You know that song from the 1950s that goes like, who wears short shorts? and then the woman answers, we wear short shorts! (you are quite lucky I did not have to sing that out loud to you in person). Well it was probably around then that WOMEN STOPPED BEING ALLOWED TO HAVE ANY BODY HAIR AT ALL, ANYWHERE. In fact, the song was used in an ad in the ’80s for hair removal.
But we are mammals, and more importantly, humans, and humans have body hair. Humans also have different preferences, so while some of us feel best with the smoothness of just-shaved legs and a freshly waxed bikini line, others of us prefer to grow it all out, and that’s okay — screw your short shorts! For those of us who do prefer to get rid of a peach-fuzzy mustache or underarm hair, there’s so many hair removal options out there that it gets all too confusing — it can be hard to know what’s best for not only your skin, but for your lifestyle too. So without further ado, here is The Everygirl’s Complete Guide to absolutely everything you will ever need to know about hair removal options and how it differs for each body part. Your razor can thank me later.
Before any kind of hair removal, make sure skin is completely cleansed (to remove bacteria and excess sebum that causes irritation and infection). If you’re getting a wax or laser treatment, make sure to ask your esthetician what to avoid and how best to prepare skin and hair for removal.
After any kind of hair removal, it’s normal to notice skin is red or slightly irritated, especially depending on the type of removal. Redness should subside in 30 minutes to a couple hours, so get it checked out by a doctor if the inflammation doesn’t go down or gets worse. Limit touching the area, as the oils in your fingertips can clog pores, and apply a gentle aloe vera gel with clean hands to soothe irritation.
If you want the most affordable option: Shaving
As the most convenient, cost-effective, and temporary solution, shaving obviously requires nothing more than a shaving cream and a razor of your choice. However, it requires much more maintenance than other options since it lasts the least amount of time, and should only be reserved for areas with thicker skin (like legs). Shaving sensitive areas like the bikini line or underarms can cause razor burns and painful irritation.
If you do feel like shaving is the best option for you, make sure your skin is warm (preferably at the end of a hot shower, when the hair cuticle is open), and well lubricated with a balm, shaving oil, or cream. Shaving with a dull razor can cause more irritation, so make sure replace the razor head every few uses.
If you want to get vacation-ready ASAP: Waxing
Rather than cutting down the hair to the surface, waxing removes the hair follicles altogether using hot wax and strips of cloth. Skin appears smoother for longer than with shaving, so it requires less maintenance and typically less irritation on sensitive areas. Yes, there is some pain involved (I went into my first wax with the scene from 40-Year-Old Virgin stuck in my head), but inflammation should subside within the next day or two, and, let’s be real — “beauty is pain” is nothing new.
Honorable mention: sugaring, a waxing technique used for centuries that consists of a paste made from sugar, lemon juice, and water. The paste is spread on skin in the direction opposite of hair growth and then pulled off in the direction of hair growth. It’s a more natural and gentler alternative to waxing but is slightly more expensive and not as common as regular waxing.
Waxing is a good option for all areas of the body, but we recommend having it done by a trained professional and doing your research before going to a salon or spa. A trained esthetician knows the correct technique to avoid irritation and severe burns. Avoid touching the area, wearing tight clothes, and being out in the sun until 48 hours after treatment.
If you want the easiest option: Hair Removal Cream
Another easy and DIY option, hair removal cream has had huge popularity since it first came on the market years ago. These products work to remove hair because they contain chemicals that break down the disulphide bonds in the hair, weakening them so much that you can literally wipe or rinse the hair off of your skin. While the hair will grow back in a few days, it can be easier than shaving and you don’t have the risk of nicks or razor bumps. The biggest concern with these treatments is that applying chemicals to your skin can cause severe irritation, especially when left on longer than the suggested time.
If you do decide hair removal cream is the best option for you, stick to less sensitive areas like the legs and upper lip, and rinse off immediately after the recommended time has passed. When using on your face, look for a formula made specifically for the face, which is gentler than other options meant for dark, thick hair.
If you want it all gone for good (and are willing to spend the money to do it): Laser Hair Removal
As the most technical and permanent solution, it’s also the most pricey, but the benefits might be worth it. A trained esthetician holds a laser wand to your skin that uses light and heat to kill the hair follicle. If you have darker skin or super light hair, laser treatment might not work very well because the laser is attracting melanin, so discuss with your dermatologist or esthetician to make sure laser hair removal is right for you.
