It is shorts weather in Texas and many of us fall into one of two categories: those who show off the toned legs they have been exercising madly at the gym, or the other 99 percent of us who wear short pants simply to keep ourselves from spontaneously bursting into flames in the Texas heat. Regardless of how your gams look — toned and fabulous, or maybe not, one thing we can all control is how close our shave is.

The dog days of summer we are in now take me back to my first shave while spending a week with a cousin who was my age. One afternoon she decided to borrow her mother’s razor and her dad’s Barbasol so we could start shaving our legs. We were 12 years old, and I did not have permission from my mother to start shaving. Naturally, I decided the prudent thing to do would be to only shave the backs of my legs so my mother would never notice. Great idea, in theory, until I sliced such a significant cut in my leg that I still have a scar 35 years after the fact!

I would be willing to bet that your first shaving experience was similar to mine — perhaps coached by a friend, sister or cousin; or maybe hidden behind closed doors because you thought your leg hair was unsightly and playground teasing had taken a toll. Whatever the circumstances, I bet there are not many of us who have read an instruction manual on how to properly shave our legs. Ladies, I am here to help.

First, the traditional shave.

Location

The ideal place to shave your legs is in a warm bath or steamy shower. Not a surprise. What I did find interesting in my research is that you should spend a few minutes in the bath or shower before shaving. The warm water will soften your skin, leading to a smoother shave. One report from “Good Housekeeping” suggested allowing 15 minutes to elapse from shower entry to shaving. Ain’t NOBODY got time for that. Perhaps wash and condition your hair first, allowing for your legs to soften in the meantime.

Shave cream (or gel)

I read again and again and again how important it is to use an actual shave cream or gel to shave your legs. I have always thought of shave cream or gel as a luxury, and at least 90 percent of the time I do not have any and just use a bar of soap to lather up. It turns out that products designed specifically for shaving work to condition your skin and soften your hair and hair follicles. Softer hair reduces pulling on your skin, minimizing bumps and irritation later. Bar soap is a huge no-no. Oops. In a pinch, a dollop of conditioner is a better substitute.

Shave direction

I have always shaved my legs going up, from ankle to knee. However, advice I saw cited many times is to first shave in the direction your hair grows, downward from knee to ankle. On the second pass, shave against the grain. If your skin is especially sensitive, you may want to stick to shaving in the direction of hair growth to reduce the risk of razor burn.

Razors

Quality counts when choosing a razor, and a multi-blade razor will do a much better job in achieving a closer shave than a single-blade disposable. In addition, you should change your razor frequently — some recommendations say after three to five shaves!?!? I usually cannot remember the last time I changed my razor by the time I get a new one! Dermatologist Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin says that there is not a set rule on razor replacement, but that, “You should be doing so if you see any signs of rusting, dulling, tugging the hair or nicking the skin.” I think that monitoring the status of the lubricating strip is probably a good indicator as well – if it looks worse for wear, it’s probably time to replace.

I experimented with several shaving products, all while using a brand new Harry’s ($8.34 at drugstores) German manufactured, five blade razor. Harry’s razors are mounted on a flex hinge and include a lubricating strip, common to many razors on the market today.

EOS SHAVE CREAM

IN POMEGRANATE RASPBERRY

$3,38, Drugstores

The eos shave cream claims to provide 24 hours of deep moisture. The product is delivered via pump, so it is easy to control how much you use. It is creamy, like a lotion, rather than what I think of as a traditional, foamy shaving cream. I found it moisturizing and it gave me the closest shave of the products I tried.

CREMO CONCENTRATED SHAVE CREAM

IN COCONUT MANGO

$5.97, Drugstores

CREMO claims to be “astonishingly superior shave cream.” I liked the fact that this product comes in a tube, ensuring that you will get every last drop of product out. I also like the fact that it is highly concentrated – CREMO recommends using an almond-sized dollop of the crème and that less is often best. Further, the packaging states, “Highly Concentrated: Superior Value – One Tube Can Outlast Several Cans of Gels or Foams.” I have not used CREMO long enough to test that theory, but I like the idea.

AVEENO POSITIVELY SMOOTH SHAVE GEL

$3,88, Drugstores

I have historically preferred shave gel to creams, and the packaging claim that the “exclusive combination of soy, aloe, vitamin E and skin conditioners have been shown to naturally minimize the reappearance of unwanted hair with continued use so you can shave less often” sounded like a winning combination to me. In the end, though, it seemed to work as well as any other shave gel. A bonus is that it is dermatologist recommended and appropriate for sensitive skin.

NAIR HAIR REMOVER LOTION

$4,94, Drugstores

Finally, I went a little off the beaten path and tried a product that does not require a razor at all. Formulated for legs, underarms and bikini area, the packaging claims that “smooth skin lasts DAYS LONGER than shaving.” DAYS LONGER sounds great to this mom of four. The process is simple — apply the hair remover lotion to your legs and let it sit for 3 to 10 minutes, wiping a test area with a damp washcloth to check the status of hair removal. Once the hair is easy to wipe off, remove all lotion and hair along with it, then rinse in the shower. I was surprised at how well this product worked for me, leaving my legs the smoothest of any product (or method) I tried. It might be worth a try for you, too.

SIDE NOTE: Dear readers, I am sorry to report that I have slacked on my collagen supplement and do not feel like I can accurately report results to you in this issue. I am making a vow to you now that I will diligently ingest the collagen and give you a good report in the September/October issue!