How to Get Smooth Legs For the Summer

When I was fourteen years old, my roommates at ballet camp taught me how to shave. I sprinkled water on my legs from our dorm-room sink and used a cheap razor to shave for the first time. The results? Not great—bumpy, nicked, patchy. Since then, thankfully, I’ve figured out how to do it right. I’ve been loyal to Gillette razors for the past 20 years (!) so when Gillette asked me to share my shaving routine, I was happy to (and I’d love to hear yours)…

1. Soak skin for three minutes
Before shaving, wet your skin for at least three minutes to let the hair soften. The best time to shave is at the very END of a shower.

2. Use warm water
You want the water to be warm enough to feel comfortable (and not cause goosepimples), but not hot, since hot water can dry out your skin.

3. Exfoliate your skin (this is important)
Exfoliate your skin with a body scrub. Many people skip this step, but you need to help prevent dead skin cells from clogging up your razor in order to get the closest shave possible.

4. Apply shaving gel
Next, of course, apply a shaving gel all over your legs to help prevent nicks and scrapes. Gels create a moisturizing lather and, of course, help you keep track of where you still need to shave. (Plus, I just like the feel of gels better than foams.)

5. Choose a good razor
Shave from the ankles up, using a light touch. Don’t forget the backs of your knees and big toes, ha! For as long as I can remember, I’ve used the Venus Embrace Sensitive, which is designed for sensitive skin, with a built-in moisture strip and five blades to give you a super close shave. (Interestingly, studies show that many women who think they have sensitive skin are actually just using a dull razor.)

6. Finish with a body lotion or oil
After shaving, be sure to moisturize to keep legs smooth and give them a healthy sheen. Avoid lotions with alcohol or alpha-hydroxy acids, which can be irritating to freshly shaved skin. (Personally, I like simple body oil.)

Do you do these already? Any other tips you’d add?

P.S. Made me laugh.

(Photos by Yossy Arefi for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Gillette. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Cup of Jo possible.)

  1. Margaret Shaw says...

    Here is a twist to all you women out there I have got long waist length hair but my legs are bored as a babies button so have never shaved huh!

  2. Sharon in Scotland says...

    Wear trousers for thirty years…………..leg hair is worn away, I have not shaved my leg hair in years, smooth and soft as the bottom on a baby!

  3. Thanks for sharing

  4. Whoa; glad I read through the comments, because I didn’t know Gillette still was on the fence with animal testing. Did a bit of research.

    Their parent company is Procter & Gamble, who haven’t committed to a worldwide ban on animal testing. They do use animal testing for sure for China’s market (because of the regs there). I couldn’t find any clear info on whether or not they (Gillette specifically or P&G as a whole) still test on animals otherwise.

  5. I used to use Venus razors, but I was never comfortable with the level of waste, or the cost! Two years ago I switched to an old-fashioned safety razor with double-edged razor blades! Where I live, the blades are recyclable (in a tin), so it’s very low waste.

    After researching the ingredients in standard shaving creams and gels, I ditched those. (Skintimate, for example, rates from four to seven on the EWG Skin Deep database!) I switched to all-natural shaving soap and a shaving brush, then to coconut oil or olive oil.

    Shaving is easier than ever, and I get a better shave. Plus, my skin is so very soft. And in two years, I’ve only nicked myself twice. Both times I was really rushing (and knew I shouldn’t be), and it was while shaving a knee. Barely hurt, barely bled, healed fast.

  6. I really prefer to shave after a bath, I find I get way better results. My routine is very similar to this except after exfoliating I apply oil to my legs and then shaving cream. For some reason it gets even closer and my legs are so smooth! I love waxing for the long-lasting results, but you never quite get the extreme smoothness of freshly shaved legs.

  7. I haven’t shaved in about 13 years! I use an epilator!! I really don’t understand why women in american still shave. In Portugal I don’t know a single woman that uses a razor to get rid of body hair. Gillette monopoly… with the money you spend on those expensive razors you could buy 1 epilator that last for years plus, your hair grows out thinner and it’s at least 2 weeks before I have to worry about body hair.

    • Samantha says...

      I bought an epilator once, but using it hurt so bad! It felt like I was tweezing the hairs one by one, I just couldn’t handle it. Are all epilators like this or did I just get a crap one?

    • vanicee says...

      doesn’t using a epilator hurt A LOT?

  8. I use coconut oil. I keep it in a jar in the shower with a little measuring spoon to scoop it out. I haven’t used lotion since I started using coconut oil – almost 2 years ago. Makes my skin so soft.

  9. I love the picnic blanket and basket in the photo…would you mind telling me where they are from?
    Thank you!

  10. Gillette products are absolutely FULL of chemicals. Plus, they don’t tell you that their blades can be sharpened, which means billions of them are thrown out each year.

