In ELLE.com’s series Unexpected Expert, we’re going straight to the source to find out which items are actually worth your hard-earned cash.
Athletes look for any advantage to help them finish first—and that starts long before the competition ever does. Track icon Allyson Felix calls her mother ahead of races, Serena Williams has to tie her shoe laces a certain way, and USWNT defender Crystal Dunn pumps up her teammates by DJing. For swimmers, there is one pre-race ritual that can make all the difference: Shaving. “Every little thing I do as a part of my pre-race ritual is in place to get me either physically or mentally ready for the starting blocks—and to put years of training together into a race,” swimmer Mallory Weggemann, who is currently competing at the Tokyo Paralympics, tells ELLE.com. “Shaving is a big part of that.”
The reason, Weggemann says, is to reduce “drag,” which is the resistance that water exerts on the body when you move through it. Swimmers need their skin to be as smooth as possible, because when you’re trying to make it to the medal stand, even one hundredth of a second matters. To get some expert advice on how to get the closest shave possible, ELLE.com asked six of the world’s fastest swimmers for their best razor recommendations.
“A close, smooth shave every time”
“There’s research that shows shaving helps with performance in the pool. It reduces drag and heightens feel for the water. After a fresh shave, you really feel like you’re gliding. There’s a noticeable difference physically—but also mentally. My go-to razor is the water-activated BIC Soleil Sensitive Advanced razor. It helps protect from irritation and delivers a close, smooth shave every time that keeps me at the top of my game at an incredible value. The Soleil razors have become a core part of my routine, especially before big meets—and it doesn’t get any bigger than the Olympics. The night before my first race [in Tokyo], my teammates and I had a shaving party. It was a fun way to get ready. Then, throughout the week of competition, I re-shaved to keep that smooth feel in the water as I was racing in multiple events. I’m big on routine. It’s the small things that add up and lead to positive results in a sport where the difference between winning and losing is often just tenths of a second. Having a quality razor is important in helping me perform and feel my best in the pool. I love that smooth, crisp sensation when I hit the water. It means it’s time for a big race.” —Katie Ledecky, 10-time Olympic medalist (seven gold, three silver)
“It’s like my skin is slipping right through the water”
“My go-to razor is the Billie razor. I had never tried it before, but my stepmom snuck one of them in my suitcase when I left for the Olympics. I’ve been hooked ever since, and used it before all of my races at the Olympics. Shaving definitely helps me feel my fastest at race time. I love how smooth my skin feels against the water. It’s like my skin is slipping right through the water. It’s an awesome feeling and when you feel awesome, you swim awesome, too. Having a good razor in the sport is important, because we’re in suits all the time. Having a good razor that gives you a close, clean shave without razor bumps is critical. Shaving can help you get a better feel for the water. 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)
“There are benefits of losing that extra hair on your body in a sport that comes down to a hundredth of a second”
“It’s important to have a good razor for pre-race shave-downs for a few reasons. First, you want a smooth clean shave. Second, you don’t want cuts. Everything you do prior to a race has a purpose—and it’s important that each part of your routine helps you maintain and build your confidence. For me, there is no better feeling then getting in the water for warm-ups after shaving down. My go-to razor is the Gillette Venus Platinum paired with their extra smooth razor blades. I absolutely love how smooth the shave is. As a swimmer, you want as close of a shave as possible when it comes time to shave down prior to race day. Plus, I have only ever used Venus razors throughout my swimming career and at this point it’s just as much a part of my routine as any of my other pre race rituals. I believe so much of what we do in this sport is mental. Yes, there are benefits of losing that extra hair on your body in a sport that comes down to a hundredth of a second, but I also think it is more about the feel than anything. I love the feeling that comes with freshly shaved arms as I move through the water—I feel strong, confident and fast.” —Mallory Weggemann, two-time Paralympic medalist (one gold, one bronze)
“Look good, feel good, swim fast”
“I used the BIC Soleil Sensitive Advanced razor during the Olympics before my 4×100 Meter freestyle relay swim and my 50 Meter freestyle race. It’s my go-to razor because it offers a close shave, while keeping my skin moisturized 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 feels silky, I feel better in the water—I also feel more confident about myself before my races. On the technical side, having a good razor eliminates drag that can influence your speed in the water. On the psychological side, you just feel better in the water, which results in faster swimming. Confidence in how you look and feel are the biggest benefits of shaving in sport. With swimming, most of the time we wait months to shave, so ‘Look good, feel good, swim fast’ is in full effect when it comes time to shave before a big competition.” —Simone Manuel, five-time Olympic medalist (two gold, two silver, one bronze)
“With the right shaving cream most any razor is fine”
“I don’t really necessarily have a specific razor that I feel like I always have to use, because with the right shaving cream most any razor is fine. I like to use Eos shave cream when I shave, because it’s less foamy and more moisturizing. Chlorine can be tough on the skin, so that’s super important for swimmers.” —Lydia Jacoby, two-time Olympic medalist (one gold, one silver)
“I prefer a multi-blade razor… specifically made for a woman’s curves”
“I prefer a multi-blade razor coated with aloe vera or vitamin E that is specifically made for a woman’s curves, like Venus, Billie, or BIC. I also use a moisturizing shave cream. At the Olympics, I made sure I was friction-free and ready for every race, whether I was stepping on the blocks for a prelim, semi, or final race. Research shows that removing body hair can reduce drag and increase velocity, which certainly has a psychological benefit. But it’s not like shaving is going to make you a better swimmer, only training and consistency can do that. I do like the feel of the water on my smooth skin, which I think triggers a mental spark like, ‘It’s time to go fast!’” —Abbey Weitzeil, four-time Olympic medalist (one gold, two silver, one bronze)
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