Hair removal is a subject that elicits strong opinions. After all, it’s something most people have to contend with – from just a few stray hairs to a whole forest, most people feel that they have at least a couple of wayward hairs that need to be managed. But what’s the best way to do it? Whether it’s shaving, waxing, threading or newer technologies, there are so many options for hair removal that deciding what’s right for you can be overwhelming. I’ve compiled this guide to work through some of the advantages and disadvantages of each hair removal method, so you can ultimately choose the best hair removal method for you!
Shaving is the process of removing hair with a sharp razor to cut the hair off at the skin’s surface. This method of hair removal can be used on virtually any body part, and is often the go-to method for men who like the feel of a close shave. Shaving works best if you have light or fine hair and, trust me, a sharp blade will make the world of difference when it comes to shave quality and potential discomfort.
Pros: Shaving can be an inexpensive way to get rid of unwanted hair. Done correctly, it should be painless and shaving can be effective for short-term hair removal.
Cons: Shaving may get rid of hair, but will only keep hair away for a few days in the best case. Hair reappears faster than it would with other methods…there’s a reason for the saying ‘five o-clock shadow’! Shaving is also not recommended as a first choice hair removal system for those with very dark body hair, because you may still be able to see the hair root just below the skin even after shaving. Also keep in mind that because you’re working with a razor, you’re susceptible to cuts and razor burn.
Bottom line: If you need a quick fix for getting rid of body hair, shaving will do the trick. Just beware that hair will reappear quickly and blunt ends created by shaving can exacerbate stubble.
Waxing is an age-old method of hair removal that entails putting warm wax over an area of unwanted hair, then using a cloth or paper strip to rip hair out by the follicle. It works well for those with dark or coarse hair.
Pros: With waxing, hair appears to grows back more slowly because you are removing each hair directly by the follicle. You will typically be hair-free for about two to eight weeks depending on the texture of your hair and your personal hair growth cycle. Waxing can be relatively inexpensive depending on whether you choose to go to a professional or attempt it at home. Many people say that the pain of waxing diminishes each time but individual experiences do vary.
Cons: Ouch! Waxing is known to be painful. You’ll also need to pay attention to your exfoliating routine to ward off ingrown hairs.
Bottom line: Waxing is good for keeping unwanted hair away for a few weeks at a time. Waxing is a great solution for larger body areas such as legs, arms, and underarms, for a few weeks. Be prepared to feel a small amount of pain to achieve smooth skin.
Sugaring is a form of hair removal that’s very similar to waxing: hair is removed at the root. Sugaring involves applying a warm gel or paste to your skin, then removing the ‘sugar’ with a cotton or muslin strip. Sugaring paste is also usually made from natural ingredients such as sugar, honey and lemon.
Pros: Sugaring paste or gel is usually a mixture of natural ingredients. This can mean there is less risk of skin irritation, making sugaring a great option for those with sensitive skin. The risk of accidental burning is also reduced because sugaring paste or gel is typically applied at a lower temperature than wax. Similar to waxing, sugaring will keep hair away for two to eight weeks.
Cons: Much like waxing, there is a pain factor associated to this method of hair removal. It can also be difficult to find salons that offer sugaring as a service because most offer waxing. If sugaring is available, it tends to be a little more costly than waxing. For both sugaring and waxing, ensure the salon or practitioner maintains good hygiene standards.
Bottom line: If you have sensitive skin, can bear the pain, and are willing to pay a little more, sugaring is a great hair removal option. Hair will stay away longer and, over time, your follicles may be less noticeable. Sugaring can be a great long-term hair removal method.
Threading is an ancient form of hair removal that originated in the Middle East and South Asia. As the name suggests, threading involves using a cotton thread that is twisted around individual hairs, then pull the hair out at the root. Threading is a typical choice for eyebrows or other small areas of unwanted hair (particularly on the face).
Pros: Threading is much quicker than tweezing, usually taking only a few minutes to achieve a polished brow area. It’s an inexpensive way to get shapely eyebrows, and the pain is about the same as plucking. If you go to an experienced professional, they can quickly shape your brows to the arch that best suits your face and eye structure.
Cons: Threading is recommended as a hair removal method on small areas; it’s not an option for removing body hair. It can be very painful for men because men have thicker facial hair.
Recently, there have been concerns around the hygiene of threading and you’ll need to decide how you feel about the process – if you’re unsure, ask to watch the technique before booking your appointment. If done incorrectly, hair won’t be pulled from the roots and may instead be snapped at skin level, which means noticeable regrowth occurs sooner.
Bottom line: Threading is a great hair removal option for the eyebrow area or for women looking to remove any other unwanted facial hair. Make sure to ask your friends for recommendations or do your research and go to an experienced professional.
Depilatory creams are chemical-based creams that remove hair by breaking down the hair structure itself. A depilatory cream is applied to an area of unwanted hair, and removed after 5-10 minutes, usually with a warm washcloth.
Pros: A depilatory cream will remove hair with less pain than other methods of hair removal. It’s a quick procedure, can be done at home, and most depilatory creams are relatively inexpensive.
Cons: Depilatory cream results will last longer than shaving, but not as long as waxing or sugaring. You can expect to see hair resurfacing after a few days, though it sometimes lasts as long as a week. One common complaint about depilatory creams is the smell – although this has improved greatly in recent years!
Also, be careful not to leave a depilatory cream on for too long as it could damage the skin. As always, follow instructions and be sure to try a patch test before using a depilatory cream for the first time. Some people may find that they have an instant reaction or will feel itching or burning within a few hours of use, so a patch test is critical!
Bottom line: If you want to remove body hair quickly with minimal pain, and want results that will last longer than shaving, then a depilatory cream is a good option. Just make sure not to leave it on too long!
Laser hair removal and electrolysis offer the closest thing to permanent hair removal available, but they certainly aren’t an option for everyone. ‘Laser’ refers to an intense pulse of light, which means it carries a risk of burns and should only be performed by a certified professional. Electrolysis involves inserting a fine needle into the hair shaft to destroy the hair producing cells.
Pros: These options are often billed as permanent hair removal, and some people have been able to say goodbye to unwanted hair for good.
Cons: Both electrolysis and laser hair removal can be painful – although, subjectively, I’d say less so than waxing or sugaring. Costs can also be high and, unfortunately, these methods aren’t suitable for all skin types. If you have darker skin then you may find these options are not recommended. Laser hair removal works by firing a pulse of intense light at a hair, ultimately damaging the follicle (where the hair is produced). This can reduce or stop hair growth, but is most effective if there is a significant difference between the hair color and the color of the surrounding skin. In very light hair (white, red or blonde) melanin levels are too low for laser hair treatment to be effective.
Bottom line: Put in some research to decide if lasering or electrolysis is right for you. Know that you’ll have to be patient; each treatment must be scheduled according to your hair growth cycle and usually several treatments are needed to remove hair permanently. Ultimately, laser hair removal can be an effective way to decrease the quantity of unwanted body hair, but you’ll need to weigh the pros against time and cost.
Even though technology has improved significantly over time, it doesn’t mean that more modern hair removal techniques are any better than ancient ones. In my experience, I don’t think there is a single best way to get rid of hair, but through trial and error you will discover your preference and the best hair removal solution for you. As the ongoing quest for the best hair removal solution continues, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. What’s your preference? And of course … if you have any hair removal disaster stories (hey, we all have a couple), I’d love to read them in the comments!
Written by beauty expert, Jacquie Carter. Jacquie is Director of Outer Nutrition at Herbalife.