    I use a device called RazorPit to make my blades last for 6 months. I also use a shaving oil by Oscar Natural http://www.oscarnatural.com/.

    It’s important that we all think wisely about our grooming routines.

  11. Actually, I use cold water. I sort of do the soak in normal hot water while I shower, but at the end I make it really cold. I get goosebumps, which makes the hair stand out, and I think it gives me a closer shave! Definitely have to be more careful with new razors, though.

  12. I just use bar soap (handmade) or coconut oil to shave. The ingredients in Gillette and other shaving creams concern me.
    Also, I use a safety razor, which is awesome-a pack of 100 blades is $15, as opposed to that price for about 3 Venus. And much less wasteful, as the blades can be recycled.

  13. I also wanted to mention that I do not support Gillette because of their animal testing practices. It would be great to see them make some positive changes.

  14. I have to shave my legs everyday (otherwise I feel dirty) so I have my routine down. I dry brush my entire body before shower, then at the end of my shower I lather up my legs with Dr. Bronners and shave away with my Gillette Venus. Easy, smoooooooooth, and quick. Dry brushing is also fantastic for circulation.

  15. Everyone, You have to check out Harry’s- a new company from the guys at Warby Parker, and all they do is razors. Its so awesome, and they dont rip you off for replacement blades- its like $15 for 10 cartridges or something. Woohooo!!!

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  17. USE BABY OIL or COCONUT OIL!!! instead of shave cream/gel! It does wonders for moisturizing your skin during & even after. Another benefit: I’ve noticed that using baby oil extends the life & sharpness of my razor blades. Plus oils are so inexpensive & have fewer chemicals. Just try it-you’ll never go back!

    thanks for the tip on exfoliating scrubs, I’m going to try it out!

  18. A couple have already mentioned using olive oil or olive oil body wash, which really does work great for shaving. It’s super moisturizing and, of course, more natural than a lot of other products out there. What I’ve used for a long time now and would recommend to anyone (even/especially to those with sensitive skin) is a simple olive oil bar soap. I buy the Soap Works bar at my local food co-op, and not only does one bar cost about $2.50, but it lasts FOREVER. As long as the soap is kept out of the shower/away from water when it’s not being used, it can last for months. Plus, it’s great for traveling because it’s light and small (you can even cut a bar in half) and not have to worry about transporting liquids.

    *Side note: I’m of Italian descent and dark/hairy, with sensitive underarms, and the olive oil bar soap works wonders for it all :)


  19. I exfoliate with coconut oil and sugar first, then when I rinse the sugar off there’s still enough coconut oil on my legs to give me a smooth shave. The only downside is that it dulls the razor faster than if I used soap or shaving cream, but it gives me a smoother shave for sure.

  20. This is so weird. Everybody here waxes or lasers their body hair away. Do you shave every day?? Doesn’t it itch? I can’t stand a man who doesn’t shave, so I believe I would hate my legs all the time :))

  21. Moisturizers like Suave are great and ladt longer than any shaving cream or gel. A large bottle is cheap and only a small amount is needed. Best tip.I’ve learned. I wax at home witb Sally Hansen strips and shave in between to clean up–legs and bikini. Inky shave underarm area because it is sensitive. Never Brazilian because it is not healthy

  22. I use the men’s razors also. I need to be better at putting on lotion – my legs feel so dry!

  23. My routine is just like yours, with one exception. My husband was living in Europe when he and I were dating, and he bought me this olive oil body wash in Turkey. It’s all I’ve shaved with ever since! It’s thin and smooth, but leaves my skin feeling so soft. Thankfully he bought me two bottles, but I don’t know what I’ll do when I run out!


  24. I usually use Gilette Venus razors and Gilette Satin Care Dry Skin shaving gel. I prefer to shave in the middle of the day or at night. I would always nick myself when I shaved in the morning. Then I learnt that our skin tends to be a bit puffy first thing in the morning leaving us susceptible to nicks and cuts.

  25. I put hand sanitizer on my razor before I shave. Right when I get in the shower and then I shake it off the blades when I go to shave. It’s made a big difference in my acceptability to razor burn.

  26. I agree… Really disappointed to see Gillette as a sponsor. They test on animals.

  27. I love to use the Dry Rice Oil from FRESH after my showers – it goes on smooth, and a very VERY light scent and dries quickly so that i don’t have to worry about ruining clothes.

  28. How long would you recommend using a razor before switching? I never know, and it can be so expensive buying nice razors like Gillette for Sensitive Skin!

  29. How long would you recommend using a razor before switching? I never know, and it can be so expensive buying nice razors like Gillette for Sensitive Skin!

