Despite how important using the proper hair removal method and technique is for our bodies, we often avoid discussing it. (Unless you know me in real life, of course!) The truth is, hair removal can be awkward to discuss. Fortunately, however, I do not care. Whether you’re a hair-removal regular or have never shaved your legs before, it’s essential that you’re aware of what’s out there and what’s best for you.
If you didn’t already know, the wrong technique or product for your body could have consequences. Misusing the perfect product or using improper technique also sucks. And, of course, using the method that’s right for you will feel fantastic. With a solid foundation about the eight different ways to remove unwanted hair out there, you will no longer need to worry about these issues of the past.
That’s why this post provides the ultimate rundown of hair removal—the history and science behind it along with the pros/cons, instructions, and tips for the 8 most common hair removal techniques.
Disclaimer: This article is not promoting or advocating hair removal. The choice to remove body hair is a personal and private one.
The History of Hair Removal
According to the Women’s Museum of California, “The first razors were used in Egypt and India around 3000 BCE. Upper-class Roman women of the sixth century BCE used tweezers, pumice stones, and depilatories to achieve the desired degree of hairlessness. Egyptians of Cleopatra’s time used a sugar mixture in a method similar to Waxing.
“The modern era of hair removal may have been encouraged by Charles Darwin’s 1871 book, Descent of Man, through the popularization of his theories of natural selection. That is, homo sapiens have less body hair than his/her antecedents because less hairy mates were more sexually attractive,” according to the Women’s Museum of California,
The Different Hair Removal Techniques
There are 8 standard hair removal techniques, none of which superior to another. Each method comes with its pros and cons:
Skip right to the a method by clicking each one.
Method 1. Shaving
A sharp blade (razor) cuts the part of your hair follicle that sticks out of the skin. Two types of razors are effective at removing female body hair. There’s the good old standard razor or a fancier electric one.
Pros of Shaving
Quick and easy
The most popular form technique out there for removing hair
Cons of Shaving
Because the hair isn’t pulled out from the root, the hair will regrow pretty soon
Risk of razor burns and cuts if you slip or are a bit sloppy with your shave
Ingrown hairs can suck
Method 2. Depilatory Creams
By breaking down the bonds in hair, depilatory creams allow hair to be easily removed from the skin. Many people use them to remove hair on both their bodies and face.
Pros of Depilatory Creams
They are magic.
Fast and easy to do. No need to visit a professional; you can do it yourself.
Cons of Depilatory Creams
They smell. I mean, bad. Like, before you apply it, open a window and prepare the Febreze.
It will sting if (1) you get cream where you shouldn’t, or (2) keep it on for too long.
Method 3. Waxing
Waxing is the hair removal process from the root by using a covering of sticky wax to stick to body hair, then removing this cover and pulling out the hair from the follicle.
There are two types of wax: hard wax (aka “strip-less wax,” usually warm) and soft wax (aka “strip wax,” either warm or cold). Typically, hard waxes hurt less than soft waxes.
Pros of Waxing
Results can last up to 6 weeks
You don’t have to worry about nicks, razor burns, or cuts
Also, the more regularly you wax, the more delicate and thin the hair is that regrows
Cons of Waxing
It f***ing hurts
You have to grow your hair out long enough (aka, not shave in between treatments) for it to work
It can be costly if done by a professional
Method 4. Sugaring
Sugaring removes body hair by quickly pulling the hair from the root, similar to waxing. The “wax” is made with different ingredients: lemon, water, and sugar, hence the name. The ingredients are all heated together until it reaches a candy-like consistency. Once it cools, it’s applied directly to the skin.
How is Sugaring different from Waxing?
Besides the ingredients, Sugaring paste is applied to the skin in the opposite direction of hair growth. It’s then removed in the order of hair growth in quick, small pulls. Because the sugar only exfoliates the surface of the skin, it can be reapplied multiple times to the same area of skin.
Waxing is much more methodical. Both hard and soft wax mixtures are applied in the same direction as hair growth. Once the substance cools and slightly hardens, it’s removed in the opposite direction of hair growth.
Pros of Sugaring:
Some people favor sugar pastes because they’re made with fewer, more transparent ingredients. In contrast, wax can contain additives that upset more sensitive skin types.
Cons of Sugaring
While Sugaring is a gentler process, sometimes people need that extra power from the traditional wax (especially those with thicker hair). Suppose Sugaring cannot extract coarser hair cleanly from the root. In that case, it might lead to hair breakage and ingrown, in addition to faster regrowth.
Method 5. Tweezing
The process of removing/plucking hair by mechanically pulling the item from the body with tweezers.
Pros of Tweezing
Lasts for quite some time
Helpful in shaping eyebrows and removing stray hairs on the face and body.
Easy to do on your own.
Cons of Tweezing
Can be painful or uncomfortable
Risk of infection if tweezers are not properly cleaned.
Method 6. Threading
In threading, a thin cotton or polyester thread is doubled, then twisted. It is then rolled over areas of unwanted hair, plucking the hair at the follicle level. Unlike tweezing, where single hairs are pulled out one at a time, threading can remove short hair rows.
Threading is a very natural way of removing the hair from the root. It only adheres to the hair and not the skin and gives a cleaner residue-free finish, and it’s not as abrasive. Threading is most commonly done around the face, less commonly on the body.
Pros of Threading
Fast. An average appointment takes about 15 minutes.
No ingrown hairs. It is much gentler than Waxing and easy on sensitive skin.
An all-natural procedure that uses no chemicals,
Cons of Threading
Like shaving, threading removes hair only from the surface, which means it must be repeated regularly (usually monthly).
Depending on the threader’s skill and your skin’s sensitivity, it may be a painful experience.
Hard to do yourself.
Method 7. Epilation
Epilation, by definition, is the removal of hair by pulling it from the roots. Technically, Waxing and threading are considered epilation. But don’t get confused! What I’m referring to is epilation via epilator use.
What is an Epilator?
An epilator works similar to Waxing in that it removes hair by the roots. But an epilator doesn’t use wax. Instead, it plucks away hair as you move the device over different parts of your body.
There are two options: a dry epilator, which you can use without water, and a wet epilator, which provides the convenience of removing hair while in the bath or shower.
Pros of EpilatION
The results may last longer than most other hair removal methods like shaving, depilatory creams, or tweezing. You can expect smooth skin for up to 4 weeks.
May result in less body hair over time. With this method, hair grows back softer and more delicate.
Hair may even regrow at a slower rate. The longer you epilate, the less hair you’ll notice on certain parts of your body.
Cons of EpilaTION
Can be quite painful
Risk of ingrown hairs or infection if you go too fast or move the device against the direction of hair growth, you may break the hair rather than pull it out from the root.
Method 8. Laser
Aka “Laser Hair Removal,” laser epilation is a medical procedure that uses a concentrated beam of light (laser) to remove unwanted hair. During laser hair removal, a laser emits a light absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the hair.
Pros of Laser
“Permanent” results – the long-term, stable reduction in the number of hairs regrowing after the treatment regime
What gets better than that?
Cons of Laser
It takes a long time until complete, and you can see results (up to 12 weeks, or 5-6 visits to the doctor’s office)
Varying effectiveness with varying skin tones
Can be painful or uncomfortable.
Can be costly.
Phew! If you’ve made it this far, you can rest assured that you now have the foundations of each hair removal method and feel more confident about your next hair removal experience! I wish you luck in trying the best one for you.
Don’t be afraid to test out a few (or all) of them. The Hair Care section of CVS is now yours to conquer or help out someone! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments as usual.
For more reads, check out this article on how to prevent breakouts from your mask.