Why Men Should Shave Their Legs

Find the most compelling reasons that male triathletes should shave their legs. It is fairly common in the cycling world to see men with smooth legs, but is it just for looks or is there really more to it? We guarantee that after reading this, you'll give shaving and wax a whole new look.

Good Reasons for Hair Removal

From a physical perspective, when you have smooth, hairless legs, the fine cut of conditioned muscles is revealed. For this reason bodybuilders come to mind as the main group of males that prefer a clean shaved or waxed hairless look. However, there are many other male athletes that also choose the hairless look, but this is for more practical reasons than aesthetic appeal.

Cyclists, swimmers, skaters and other athletic men also shave their legs. For triathletes, the sports of swimming, cycling and running certainly warrant hair removal for the following reasons:

Swimmers experience advantages of being hairless by the reduction of drag & resistance, which can make them feel faster in the water. The psychology factor of an increased feeling of glide in the water helps them to boost their speed. Apparently, it was the Australian Olympic swimming team who first started the practise of men’s shaving for performance and they proved dramatically improved speeds. This practise spread worldwide and the Americans too it one step further by shaving all over – including chest, backs and even shaving their heads.

Cyclists probably have the largest list of sensible reasons for shaving their legs, which is why it is fairly common in the cycling world, both for professional riders and the more serious amateurs. Cyclists can benefit from hairless skin by reducing the risk of severe skin damage in the event of a fall. Leg hair will catch on the rough road surface in a fall or skid, and skin can be ripped out in uneven chunks, which can cause much larger skin abrasions than what would occur with hairless skin. A cleaner graze is obviously going to heal quicker than a lumpy deep gash and is less likely to leave a scar. If you apply a sticky bandaid to a hairy wound, it is not only very uncomfortable to remove but can also reopen the healing wound. Some mountain bikers also shave to minimise picking up bush ticks that can get caught up in their leg hair as they brush past.

Runners can benefit from the removal of hair around the upper thighs to reduce the build-up of moisture from perspiration and body oils becoming trapped in the hair, which can create bacteria and cause odours. For thighs that rub together, this can also cause ingrown hairs which can easily become infected from the increased bacteria, and is easily avoided through hair removal.

Athletes with hairless bodies also find massage and injury treatment more effective and comfortable. And applying sunscreen is much easier too, an important consideration especially for triathletes who can spend up to 14 hours per week training outdoors.

However, despite all these rational points in favour of shaving some men will say they shave simply to make a commitment to the sport…like some sort of sacrificial mark of being a real “athlete”. And others will only shave the night before a race, as part of their mental preparation – a bit like applying war paint before going into battle. And, it is true guys – women prefer a buff body without hair. So if you’ve worked hard on your body and your fit and well toned, go ahead and shave off that hair and be proud to show your hard, clean lines! But are you manly and hairy enough to give it a go?

Men's Guide to Leg Shaving

If you’ve never had any hair removal, you might find you have a pretty daunting mat of hair on your legs, arms and chest. Before you try to shave it off, get some hair clippers and give it all a big mow down first to shorten the length of the hairs.

Next, lather up – use your shaving foam, or frothy shower gel and then get started with slow, deliberate long strokes, paying careful attention to the curvature of your body. Shave from your ankles upwards, not the other way, you always want to be shaving against the direction in which the hair is growing. Take a moment to unclog the razor after each stroke. If you’ve never shaved your legs, the two areas most likely to get nicked and cut is across the shin bone, and the top of the knees, so from your ankle move up the sides of each calf and then go slow with shorter strokes over the raised, bony areas of the shin and the knee is best done bent to stretch out the skin, not straight where the skin will fold in creases which the razor blade will bite into. Ensure you clean the razor after each stroke or two, and keep your skin lathered at all times to allow the blade to glide easily.

Shaving needs to be done in the shower (or bath) so you can keep your hair follicles open with warm water, the hair will be softer than if shaving dry, and its easy to clean out your razor.

After shaving it is important to soothe your skin. What you do now will determine your chances of stopping ingrown hairs or small infections. You have just cut yourself afterall! The best and cheapest option is to mix a bit of tea-tree oil together with Savlon (for its antiseptic qualities), but there are many commercial lotions and potions on the supermarket shelves you can use, and I’m sure there’s things in the back of your partner's bathroom cupboard you can use (!), however just avoid anything with alcohol-based perfumes as it will sting. Sorbolene is another good moisturiser you could use but it isn't an antiseptic so whilst it will soothe, it won’t help with removing any germs, which should be a priority at this point.

Shaving vs Waxing

The process of shaving will cut off the hair at (or just below) the skin line. Waxing however, removes the entire hair right down to the hair follicle, which lies well below the skin line.

With repeated waxing, the hair follicle will eventually become distorted, which will retard hair regrowth. In fact the hair becomes more sparse, softer, and therefore much easier to remove so overall waxing will give the best long-term results. But it takes patience and time for this to happen and if you get impatient and shave inbetween waxing, you're back to square one.