  30. Braun silk epilator .. I think it was about $80 .. SO worth it. Have had the same one for years. I exfoliate in the shower and epilate afterward.. then either Curel intensive moisturizing lotion or an essential oil cocktail to finish.

  31. Some tips I learned:

    Apply shaving cream/gel from your ankles upwards, just like how you run the razor. This lifts the hair slightly and gets you a closer shave.

    If you take long showers, don’t shave at the end. After 10 minutes the water plumps your skin slightly and you’ll see stubble sooner. After 3 minutes to soften the hair, but before 10 minutes is best.

  32. I don’t use Gillette because they use parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate and test on animals :(

    As a long time reader of your blog I’m disappointed to see them here as a sponsor. Would much prefer sponsors like Honest Company.

    I usually use Weleda Pomegranate body wash to shave and follow with their body oils. It smells and feels wonderful, doesn’t include harmful ingredients, and they never test on animals.

  33. I used to not use shave gel, then I wondered for years why my legs would be so horribly sensitive and bumpy. I finally caved and bought some last year, and I haven’t looked back. I used to think it was unnecessary (and yet I have sooo many beauty products lol), but I love the stuff now. Agree re: shaving at the end of the shower.

  34. Coconut oil! I just warm it in my hands, rub it on and shave. It keeps my legs smooth and hydrated for days.

  35. Totally unrelated to shaving – where did you get that picnic basket and blanket? :D

  36. Coconut oil! I just warm it in my hands, rub it on and shave. I never have to use lotion on my legs. The oil keeps them smooth and hydrated for days.

  37. I always shave after soaking in a bath of Epsom salts. I bought a big bag at Wal Mart for $5. My legs are so smooth and soft after. Bonus, Epsom salts help remove toxins from your body as well as many other health benefits! And for those who said they use mens razors, me too :)

  38. I use conditioner. It’s inexpensive and works quite nicely! :)


  39. I switched from shaving gel/foam a couple years back to jojoba oil and/or almond oil. It is cheaper than the specialty shaving lotions, and is also better for your skin than the synthetic ingredients most shaving products have in them. Not to mention you purchase WAY less of it because it is so concentrated. I also get zero shaving bumps on my bikini line when I use oil.

  40. I spy a Madewell dress :)

  41. I second the men’s versions are cheaper for the same amount of blades, @Sarah, and I SWEAR by the Mach 3. I tried women’s razors and just didn’t get that close of a shave. Now, Hubs and I can share a pack of Mach 3 replacement blades less than $50 at Costco for an entire year.

  42. I found this shea butter shave creme at Target a few years ago and it’s my favorite thing to shave with. My legs can be pretty sensitive, and this stuff makes the hair really soft (even though it doesn’t lather up like regular shaving gel/cream). My boyfriend even sang its praises after using it to shave his stubble.

  43. I use baking soda as an exfoliant!! I mix a little with my body wash and it works wonders :)

  44. Also, as someone else said, I use a men’s Gillette razor. Not necessarily because they’re cheaper, but I find that men’s razors are better at tackling very coarse leg hair (which I have).

  45. I’m very careful about shaving and waxing hygiene, and follow a very similar routine to yours, Jo! I know you recommended not to use a lotion with alpha hydroxy acid, but I have to be diligent about using one for a few days after shaving to prevent ingrowns and staph infections. My skin is very, very sensitive and I can’t seem to prevent those otherwise.

  46. A great tip not just for soft legs, but super soft skin overall is to use a Dry brush before you shower! I started doing so this winter and not only did it make my skin glow and feel extra soft, it also was much less dry!

  47. Joanna! I spy that bottle of Lustro body oil! That stuff is wonderful. I know you (like many of us) try to use safer cosmetics/personal care products, and I think you should do more posts about that. I could use some inspiration while I switch out my cabinet for healthier alternatives. :)

  48. I cannot support the Gillette company as they still test some of their products on animals. I gladly buy my razors from a different company.

  49. ND says...

    I use Coochy Cream — sounds gross, but it works really well for a close shave. I think it might basically be the same thing as conditioner, but I still get it off Amazon.

  50. I love this topic…and my next question is how often do you shave? I have some friends that do it everyday! I’m lucky if I shave once a week. :)

  51. The best shaving cream ever is from Kiss My Face. Try it! A huge bottle is less than $10 and it lasts forever. It’s the only shaving cream that has ever stopped me from getting razor burn.

  52. This comment has been removed by the author.

  53. Wow! Seems like so much work. I shave while I’m taking a shower. I don’t use any products at all. I shave at the end of my shower when I have been soaking for a few minutes. I moisturize with lotion after I have dried off. Quick and Simple. I have never had an issue with razor burn.

