shave quality at a more affordable price. However, there is a growing movement of men finding simpler is better, and are returning to traditional double edge and straight razors with great success.
Disposable razors are the cheapest available and have a simple handle built into the blade. Purchasers are not tied to a single manufacturer but can easily switch to cheaper or better brands thus keeping prices low.
These methods can be used with disposable cartridges, disposable razors, safety razors and straight razors.
Some tough beards may get a closer shave by shaving again immediately after the first shave, but this time going in the direction across the grain or against the grain. (Some find that shaving against the grain leads to cuts, soreness and ingrown hairs.)
Shaving cream acts as a lubricant and a moisturizer, and also as an indicator of which areas have not been shaved. Shaving gels may dry out the skin, although modern "low foam" gels and oils alleviate this by moisturising at the same time as providing a smoother shave. The modern shaving creams, gels and oils may be slightly more expensive but offer a more comfortable shave; they are often found to be enriched with aloe vera (soothing) and/or tea tree oil (natural antiseptic). A cheaper alternative is to use any soft soap and a brush with long soft bristles (called a Shaving brush). The soap is worked up into a foam by the brush, either against the face, in a Shaving mug, bowl or scuttle.
Many men use an aftershave lotion after they have finished shaving. It may contain an antiseptic agent such as isopropyl alcohol to prevent infection from cuts, a perfume to enhance scent, and a moisturizer to soften the facial skin.
The electric razor consists of a set of oscillating or rotating blades, which are held behind a perforated metal foil that prevents them coming into contact with the skin. Bristles poke through holes in the foil and are sliced by the moving blades. In some designs the blades are a rotating cylinder, in others they are one or more rotating disks, and in others a set of oscillating blades. Each design has an optimum motion over the skin for the best shave and manufacturers provide guidance on this. Generally for circular blades it is a circular motion and for cylindrical or oscillating blades it is up and down. The first electric razor was built by Jacob Schick in 1928.
The main disadvantages of electric shaving are that it is not as close as wet shaving and you need a source of electricity. The advantages are fewer cuts in the skin, quicker shaving and no need for a water supply. Some people also find they do not experience ingrown hairs (pseudofolliculitis barbae, also called razor bumps), when using an electric shaver.
Many pre- and post-electric lotions are sold but electric shaving does not usually require the application of any lubrication to be effective and can be done dry.
There are special electrical razors available for use by women, but these are essentially no different from those made for men.
The removal of a full beard often requires the use of scissors or an electric (or beard) trimmer to reduce the mass of hair, simplifying the process.
Shaving blade disposal in the era of safety razors and double-edged blades was a concern for a man's spouse and children who could easily take a casually cast blade into the garbage, and in the process of compressing or compacting the garbage, cut themselves seriously. In fact bathroom mirrored cabinets had blade slots manufactured into their chassis so that the dulled blades could be placed out of the hands of children by dropping the blades between the studs of the house wall framing, "out of sight out of mind".
Razor burn is an irritation of the skin caused by using a blunt blade or not using proper technique. It appears as a mild rash 2-4 days after shaving (once hair starts to grow through sealed skin) and usually disappears after a few hours to a few days, depending on severity. In severe cases, razor burn can also be accompanied by razor bumps, where the area around shaved hairs get raised red welts or infected pustules. A rash at the time of shaving is usually a sign of lack of lubrication. Razor burn is a common problem, especially among those who shave coarse hairs on areas with sensitive skin like the bikini line, pubic hair, underarms, chest, and beard. The condition can be caused by shaving too closely, shaving with a blunt blade, dry shaving, applying too much pressure when shaving, shaving too quickly or roughly, or shaving against the grain.
Ways to prevent razor burn include keeping the face moist, using a shaving brush and lather, using a moisturizing shaving gel, shaving in the direction of the hair growth, resisting the urge to shave too closely, applying minimal pressure, avoiding scratching or irritation after shaving, avoiding irritating products on the shaved area (colognes, perfumes, etc.) and using an aftershave cream with aloe vera or other emollients. Also, it is good to prepare the skin for shaving by cleansing the area to be shaved with a face wash containing salicylic acid, to facilitate the removal of oils and dead skin. Putting a warm, wet cloth on one's face helps as well, by softening hairs.
Tonsure is the practice of some Christian churches, and some Hindu and Buddhist (only monks or nuns) temples of shaving the hair from the scalp of priests as a symbol of their renunciation of worldly fashion and esteem. Amish men shave their beard until they are married, after which they allow it to grow.