The problem with waxing is having to accept a bit of regrowth to show. On most men, the first time you wax, you’ll find hair will begin to show in about 10 days after waxing. You should however let it grow for another week or two before the next waxing. This is to allow the wax to stick to the hair to better “pull” out the hair from the root. If the hair is just stubble the wax strip cannot get a good enough grip to remove the full hair follicle and instead will just break off at the skin line – which is no different the effects of shaving.

The major advantages of waxing therefore don't pay dividends back until you've had the patience to get through the first few months to allow the hair regrowth to slow down. In fact after a year of patience, significant reduction of hair regrowth will be noticed and you might extend the time between waxing to 4 or even 5 weeks.

For people who are impatient and want smooth skin every day, shaving will give you that. The main difference between waxing and shaving is how frequently you need to do it, as shaving will need to be done every over day to stay smooth but as it can be easily done in the shower in just a few minutes, this isn't really much of a issue to hold you back. When you first start, for best results it is best to shave just before bedtime rather than just before going out to allow any cuts to heal or redness to settle.

If you do choose to shave your legs rather than wax, then be aware that shaving can actually stimulate hair growth in some people and the stubble often becomes darker and more coarse. In addition, people (both men and women) who have been shaving their legs for a long time will have developed a coarser hair and if they decide to start waxing, it can often be quite painful initially. After a few repeat sessions of waxing the hair does begins to soften however, and waxing then becomes much more bearable and the other advantages of waxing can be appreciated. So you can always start by shaving and then if you like the feel and look of it, give waxing a try later on.

One final point – in recent years, waxing salons have begun using the roller waxers. This seems to be done to reduce cost and increase repeat customer visitation as the hair removal process does not seem to remove the hair follicle and hair regrowth will be quicker than if the traditional hot wax is used. So, if you can, try to find a place that will do the original hot wax removal. It may cost more intially but because you’ll get a much superior job and hair will not regrow as quickly you’ll have made up for it by the second or third visit. Shop around for prices too - there can be a vast difference in price. To keep the cost down, you can opt for a "half" leg wax rather than a "full" leg wax. A half leg always goes over the knee anyway, so might be enough for a cyclist. You can always shave the upper part of your legs to round off the look.

DIY Waxing at Home

If your partner also wants to be waxed, you could both learn how to do it yourself at home for one another! For about $150 you can buy all the equipment you need from a hair & beauty warehouse outlet. You'll need to get your partner to learn how to do the wax removal, and so will you. It takes care and skill but isn't impossible. Here's your basic instructions:

Start by gently preparing the hot wax to the right temperature according to directions. Using an electric pot heater with a thermastat gives the best results as you can constantly keep the wax at the right temperate during the process, which can take 1-2 hours.

Next, have your partner lay down on a table as you stand at their ankles. Ensure you can move around the sides too. A massage table is best, but you can lay some towels and cushions on a sturdy (wooden) outdoor table if you don't have one. Sprinkle baby powder all over the areas to be waxed and rub it in gently. This helps absorb any moisture and significantly reduces the pain of waxing.

Now, apply a thin film of the hot wax in sections of about 20cm using a metal spatula along the direction of hair growth. As your skills improve you can apply 2-3 sections with your spatula at a time to speed up the process.

You can immediately apply one waxing strip over some of the wax along the direction of hair growth, and firmly press and smooth down. Using two hands to wax, you'll use one hand to grab hold of the bottom of the strip, with the palm of the other hand pressing firmly on the skin near the top of the strip to keep the skin taught to minimise pain when you rip back the calico waxing strip. How you remove the waxing strip is critical part. Try to remove the waxing strip by briskly pulling it across the direction of hair growth (start from the bottom of the body, and work towards the top of the legs), keeping the strip close to the skin rather than lifting up and away from the skin (as this could tear skin). If you've applied an area of wax wider than the strip, you can repeat this process using more strips until all the wax is removed. Then just repeat the whole process until you're done. Using the baby powder before waxing also gives you a visual guide to work with as areas that have been waxed will no longer look white.

When the whole job is done, apply the mixture of tea-tree oil and savlon as mentioned above to soothe and disinfect the skin. Don't shower or apply any other skin lotions for a few hours to allow the skin to recover. Expect small red raised dots to settle down overnight.

Just a few more notes of caution. Test the temperature of wax - it can get too hot and cause scalding, but wax that is too cool leaves too thick a film that stays too tacky to remove effectively. If it's grabbing instead of stripping off easily, this is your problem. Don't use leg wax for removing hair from groin areas or underarms. The hair that grows there is different and different wax is used, which is picked off, rather than stripped off. Ask your supplier for more details. And finally, don’t attempt to wax yourself - trust me on this.

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Created: November 2012
Revised: June 2020
Latest Feedback: November 2012


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