  54. I use soap instead of shaving gel.. It works great;)


  55. Slightly off topic, but where is that striped tray from in the photo – absolutely love it…

  56. I switched from using shaving gel to simply using my hair conditioner. Saves money, space (in the shower) and works/feels much better!

  57. I used to shave – legs, bikini and armpits – with men razors until a friend talked me into going to a beauty parlor to get waxed and it was like ‘why haven’t i done that before?!, seriously. Now i only wax: i do the legs at home and go to see a beautician for the bikini and it’s totally worth it. Before my friend convinced me i was really not comfortable with the idea of a total stranger taking a look at this particular area but now i’m completely ok with it. The first time might be awkward but it gets surprisingly casual after that. Now i only shave when i don’t have any other solutions :)

  58. Also, I learned to shave by accident. I would always stand beside my dad each morning when I was younger and pretend to shave my face or stand beside my mom and pretend to shave my legs, so my mom went out and bought me a toy razor. It was plastic and couldnt cut you but looked exactly like a blue disposable men’s razor.

    I was in the bath one day pretending to shave with what I thought was my toy razor and I realized it was a real one! this was in third grade…I just kept shaving since even though there was hardly anything to get rid of.

  59. I like men’s razors! I just use the mach turbo…heavier, sharper, just overall a million times better than all women’s razors.

    I would always steal my brothers, dads, boyfriends (I had my own razor head and I would just switch them each time), then I said what am I doing? why not just buy my own!

  60. epilate! lasts a couple of weeks. Much smoother. Sorry Gillete. :)

  61. I’m an epilator gal. Although I’ll shave sometimes if I’m in a rush or it’s too close to my period, so my skin’s too sensitive.

    I love the feeling left after the epilator and it really didn’t hurt nearly as much as I was lead to believe.

  62. To the bikini line I use this method (well, I actually use it for all hairy areas):
    While I’m showering I exfoliate the skin with a sponge, then pat dry with a towel (just a bit), cake the skin with the cheapest body cream that I can find at the supermarket (the ugly, oily kind) and use a (obviously) very very sharp razor. After use, scrub and dry the razor and kep it in mineral oil.

  63. one word: laser.

  64. Ugh. The last comment about the lady gillette razors was from me. Not my husband. Logged in on my laptop.

  65. I’ve been using Gilette’s men’s razors for years, they seem much sharper and easier to use.

  66. i have fond memories of a teenage girl who lived next door teaching me how to shave when i was 12. i was so excited :)

  67. This comment has been removed by the author.

  68. Ladies, any tips to do the bikini area? Thanks!

  69. I second Tarika, except that I’m here in the US. I have been waxing my own legs for years, and I rave about it to anyone who asks! Your results last longer and I truly believe my leg hair has become more sparse over time. Once you get the hang of it, waxing at home really isn’t too painful and is relatively quick.

  70. I use Dr. Bronner’s instead of shaving gel. It is natural and incredible moisturizing!

  71. Does the body oil stay oily? I’ve wanted to try it but I feel like I’d get oil all over my couch, bed, doorknobs. Does it kind of soak in?

  72. The only thing I change the shave gel use. Perhaps Gillette has done this too but Aveeno has RUST-FREE packaging. Nothing worse than rust stains from the shave gel ruining your shower stall/shelf etc.
    I use Gillette razors though :)

  73. I always use Venus. I have sensitive skin. I tried Nair once. BIG mistake my legs broke out into a red rash and to top it all off it was the day we were supposed to go to Kennywood. I sometimes use baby oil, but I heard it dulls the blade faster?

  74. I actually use olive oil for shaving–read about it somewhere ages ago (Real Simple, perhaps). A close shave and it moisturizers as well, and no added chemicals going into the environment. I keep a small bottle in the bath, use a tiny amount each time.

  75. I use a men’s razor, Gillette or otherwise. 4 to 5 blades is best.

  76. It’s funny how hair removal differs in various cultures. In India, we mostly rely on waxing & will either go to parlours or even have a beautician visit us at home to wax in the very comfort of one’s own bedroom. Shaving, for us, is mostly for emergencies.

  77. I love to take baths, so I generally shave at the end of a nice, long soak. Other than that, I follow the same routine you listed. :)

  78. I’m a major bath taker, so I always shave at the end of a nice, long soak. Other than that, I do pretty much exactly what you listed. I only exfoliate every other shave because I have found that exfoliating my legs too often makes them MAJORLY sensitive.

  79. I also use Gillette razors, but the men’s versions are cheaper for the same number of blades! Plus, the head of the razor is smaller and I feel like it’s easier to see what I’m doing.

  80. Instead of shaving gel, I use conditioner. Makes the razor glide and moisturizes too!