Hair removal can be… awkward, to discuss. Lucky for you, nothing’s off the table here. That’s why this post provides the ultimate rundown of hair removal—the history of it, the 8 most common techniques along with their directions, pros/cons & science-based explanations.
Why Does Understanding Hair Removal Matter?
Because 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. Why? Using the a hair removal product that isn’t best for your body can have consequences. Misusing the perfect product or using improper technique also has consequences. And with a good foundation of knowledge about the different techniques and methods for hair removal out there, these issues will be a problem of the past.
On a more technical side, hair removal does not matter. Not anymore, at least. Most of us will agree that we can do with our bodies what we please. Yet female hair removal’s controversial debate seems not to go away.
It’s 2021, ladies. Whether you want to shave your legs or never trim a piece of hair again, that is your choice to make, and you are free to do so.
I’ll still love you. I shave because I want to, for myself. I like the feeling. Never because a man told me to. Pray for the man that ever does. Hair removal is entirely optional. Please don’t do it unless you, and you alone, decide to do so, for whatever reason.
With that in mind, get your pen and paper ready! It’s time for your crash course on hair removal.
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 fewer hairy mates were more sexually attractive.”
“Body hair became a question of competitive selection. By the early 1900s, upper- and middle-class white American women associated smooth skin with desirable femininity.”
What Are The Different Hair Removal Techniques?
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.
The traditional razor is most common to shave the legs, arms, and underarms. Generally, the electric razor is more common for men and facial hair. Still, it also works well to trim your pubic region.
How to Shave Properly:
- Wet both the area to be shaved & the razor.
- Apply an even, thick coat of shaving cream over the area.
- Slowly and carefully place the razor on the skin and stroke upward against* hair growth direction—no need to press firmly.
- After every couple of strokes, remember to the razor because stroking will fill it with cream and stubble.
- Once you’ve finished, rinse your legs, store your razor in a clean place
- Dry area and moisturize.
*Except for the pubic area, where you want to shave along the hair growth path.
Pros of Shaving:
- It’s essentially painless, quick, and the most common form of hair removal.
Cons of Shaving:
- Because the hair isn’t pulled out from the root, the hair will regrow pretty soon.
- Also, there’s the risk of razor burns and cuts if you slip or are a bit sloppy with your shave.
Tips for Shaving:
- Don’t share your razor.
- Use a clean, new one as much as possible.
- Before shaving, exfoliate the areas you plan on shaving.
- After shaving, apply lotion or an after-shave spray to areas.
II. Depilatory Creams
A moment of silence, everyone. Because if these aren’t G-d’s work, I don’t know what is!
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.
How to use Depilatory Creams:
- Apply an even layer of cream over the hairs, fully covering them.
- Leave the cream to get to work for at least 5 minutes, then test a small area to see if the hair comes away easily.
- If it doesn’t, wait another minute or two. Do not exceed 15 minutes of application.
- Rinse your skin thoroughly with water to ensure all cream has been removed, then dry.
Pros of Depilatory Creams:
- They are magic.
- They do not hurt in the slightest.
- They are so much easier than any of the other methods mentioned here for hair removal.
- No need to visit a professional; you can do it yourself.
Cons of Depilatory Creams:
- Sometimes, they can STINK. I mean, bad. Like, before you apply it, open a window and prepare the Febreze.
- They can sting if you get some cream on places you shouldn’t, like if you’re applying it down there or if you leave it on for too long.
Tips for Depilatory Creams:
- Please read the directions on the bottle carefully, then reread them.
- Wear disposable gloves when applying the cream! (Keep your hands clean and odor-free).
- Buy body part-specific creams (i.e., don’t use Legs & Body Cream for your Upper Lip.)
No matter what shape or size you are, you should feel confident in your own skin.
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.
How to Wax:
- Spread the wax over the area you want to remove hair from, placing the wax in a direction mimicking the hair’s growth pattern.
- Either put a strip of cloth or paper (soft wax only) on top. For hard wax, wait for the wax to dry – you don’t need to use any material.
- From here, you pull the paper/cloth (or hard wax) off your skin, towards the hair growth’s opposite direction. So, if your hair grows downward and a little to the left, then you’d want to pull off upwards and a little to the right. Make sure you pull the paper, cloth, or hard wax opposite the hair growth direction.
- You’ll know you did it right when you see the entire strand, including the follicle, on the wax strip.
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.
Tips for Waxing:
- Go to a professional for (at least) your first wax experience.
- Make sure your appointment is on a day not close to your period. (The closer you are to the monthly Mother Nature call, the higher your odds of feeling discomfort from the wax.)
- About 30 minutes before your wax, an over-the-counter pain reliever (like Advil) may help with the pain. Speak with your doctor first.
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.
Tips for Sugaring:
- Analyze the type of hair you have before booking an appointment, and decide whether Sugaring is an effective method. Generally, if your hair is on the thinner side, the answer is likely yes.
- Like with Waxing, be sure to schedule your appointment away from your period and get the service professionally done.
The process of removing/plucking hair by mechanically pulling the item from the body with tweezers.
Pros of Tweezing:
- It lasts much longer than shaving.
- Helpful in shaping eyebrows and removing stray hairs on the face and body.
- Easy to do on your own.
Cons of Tweezing:
- Slower and more painful than shaving.
- Risk of infection if tweezers are not properly cleaned.
Tips for Tweezing:
- Tweeze only your facial hair (concentrate on eyebrows)
- Clean your tweezers with alcohol before and after use
- Use on a clean face or body part; remove makeup and lotion.
- Please don’t overdo it! You can always go back later and remove more.
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:
- Great results. Your eyebrows will thank you.
- 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).
- Pain. Depending on the threader’s skill and your skin’s sensitivity, it may be a painful experience.
- Hard to do yourself.
Tips for Threading:
- Go to a professional.
- After threading, apply Aloe to the areas.
- Don’t apply mascara until after the appointment (depending on your pain tolerance, expect a tear or two).
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.
How to Use an Epilator:
For the best results, exfoliate your skin before using an epilator. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells and can prevent ingrown hairs.
Begin by positioning the epilator at a 90-degree angle to your skin. Don’t press the device against your skin. Instead, hold it loosely against your skin. Pull your skin taut, and then slowly move the epilator in the direction of hair growth.
If you move the epilator opposite the direction of hair growth, you’ll cut the hair at the skin, but you won’t remove it from the root.
Pros of Epilator:
- You’ll get smoother skin.
- 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.
- Epilators can be used on hair from different areas of your body, including arms, legs, pubic area, and even your face.
- No need to visit a professional – you can do it yourself.
Cons of Epilator:
- Pain is a drawback of epilation. But if you’re able to deal with discomfort, the results may outweigh this negative.
- 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. These shorter, broken strands may become ingrown or infected.
Tips for Epilation:
- Watch YouTube videos on Epilator tutorials before you begin
Last but not least,
VIII. Laser Epilation
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.
Tips for Laser:
- Because we’re in lockdown, consider investing in an “at-home do-it-yourself” treatment like this. Of course, they aren’t exactly 100% the same laser treatment you’d get at an office. That’s why you can buy them online and not have a doctor present), but they still work!
Congratulations! 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.