These days there are many alternatives to shaving. It's not just about the razor anymore. Different hair removal methods work better for different areas and skin tones. Find out when — and what — to shave, wax, laser, tweeze and zap.
Shaving is the simplest, fastest, and cheapest way to remove hair. Shaving first became popular during World War II when nylon stockings were in short supply and bare legs became a trend that has yet to cease.
The pain factor: Shaving is usually pain-free, but it can be painful if you nick yourself. Always use a sharp blade and shaving cream, lotion or oil. Our favorite shaving cream is Kiehl's Close Shavers ($18).
What parts should you shave? Shaving works best on legs and underarms. While some women still shave the bikini area, waxing the bikini line instead is recommended. Never shave your chin, upper lip, or brows.
Because shaving cuts the hair off at the skin's surface, stubble develops quickly, usually in one to 3 days.
Waxing is the application of a sticky substance to the skin. The resin binds hair to a strip of cloth, which is yanked off (usually in the opposite direction of hair growth). Some thick waxes are applied and then peeled off (best for bikini waxing). In either case, hair is removed from the roots and will eventually grow back.
Waxing works on all body areas, from the legs to the bikini to the face.
Sugaring, an alternative to wax, is made up of a mixture of lemon juice, sugar, and water. The advantage of sugaring versus traditional waxing is the cleanup. The mixture comes off with water.
The pain factor with waxing and sugaring is high. The first time hurts the most, but each waxing session after hurts less. And best of all, your hair grows thinner. (We swear.)
Results and cost? Since hair is pulled from the root, waxing and sugaring lasts about 3 to 6 weeks and costs $10 on up for upper lips to up to $75 for legs.
Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal isn't for everyone. Lasers work best on people with dark hair and light skin because the laser targets melanin which is found in dark hair. There are some lasers that now successfully remove blonde hairs, but from what I've read, they've not yet perfected them.
I've found lasers aren't as painful as waxing, but are more painful than depilatory creams or tweezing. I am going through laser hair removal on my legs right now and it's working great. A pulsed light from the laser can feel like a rubber band snapping your skin. I recommend taking a couple of Advil an hour before your treatment.
How much time, how much money? The good news is a laser session on the upper lip and chin is fast compared to the legs and bikini. Each session will take about 10 minutes. You'll need 5-6 treatments spaced four weeks apart. The bad news is laser hair removal is not affordable for everyone. Depending on where you live, each session can cost $150-$200.
Are results guaranteed? Results, unfortunately, are never guaranteed with laser hair removal. You can expect an 80% reduction in hair growth, but some people see more, some less. I have had great success with lasers, while a friend of mine turned to electrolysis because all his back hair grew back after his laser treatments.
Beware of the cheap places that offer discounts. You want to make sure you are going to a credible, licensed dermatologist who is using the best, most up-to-date machines available. "It is always best to [visit] a board-certified dermatologist for laser hair removal, especially for many skin types who may have a higher risk of burning, or require more challenging settings," Dr. Rachel Nazarian says. "Many complications from laser hair removal [stem] from non-physician treatment."
Tweezing works best on the eyebrows. The hair has to be long enough to be grasped by the tweezers. We suggest investing in good tweezers because the cheap ones hardly work at all. We strongly recommend Tweezerman slanted tweezers ($23).
Consider getting your brows professionally waxed or threaded, then follow the "map" set by the technician by tweezing your brows between sessions.
Threading is an ancient Middle Eastern technique that is becoming common in the United States with threading shops popping up in every big city as we speak. Many of the top beauty editors in NYC get their brows threaded rather than waxed.
How does it work? An aesthetician uses a doubled-up strand of cotton thread to twist around individual hairs, then pulls them out from the roots.
Best spots for threading? The procedure is used mainly on the eyebrows, chin, and upper lip.
How much time does it take? Threading is faster than tweezing. The average eyebrow procedure takes about 5 to 10 minutes while tweezing takes about 20 minutes.
Cost is relatively cheap: it starts at around $8, and goes upfrom there. We suggest trying a professional threading job, then maintain your new brow line yourself with tweezers.
Electrolysis is a more guaranteed form of hair removal than lasers. Because electrolysis focuses on one hair at a time, it can be a tedious process, which makes it ideal for small areas like the brows, upper lip, and chin.
Here's how it works: the licensed electrologist (make sure yours is licensed) inserts a sterile needle into every hair follicle. A low-level electrical current kills the follicle.
The pain from electrolysis is greater than laser and it may feel like 20 pricks to your one for laser hair removal. Cost is about $60 for a typical 30-minute session, but the con is you need about 15-30 visits to see the best results (ouch!)
Unlike laser and pulsed lights, electrolysis kills every follicle the electrologist treats, so the results are guaranteed.