How to Shave Down for a Swim Meet

Imagine it’s time to shave down for a swim meet. You start shaving down your body, only to cover yourself in cuts and gashes. No good! If you’re feeling clumsy or unsure, this guide is filled with helpful advice. If you don’t know how — or where on your body — to begin, here are some steps to help you along.

Use an Electric Razor First

Many swimmers make the mistake of using a regular, bladed razor on long or thick hair. If you do this, you’ll have to unclog the blade and change it frequently. If you haven’t shaved in a while, use an electric razor first. Trimming the hair down will make it easier when it comes time to use a razorblade on the stubble.

Shave Your Legs

Start by covering your legs in shaving cream to help you achieve a close shave. Never shave over goose bumps! This is very painful and will create red bumps all over your legs, taking away the smooth effect that you’re trying to achieve. Use warm water, and shave in a warm place to prevent goose bumps.


When shaving your legs, start near the ankle. Move the razor upward in a straight line toward your knee. If you turn the blade or don’t go in a straight line, you might cut yourself. Be careful!

Hot Tip: Ask for Help
If you’re afraid of cutting yourself — or if you already have — ask a talented friend to help you out. Often times your friend can help you reach those hard-to-shave areas.
Stop right before your knee. Take the razor up off your leg, and place it back near your ankle. Repeat the same stripe next to the starting location that you just shaved.

Repeat this pattern all around your calf. As you reach the back of your leg, flex your foot to tighten your calf muscle. This will make the skin smoother and easier to shave.


After you’ve shaved your calves, repeat the same pattern on your thigh. Shave from above the knee to your upper leg. Shave your whole leg — even the part of the leg that is covered by a suit. Hairs can stick through the suit. Any missed hairs can increase drag.

Ankles & Knees

Once you’ve shaved your thighs, you’re ready for the tricky part. It’s time to go back and touch up, shaving your knees and ankles. Be careful shaving these areas. This is because the skin is not flat. It’s really easy to cut yourself in these places. Take it slow. When shaving your knee, bend your leg so the skin on your knee is taut. Then — very carefully — move the razor over your knee in a straight vertical line.

For shaving the back of your knee: Stand up and straighten your leg. Once again, you want to tighten the skin as much as possible so the razorblade glides right over a flat surface.

Hot Tip: Frequently Change the Blade
You want the closest shave possible. This means changing out the blade frequently. Even if you think that you don’t need to switch it out, do it anyway. The smoother you feel, the better you’ll feel in your race.

Feet & Toes

Skip shaving your feet and toes. Similar to the underside of your forearms, you want to grip and feel the water with your foot. Also, shaving your feet can be really difficult. With the sharp angles and multitude of bones, you might end up looking like you got into a fight with your razor. Cuts and scabs will not only be uncomfortable — they can be distracting during your big race as well.


Shave Your Arms

Similar to the way you shaved your calves, you can shave your forearm from wrist to elbow. This is a simple way to do it, and you get a fairly close shave.

For a Closer Shave

For a closer shave, start at your wrist and shave in the opposite direction from the hair growth. To prevent bumps and ingrown hairs, you’ve probably been told to shave in the same direction that the hair grows. If you want the closest shave possible, though, then you need to shave against the growth of the hair.

Start on the inside of the wrist, and shave outward in a straight line. Repeat the same stripe right above the spot you just shaved.

Avoid the Underside of Your Forearm

Make sure you only shave the top of your arm. Keep the hair on the underside of your forearm; where your arm catches the water. You want to grip the water, not let it slip past you. Leaving any hair will help you get a better feel for the water. This way you can tell if you’re gripping the water correctly on your pull.

The Rest of Your Arm

After you’ve shaved the lower half of your arm, shave from elbow to shoulder. Just like the knees, the elbows are very hard to shave. Make sure you tighten the skin by bending your elbow. As always: Be careful!



Other Body Hair

When shaving down, sometimes it’s hard to know what to shave and what not to shave. At swim meets, you’ve probably seen just about everything: Especially shaved heads and chests on men. You should be aware that with advancing technical swim gear, common practices are changing.


Because of advancing swim cap technology, head-shaving is starting to become a thing of the past. Sure, some swimmers still do it. But it’s certainly not as common as it used to be.

Today, cap material minimizes drag in the water just as much as — or more than — shaving your head. For many, using a swim cap is a better option than shaving your head. Then again, there’s nothing like the sensation of a smooth head gliding through the water!

If you decide you’d like your head shaved, have someone help you. Shaving your own head is really challenging — especially if you’re trying to achieve a close shave. Start by having a friend buzz your hair off with an electric razor. Next, apply plenty of shaving cream. With a razorblade, start to shave from the base of the hairline on your neck to the crown of your head. Shave in vertical stripes around your head.

To get the top of your head, shave from the hairline on your forehead to the crown of your head. Once again, shave in stripes until the hair is gone.

Chest Hair

Once again, shaving body hair reduces drag. If you have a lot of chest hair, you might want to consider shaving. Even if you’re wearing a suit that covers your chest, technical suits are incredibly thin. Hairs can easily poke through the fabric.

In order to shave the chest thoroughly, you’ll need to stand or lie in a position that allows your skin to stretch. This will make it easier, and the process will run a lot smoother. Cover your chest in shaving cream. Then shave in horizontal stripes, starting low and working your way up.

When going over your pectoral muscles, watch out for your areolas. You don’t want to shave over them! This can be extremely painful and cause a lot of bleeding. Instead, carefully shave around them as closely as you can.

It’s Worth a Try

There’s always been discrepancy about whether shaving actually makes you swim faster. Sure, shaving off small hairs reduces a miniscule amount of drag. If you want to do anything you can to swim faster, though, you should shave down.

Even if it doesn’t make you significantly faster physically, you’ll feel completely different in the water. This can have a strong mental impact. This psychological effect alone can make you swim faster. So give it a shot: All you have to lose is your hair!

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