It can take 5-12 treatments to complete, based on the thickness and color of hair, and hormonal changes might require touch-ups in the future, but for the most part, laser hair removal is permanent. Ear and nose hair is the only body part that are off limits (which, like, just pluck!), but it’s safe for all other areas of your body, including bikini line. Avoid heat and any harsh products for 48 hours after the treatment.
And if you’re over having to be hairless: Keep it Au Naturale
So while this technically is not a hair removal technique, it deserves repeating anyways: your hair removal choices are completely up to you. Do whatever makes you feel the most beautiful and empowered, whether that means going completely bare or wearing your hair with pride. If hair removal feels like too much work, or your body hair makes you feel good, summer is the perfect opportunity to flaunt the choices that make you feel best. So keep the hair without shame, or shave it off to keep the attention focused on exactly where you want it. So now that that’s out of the way…
Hair Removal By Body Part
Best: shaving, waxing, and laser hair removal
To shave, lather the area with shaving balm or cream, and gently move the razor upward, downward, and then side to side (since underarm hair does not typically grow in one direction). Stubble will return quickly in this area, and sometimes can return in a number of hours, so it requires a lot of maintenance and treatment to avoid razor bumps. Replace the razor head every 2-3 times to help with irritation.
Waxing is a good option for underarms because it will keep hair away for days (instead of hours), and can make hair grow back finer overtime. However, it may be particularly painful to wax, since the hairs do grow in multiple direction, requiring more wax strips over the same area.
With laser treatment, the underarms typically get the best results, since the skin is usually at its lightest and the hair is usually at its thickest. It takes about six sessions for total hair removal, but varies based on hair color and thickness.
Best: waxing and laser hair removal
Shaving is typically discouraged with forearm hair, since it can grow back in an uncomfortable stubble. Waxing is a good options for forearms because the area is typically thicker skin so it’s less painful, and hair stays away for up to a week, while getting thinner and less coarse overtime.
Since most women typically just want slight reduction of hair on the arms (rather than totally bare), you only need about one to three sessions of laser hair removal.
Best: waxing and laser hair removal
Pretty much any method of hair removal is fine for the bikini area, except we do not recommend using hair removal cream (who really wants that many chemicals down there!?). Since the area is sensitive, shaving can cause irritation and razor burns, as well as nicks and cuts from hard-to-reach angles.
Waxing is a great option for the bikini area, especially for getting hair in certain nooks and crannies that are hard to hit with a razor. Make sure to grow hair out (at least a quarter of an inch) and pop some ibuprofen an hour before to help with the pain (but not a glass of wine — it will actually make you more sensitive to pain!). The best part: hair will likely stay away (or come back lightly) for the entire duration of your beach vacation.
Best: shaving and hair removal cream
Because the skin on the legs is not very sensitive, shaving is the most common method of hair removal on the legs. While it may be tempting to do a quick shave using only water in a dire situation (we’ve all been there), make sure you always shave with a nourishing shaving cream to avoid dry skin and irritation. If you find yourself in a pinch without shaving cream, coconut oil or conditioner will do the trick.
Hair removal cream is another good option for hair removal on your legs, since the skin is not likely to react poorly to the chemicals. The treatment can get pretty messy, so apply five minutes before taking a shower, and then rinse off with a warm washcloth in the shower. Before you use, always test the product on a small area to make sure you don’t have any reactions or irritations, especially if you’re prone to eczema or sensitive skin on other areas of your body.
Waxing may be more painful since it’s a greater surface area than other parts of the body, but the results can last for weeks (which might be worth it in the summer when you’d have to be shaving constantly). Since these are larger body parts, laser hair removal can be extremely expensive and take too long.
Best: shaving (or dermaplaning) and laser hair removal
Ah, yes, good ol’ facial hair. What’s a girl to do about a dark mustache or some extra prevalent peach fuzz? Laser and waxing are both great options for the upper lip and sideburns (remember that laser will only work if the hair is dark). Be careful with waxing and hair removal cream, as it can cause irritation or breakouts on the area. Stick to cream that’s formulated for the skin and check with your esthetician to make sure the wax is safe on sensitive skin.
Dermaplaning (or face shaving) is a great way to not only remove all-over peach fuzz, but exfoliating the skin and prevent wrinkles. You can get dermaplaning done professionally, or do it yourself with facial razors.