The amount of body and facial hair we consider appropriate and attractive is shaped largely by culture. And if we happen to live in a culture that values less hair, we have many choices for removing it. Our guide will help you determine which hair-removal products meet your budget, goals, and comfort level.
Here are some points to keep in mind when selecting hair-removal products:
Women, if you notice a sudden, significant change in your body hair's texture, color, or quantity, consult your doctor. This can signal a hormone imbalance or polycystic ovarian syndrome, both of which are treatable.
Hair on different parts of the body can be thick, thin, coarse, or fine; a product designed to remove hair from one part of the body or face may not be appropriate for use in other areas.
Be realistic about how much inconvenience and discomfort you’re willing to tolerate when choosing a hair-removal method. Waxing and epilators, which mechanically remove multiple hairs at a time—pulling them out by the root—give longer-lasting results, but the process can be painful for some people.
Hair Removal Lotions, Gels, & Creams
What they are: Hair-removal lotions, gels, and creams are applied to the skin, left on for a few minutes to dissolve hair, then wiped and rinsed away. Products to remove hair from different areas of the body and face are available. Some products contain soothing ingredients such as aloe to lessen the risk of skin irritation.
Why to buy: Hair-removal lotions, gels, and creams are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. For some people, these products cause less skin irritation than shaving, because hair is dissolved, which eliminates blunt ends and reduces the risk of razor bumps and ingrown hairs.
Things to consider: All gel, cream, and lotion hair-removal products contain chemicals that dissolve hair. If you have sensitive skin, hair-removal lotions, gels, and creams may cause irritation. To minimize this risk, choose a product formulated for sensitive skin, leave on the minimum amount of time suggested in the instructions, and use only in the areas indicated on the package. Do a small patch test on the area from which you plan to remove hair to ensure any new product doesn’t cause a rash or other skin reaction. Hair-removal products can bleach or discolor towels, bathmats, and clothing, so use caution when applying.
What they are: Waxes are spread over the area intended for hair removal and a cloth strip is pressed onto the wax. The end of the strip is grabbed and the entire strip is removed in one fast motion. The wax holds onto the hairs, pulling them out.
Why to buy: Waxing leaves a smooth, long lasting result. Most waxing kits are inexpensive, and you can choose from waxes that require gentle heating prior to use, or “cold waxes,” which can be applied straight out of the package. Over time, less and less hair tends to grow back in areas that are repeatedly waxed.
Things to consider: Many people find waxing painful, because each hair is removed by the root. If you’re new to waxing, use caution; some people accidentally remove the top layer of skin on the first try, which can leave skin painful and raw. If a few stray hairs remain after waxing, using tweezers to remove them is safer than rewaxing the same area. With hot wax kits, do not overheat the wax as you can burn your skin. Some people find that taking an anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin or ibuprofen about 30 minutes before waxing can lessen the pain.
What they are: Epilators are small, handheld devices that are slowly rubbed along the skin. They use rotating discs or wire coils to grab multiple hairs at a time, pulling them out by the root.
Why to buy: Good-quality epilators can be expensive, but they will last a long time and most brands offer a warranty. Epilators give a longer-lasting result than many other hair removal methods. Over time, less and less hair tends to grow back in areas where you repeatedly use the epilator.
Things to consider: Removing hair with an epilator can be painful. Read product reviews to determine which product works best with the minimum amount of discomfort. If you are comfortable with waxing, chances are good that you will find an epilator easy to use as well. Some people find that taking an anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin or ibuprofen about 30 minutes before using an epilator can lessen the pain.
What they are: Trimmers are products designed to trim hair in a specific area of the body or face, such as the beard area, the nose, or the ears. They come in many shapes and sizes designed to easily access each specific area to be trimmed.
Why to buy: Trimmers are ideal for areas over which you don’t want total hair removal. For example, trimmers can keep a beard or hair cut looking neat, or prevent ear or nose hairs from being visible to others.
Things to consider: Trimmers run the gamut from very basic to more elaborate models, with attachments, variable speeds, and other features. Plan to spend more money if you want a trimmer with multiple features. Trimmers require cleaning, and blades may need to be replaced periodically to keep the trimmer in good working order. Online product reviews can help you determine which models are most reliable.