Recently, the Refinery29 beauty team got into a heated debate over shaving. More specifically, how often one needs to change his or her razor. As an Italian-American woman who has been #blessed with thick, coarse, dark hair from my head to my toes, I have gotten into the (expensive) habit of changing my razor every three shaves, as that's around the time I've noticed it start to dull. Some of my colleagues were floored when I confessed this — a few admitted to leaving the same razor sitting in their shower for months.
This was insanity to me, so I got on the phone with Whitney Bowe, MD, an NYC dermatologist, to figure out how often we should actually be swapping out our shaving tools. She claims there is no set number of uses after which you absolutely have to change your blade — but that doesn't necessarily mean my coworkers are totally in the clear. "Women should get rid of their razor blade after a few uses, as it will have been exposed to bacteria," Dr. Bowe says. "The first sign of any rusting or dulling of the blade, or any tugging or nicking of the skin, should tell you it's time to toss it."
A lot of this has to do with how often you're actually shaving. I prefer smooth legs and underarms whenever I'm in a dress or shorts, so I shave two or three times a week. But some people shave as infrequently as every two weeks or more. According to Dr. Bowe, the more frequently you shave, the faster your razor will dull.
Other factors to consider are where and how you store your razor. "Leaving it in the wet, dewy shower will cause the blade to rust much faster, and will also leave it open to being exposed to bacteria much more," Dr. Bowe says. That's the crux of the issue: bacteria. "If you use a razor for too long, it has a greater chance of harboring bacteria, and shaving with a bacteria-filled blade can cause little red bumps on your skin," the derm says. The bacteria can also sneak its way into your body, as shaving results in tiny nicks in the skin. "Those openings can allow bacteria to enter and spread infection," she says.
This is especially common on the underarms and bikini area. The skin is at its thinnest and the hair is especially coarse in those areas, meaning dull blades can catch fragile skin, causing tears and irritation.
But before you run out and start stocking up on all the razors, know that there are some ways to make your blades last longer. "Keep your razor blade sharp by storing it in a clean, dry place after use," says Dr. Bowe. So take that sucker out of your shower, pat it dry, and put it somewhere less steamy, like your medicine cabinet. That's the number-one way to prevent bacteria growth between the blades. "It's also important to rinse your razor out after you shave," Dr. Bowe says. "If you don't, soap and shaving cream will dry in-between the blades, making them dull and weak."
And if your razor has been sitting in your shower for six months, just toss it. Your skin will be so much happier for it.
Click ahead to see the best razors for your personal hair removing preference.