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Should I Exfoliate Before or After Shaving? | Find Out Here

Even experienced shavers may sometimes have the question, “should I exfoliate before or after shaving?” Knowing the answer to this question can make the difference between beautiful, smooth skin and an uneven or painful shave. But don’t worry — we’ll show you all you need to know below.

What’s the Difference Between Exfoliating Before or After Shaving?

Choosing to exfoliate before or after shaving can make a big difference when it comes to getting a clean shave anywhere on your body.

In general, it’s best to exfoliate before shaving. Doing so reduces razor clogs, prevents ingrown hairs, and helps you get a closer shave.  

Exfoliation is a process that removes dead skin cells, dirt, and other detritus from the surface of the skin. Taking this essential step in your beauty process helps you get beautiful glowing skin.

Removing those dead skin cells allows a deep clean and the even growth of new skin cells. Most skincare regimens include an exfoliation step.

However, that skincare regimen often only includes the skin on your face and décolletage. If you want to add exfoliation to your body care regimen, it’s vital to understand the different types of exfoliation and which you should choose for shaving.

Razor burn, ingrown hairs, red bumps, and other irritations are just a few of the problems you may encounter if you don’t exfoliate properly. 

How Exfoliation Helps Before Shaving

Woman exfoliating her legs for a piece titled should i exfoliate before or after shaving

Damir Khabirov/Shutterstock

There are many reasons you should exfoliate your skin before you shave it. Taking that simple step can improve how you look and feel. 

Creates a Smoother Shave

Exfoliation helps make your skin smooth. As a result, your raiser is less likely to encounter any bumps along the way. So, the shave will be more even and your skin will be less prone to nicks. 

Reduces Ingrown Hairs

Dead skin cells can get stuck in your hair follicles during a shave, leading to ingrown hairs. So, removing those dead skin cells will reduce the likelihood of ingrown hairs.

Cuts Down on Irritation

Since exfoliating helps the dead cells make a clean break from your live skin, your razor is less likely to get caught or clogged with dead cells. As a result, your live skin will be less likely to get pulled on, leading to irritation. 

The Right Exfoliant Is Key

Photo showing the best exfoliant tools to use when wondering should I exfoliate before or after shaving

Iryna Mylinska/Shutterstock

There are several different types of exfoliants to choose from when it comes to skincare. Each of these options is useful in its own right. However, some exfoliants will work better than others depending on the job you need them for. 


Chemical exfoliation is likely only relevant for shaving your face since most chemical exfoliants aren’t made for your body’s skin. These exfoliants operate by removing the bonds holding dead skin cells to your live skin. 

Examples of chemical exfoliants include Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as lactic, tartaric, glycolic, and citric acids, and Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), such as salicylic acid and hydroxyl acid.   


Many physical or mechanical exfoliants are the right choice for exfoliating before shaving your body. However, the intensity of the physical exfoliant should change depending on how delicate the target area is.

These exfoliants work by physically removing the dead skin from your body. 

Examples of physical exfoliation include microdermabrasion, laser treatments, exfoliation gloves, exfoliation scrub, dry brushes, face brushes, and sponges. Only use heavy scrubs a few days before shaving. 

How the Target Area Affects Exfoliation

The rule for exfoliating before a shave is true no matter where on your body you are shaving. However, the way you go about exfoliating will vary depending on the body part you wish to shave


You can use either chemical or physical exfoliants on your face. However, since this body part is quite sensitive, you should err on the side of gentle exfoliants and take your skin type into account. Dry or sensitive skin does well with AHAs since physical exfoliants can increase dryness.

Always be sure to moisturize after shaving dry face skin. Oily skin does well with more intense physical exfoliation. Combination skin can do well with some alternating physical and chemical exfoliators or experimentation. 

Pubic Area

Your bikini area is another delicate part of your body. As a result, you should be quite careful exfoliating here. Try doing some manual exfoliation with a sponge and warm water.

You can use a very gentle scrub. However, it is vital to be sensitive to irritation in this area and check with your dermatologist about the right option.  

Legs, Arms, and Abdomen

Exfoliating your arms, legs, and abdomen works best with physical methods of exfoliation. Use options such as a dry brush, exfoliation glove, sponge, or exfoliation scrub. These methods allow you to exfoliate a large amount of skin easily. 

Exfoliating Before or After Waxing

Waxing is different from shaving in many ways. However, both require you to exfoliate before the procedure for the best results.

Talk to your waxing specialist to see if they have any specific directions. In general, you should expect to exfoliate the target area gently for a few days before waxing. Try some physical exfoliants, but avoid scrubs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Woman exfoliating her legs after shaving while sitting in a bed on a towel


When it comes to shaving, everyone has questions about the right way to get smooth, hairless skin. 

Is it okay to exfoliate after shaving?

While exfoliating immediately after shaving won’t offer you the same benefits as exfoliating before shaving, waiting a few days after shaving can be a good call. This later exfoliation will help the hair follicles come through and reduce your chances of ingrown hairs.

How do you close your pores after shaving?

After shaving, rinse your legs with cool water to close your pores. The colder temperature helps the pores constrict and calms your skin. Pat the target area dry before applying a gentle skin lotion or skin serum and lotion combination. It can take a day for pores to fully close after a shower and shave.

Can you exfoliate and shave on the same day?

While you should usually exfoliate and shave on the same day, you should be quite careful. Don’t exfoliate too vigorously before shaving and ensure your skin is calm before picking up your razor. 

The distance between exfoliation and shaving will affect which exfoliation methods you use. For day-of exfoliation, stick to dry brushing or glove exfoliation. If you exfoliate a few days in advance, scrubs are better to use.  

Should you shave with hot or cold water?

While you may think shaving with warm water facilitates a better shave, cold water is the way to go. Water of any temperature can open the hair cuticle, softening the hair.

As a result, the shave will go smoothest with any temperature of water. However, warm water can leave your skin vulnerable to irritation and dryness. 

In which direction should I shave?

There are two general directions in which you can shave, including in the direction the hair grows (growing with the grain) and away from the direction the hair grows (growing against the grain).

Shaving against the grain can achieve a closer shave than the other way. However, it can also yield worse results since it can lead to more skin irritation or bumps from the razor. 

So, Is It Better to Exfoliate Before or After Shaving?

For the best shave anywhere on your body, only exfoliate immediately before shaving. If you want, you can exfoliate two or three days after shaving to reduce the appearance of ingrown hairs. Following these steps will help your skin stay smooth and unbothered by ingrown hairs or other irritations. Happy shaving!