So You Want To Shave Your Vagina...

This story was originally published December 26, 2016.

Three months ago, my coworker Alix Tunell turned me on to a safety razor after listening to me bitch about ingrown hairs for far too long. After I gave up waxing about a year ago (both for financial and holy-shit-that's-painful reasons), I began suffering from ingrown hairs along my bikini line. So I got hooked up with a single-blade safety razor, and figured everything would come up roses.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. The first time I ever used it to shave my vagina (yes, I know the technical term for the outer genitalia is 'vulva,' but that doesn't have the same ring to it), I nearly sliced off half my labia — and screamed bloody murder the moment it happened. I then realized that while I'd been taught by my mother and health class how to properly remove the hair from my pits, legs, and eyebrows, no one had ever covered exactly how to wield a razor around my vagina. And if any region needs a manual, it's that one.

So I called up Jodi Shays, owner and founder of Queen Bee Salons in California, and asked her a series of increasingly personal questions about how to shave my favorite body part bald without risking stitches. She was up-front about the fact that she isn't a huge fan of razors near the vulva, but, she acknowledged, "I completely understand why it has to happen, whether you need to be shaved all the time for work or you simply can't afford a wax." Fair enough.

Ahead, find the guide your mother never gave you for how to shave your vulva. (Be warned — the following images are anatomically correct, so this may be NSFW.) It's a tricky business, but don't worry. We're here to help.

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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
The key to down-there shaving is proper preparation. "You want to trim your pubic hair down a bit," Shays says. "Just make sure you're pulling the skin taut while you trim." She suggests using a sterilized pair of baby scissors to snip your pubes down to about a quarter-inch long. "It's less messy if you sit on the toilet while you do this," she added.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Next, hop in the shower and soap yourself up. Shays suggests cleaning with a fragrance-free antibacterial wash on the bikini line and the vulva so that if a nick happens, you can avoid a nasty infection. Just make sure to only wash the outside — there is absolutely no need to get up inside your vagina. In fact, you can actually disrupt the natural cleaning process if you do.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Now for the main portion of the event. "Look for shaving products that don't have a lot of ingredients in them," Shays says. "I look for a cream or gel that has aloe vera in it, since it's antibacterial." You can apply a shave oil, but make sure it isn't a mineral oil, which is pore-clogging and unnecessarily heavy. We like Ursa Major Stellar Shave Cream.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
"You want to make sure you're shaving in the direction of your hair growth," Shays says. (We know — you never get as close of a shave as when you go against the grain. But this is your vulva we’re talking about. This isn’t the time to play fast and loose.) Keep in mind that this is a two-handed process — make sure to pull the skin taut with one hand while shaving with the other. "If you can put your leg up on something stable, that's a great way to get those hard-to-reach places," Shays says. Just make sure you're not at risk of slipping — that's how accidents happen. Work in small sections, and go slowly. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
But what about the labia? "Not every vagina looks the same," Shays says. "Some hair may be tucked away if your labia minora is longer than your labia majora." In this case, only proceed if you have a steady hand, and make sure to pull the skin tightly for better control. If you have an adventurous partner, Shays says this is a fantastic time to employ them to help with those hard-to-reach places. "They'll be able to see spots you won't be able to," she says.

And while we're getting all up in your anatomy, a word on your asshole: Shays says to stay away from it with the razor. "The skin is so puckered that it's easy to nick and cut down there," she says. "And that's an area of your body where it's so easy for bacteria to get in that it's not worth the headache." Leave it to the professionals, kids.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
So there you have it — you've shaved your vulva. Congrats! Make sure to moisturize the skin with something protective. Shays is a huge fan of barrier creams like Aquaphor, but she also suggests diaper rash creams. "They're safe and hydrating," she says. You can also pop some pure aloe vera on the area to calm it down. Or put a sheet mask on that baby. But the most important thing is to treat your vagina and all its surrounding parts with care — whether you're shaving or sexing. Be good to your vag, and it will be good to you.

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