Should Women Shave Their Face? A Derm Weighs In

The struggle against our strands is real: Women have been waging war against the hair we don’t want (and lamenting the hair we wish we had) for centuries. We’ve resorted to a variety of inventive, often painful, and occasionally borderline-barbaric methods of removing hair: tweezing, plucking, waxing, sugaring, scraping, shaving, dermaplaning (aka dermablading), threading, depilatory creams, topical hair-growth inhibitor (prescription Vaniqa), electrolysis, laser hair removal, and microwave energy treatments (MiraSmooth).

Is it any wonder that there’s an increasing trend of women turning to the simple facial hair removal method men have relied on for hundreds of years? Shaving.

Advantages

Shaving is typically pain-free and may last hours or for up to several days at a time, depending on the rate of each individual’s hair growth. Plus, shaving exfoliates the skin to help keep your complexion soft and looking luminous.

Drawbacks

The disadvantages are the same as you’d experience when shaving any other part of your body: a potential for irritation, redness, small cuts, ingrown hairs, and possibly even infection.

Patients regularly ask me if shaving will cause hair to come back thicker and coarser. It doesn’t. Our hair follicles are programmed to grow at a certain rate and thickness (this can and does change as we go through life, based on our age, hormones, medicines, and other factors), and shaving doesn’t alter this. However, when a razor cuts a strand at a blunt angle, the naturally soft, tapered end of the hair may feel a bit sharper as it regrows. 

Tools

While men are prone to terminal hairs on the facial skin (the thick, coarse kind that grows in response to male hormones), female faces mostly grow vellus hairs (the thin, light-colored strands we often call peach fuzz). This means women may not need a four-blade, high-tech razor for a smoother face. More and more precision handheld facial blades and small electric razors are now available, geared for women who want to gently skim off peach fuzz in delicate areas, such as the chin or upper lip. Good choices include Finishing Touch Flawless Women’s Painless Hair Remover, Michael Todd Sonicsmooth At-Home Dermaplaning Kit, and Schick Silk Touch-Up Multipurpose Exfoliating Dermaplaning Tool.

It’s best to reserve one razor for exclusive use on the face, and another for areas of the body (the underarms and groin grow coarser hairs and have a different balance of germs compared to facial skin). After shaving, avoid putting anything on your face that could be irritating (such as toners, retinoids, or alpha or beta hydroxy acids), and instead soothe and hydrate the skin with a plain, unscented moisturizer or hyaluronic acid serum.

Any female who notices significant facial hair should consult with a physician, since this could be a sign of a hormonal imbalance, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome. Women who may want to avoid shaving their face include those prone to coarse, curly or ingrown hairs on the chin or neck; a condition of irritated shaving bumps called pseudofolliculitis barbae (this is mostly seen in men and can be exacerbated by shaving); an active infection (such as a cold sore, which is caused by herpes simplex virus); or inflamed pimples or cystic acne (shaving could scrape or injure raised acne bumps, leaving small wounds and potentially contributing to scars).