How to get a silky smooth shave according to Olympic swimmers

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In the Unexpected Expert series from ELLE.com, we go straight to the source to find out which items are actually worth your hard earned money.

Athletes look for an edge to help them finish first, and that starts long before the competition. Track icon Allyson Felix calls her mom before races, Serena Williams has to tie her shoe laces a certain way, and USWNT defender Crystal Dunn blows her teammates up by DJing. For swimmers, there is a pre-race ritual that can make all the difference: shaving. “Every little thing I do as part of my pre-race ritual is in place to prepare myself physically or mentally for the starting blocks – and to put years of training together into a race,” swimmer Mallory Weggemann, who is currently competing at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, tells ELLE.com. “Shaving is a big part of that. “

The reason, says Weggemann, is to reduce “drag,” which is the resistance that water exerts on the body as you pass through it. Swimmers need their skin to be as smooth as possible because when trying to reach the stand even a hundredth of a second counts. For expert advice on how to get the closest shave possible, ELLE.com asked six of the world’s fastest swimmers for their top razor recommendations.

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“A close and smooth shave every time”

“Research shows that shaving improves performance in the pool. It reduces drag and increases the feel of the water. After a cool shave, it really feels like slipping. There is a noticeable difference physically, but also mentally. My razor of choice is the water-activated razor BIC Soleil Sensitive Advanced razor. It helps protect against irritation and provides a close, smooth shave every time, keeping me on top of my game at an incredible price. Soleil razors have become an essential part of my routine, especially before big competitions, and it doesn’t go beyond the Olympics. The day before my first race [in Tokyo], my teammates and I had a shaving night. It was a fun way to prepare. Then, throughout the week of competition, I shaved to keep that soft feeling in the water as I raced in several events. I am big on the routine. It’s the little things that add up and lead to positive results in a sport where the difference between winning and losing is often only a few tenths of a second. Having a quality razor is important in helping me perform and feel better in the pool. I love that soft, crisp feeling when I touch the water. It means it’s time for a big race. –Katie Ledecky, 10-time Olympic medalist (seven gold, three silver)

katie ledecky fist pumping

Katie Ledecky.

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“It’s like my skin is slipping in the water”

“My favorite razor is the Billie razor. I had never tried it before, but my mother-in-law slipped one into my suitcase when I left for the Olympics. I have since become addicted and used it before all of my races at the Olympics. Shaving really helps me feel faster when it comes to running. I love the softness of my skin against the water. It is as if my skin is sliding in the water. It’s a great feeling and when you feel good you swim as well. Having a good razor in sports is important because we are in costume all the time. Having a good razor that gives you a close, clean shave without razor bumps is essential. Shaving can help you smell water better. Hair interferes with your connection to the water. Having as little friction as possible helps you feel and swim your fastest. –Regan Smith, three-time Olympic medalist (two silver, one bronze)

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Regan Smith.

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“There are benefits to losing that extra hair on your body in a sport that comes down to a hundredth of a second.”

“It is important to have a good razor to shave before the race for several reasons. First and foremost, you want a clean, smooth shave. Second, you don’t want cuts. Everything you do before a race has a purpose and it’s important that every part of your routine helps you maintain and build your confidence. For me, there is no better feeling than going in the water to warm up after shaving. My favorite razor is the Gillette Venus Platinum associated with their extra smooth razor blades. I love the smoothness of the shave. As a swimmer, you want as close a shave as possible when it comes to shaving before race day. Also, I have only used Venus razors throughout my swimming career and at this point it is as much a part of my routine as any of my other pre-race rituals. I believe a lot of what we do in this sport is mental. Yes, there are benefits to losing that extra hair on your body in a sport that comes down to the hundredth of a second, but I also think it’s more about the feel than anything else. I love the feeling of freshly shaved arms when moving through the water: I feel strong, confident and fast. –Mallory Weggemann, two-time Paralympic medalist (one gold, one bronze)

American Para-Athletes and Swimmers Media Day

Mallory Weggemann.

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“Look good, feel good, swim fast”

“I used the BIC Soleil Sensitive Advanced razor during the Olympics before my 4×100 meter freestyle relay and my 50 meter freestyle race. This is my go-to razor because it provides a close shave, while keeping my skin hydrated with virtually no shaving cream needed. For swimming, shaving is one of those things that always makes you feel good in the water. When my skin is silky, I feel better in the water, I also have more self-confidence before my races. On the technical side, having a good razor eliminates drag that can influence your speed in the water. Psychologically, you just feel better in the water, which translates to faster swimming. Confidence in how you look and feel are the biggest benefits of shaving in sports. With swimming, most of the time we wait months to shave, so “Be good, feel good, swim fast” is in full force when it comes to shaving before a big competition. “-Simone Manuel, five-time Olympic medalist (two gold, two silver, one bronze)

simone manuel in the pool

Simone Manuel.

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“With the right shaving cream, almost any razor is perfect”

“I don’t really necessarily have a specific razor that I feel like I always have to use, because with the right shaving cream almost any razor is fine. i like to use Eos shaving cream when I shave, because it’s less foamy and more hydrating. Chlorine can be harsh on the skin, so it is very important for swimmers. –Lydia Jacoby, double Olympic medalist (one gold, one silver)

lydia jacoby swimming

Lydie Jacoby.

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“I prefer a multi-blade razor … specially designed for a woman’s curves”

“I prefer a multi-blade razor coated with aloe vera or vitamin E specially designed for the curves of women, like Venus, Billie or BIC. I also use a moisturizing shaving cream. At the Olympics, I made sure I was frictionless and ready for every run, whether I was walking the blocks for a preliminary, semi, or final. Research shows that waxing the body can reduce drag and increase speed, which definitely has a psychological benefit. But it’s not like shaving will make you a better swimmer, only training and consistency can. I love the feel of the water on my smooth skin, which I think sets off a mental spark like, “Time to go fast!”Weitzeil Abbey, four-time Olympic medalist (one gold, two silver, one bronze)

Abby Weitzel diving off the block to participate in a race

Weitzeil Abbey.

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