I first shaved my legs in secret at the age of 10 or 11. The decision to sneak off with my mom’s razor was brought on by the fact that I was in a youth choir. (I’m not sure why because I cannot sing at all.) We had to wear skirts, and I was self-conscious. Feeling guilty after the job was done (poorly, I might add), I asked my mother for permission to shave my legs. She said yes, knowing full well that I had already done it but willing to humor me.
My mom told me not to shave above my knee because the hair would grow back thicker, advice she had gleaned from my grandmother. In my experience, this is fully not true. “Shaving doesn’t make the hair grow back thicker,” says dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD. “That is one of the biggest beauty myths! How thick our hair is on any given body part is genetically predetermined before we are even born. Shave away!” Vindicated! Also, okay, even if it did, is that really the terrible situation it’s made out to be? It’s hair. Body hair is such a personal decision. Whether you shave a little, a lot, or not at all is completely up to you.
That said, if you’re a person who consistently shaves above your knees—what is your life? Tell me how you do it. Do you have a Time-Turner? Are you also going to save Buckbeak? How’s Divination class going? Are you also a zero-inbox person? I applaud all of this. I barely have time to shave the bottom half of my legs, and thighs just add more real estate. I want your secrets. As I sit here writing this poetry about above-the-knee shaving, it should be noted that my thighs are currently unshaved and, yes, I missed a couple of spots on my knees the last time I shaved (which was two days ago).
Body hair is such a personal decision. Whether you shave a little, a lot, or not at all is completely up to you.
This is not to say I never shave above my knees, however. I like to think of shaving above the knee as “special occasion shaving.” I do it sometimes, but it requires me to specifically think about it. For instance, if I was pretty sure I was going to have a romantic liaison in the next 12 hours, sure, I might take a couple extra minutes to shave my thighs in the shower. Silky smooth legs boost my confidence, what can I say. But just to wear a sundress? Nope.
As someone with very pale skin and blonde hair, though, I recognize that my decision to not always shave above the knee is less noticeable than if I had darker hair. So I asked a few of my coworkers for their take.
“Because my hair is almost black, I literally have to shave above the knee,” says beauty and fitness editor Rachel Lapidos. “I do it every single time I take a razor to my gams. If I didn’t, my legs would smooth like a dolphin below the knee and noticeably not above. Which just doesn’t make any aesthetic sense to me.”
Well+Good’s senior food and health editor Jessie Van Amburg has mixed feelings about shaving her legs (thanks, patriarchy). “Knowing that it’s the patriarchy still doesn’t make me feel okay showing my unshaved legs beyond a little stubble,” she says. She only shaves above the knee when people other than her partner will see. “I don’t do it all the time (especially not in winter) because I’m also 5 feet, 11 inches tall, and that’s just… a lot of leg to shave and who has time for that. I used to only shave below the knee, but then one very formative day during senior year of high school I was wearing a miniskirt—California!—and I noticed all of my top leg hair and got really self conscious. I’m definitely not here to tell people to shave their entire leg. I hate doing it honestly. But it’s very noticeable and I personally don’t enjoy that look for me.”
“I exercise a lot and I’m a personal trainer so I’m pretty constantly in shorts and I like to be hair-free,” Livestrong staff writer Bojana Galic tells me. “I shave above the knee once for every three or four times I shave below the knee. Also, I will say my hair above the knee is always much thinner and less coarse than below the knee, too so it’s pretty manageable.”
Whether you shave above the knee, below the knee, or not at all comes down to personal preference. But regardless of which camp you fall into, we can all agree: shaving your actual knees is the worst. Seriously, I have been shaving my legs for, like, 16 years and I still haven’t figured out how to cleanly shave my kneecaps. Inevitably I miss a spot or two, and this cannot just be me. Why is this so difficult?
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