From Electrolysis to Sugaring: Going Hairless Like a Pro
Hair removal has been a decade-long endeavor for me now. There are many proverbial thorns in my side I’d rather have been dealt with (a hidden third nipple, creepy stepsiblings, or even student loans among a few of them), but here I am, at twenty-six, and testing out yet another method of keeping my skin hairless and smooth (we’ll get to that later), wondering if and how this annoying, expensive, painful, and inconvenient journey will ever end.
But this is not a piece about pointing fingers at unfairly dealt cultural gender expectations – the truth is, to me, there is nothing like the feeling of wonderfully smooth skin, freshly exfoliated, especially arms and legs, but really anywhere on your body. I’ve tried most options available, and have chosen a cocktail of a handful, rotating based on occasion and season. And truly, fewer things are more unsightly and abhorrent than excessive hairiness, especially for women. And, when it comes to sex, we have the responsibility to exhibit standards of tidiness, sophistication, and hygiene. For which our poor male counterparts (hopefully) follow suit, we women need to clean it up down there, and everywhere else.
In the end, when deliberating which is best for you, the factors to keep in mind are cost, cost timeline (short-term vs. long-term gain), commitment, hair color/type, and pain tolerance.
So, ladies, it may take some reading up and experimenting before settling on the methods that are best for you, but this tried and true list is a good place to start:
Likely what all of us started with, around age thirteen. (Or, in my case as with every other diabolical older sister, I practiced on my younger sister first, afraid to cut my own legs but not the slightest bit hesitant to put hers to the test. So her legs were left a bloody mess, and I got in big trouble.)
Pros: quick, painless (if done well), exfoliative properties, cheap, easy, practically done at home.
Cons: ongoing expense, razor blade maintenance, immediate grow-back time, frequent upkeep required, some care involved to prevent ingrowns.
An instant removal like shaving. It is more painful, but also longer lasting, because it pulls out the entire hair follicle from the root. For blondes like me, waxing is a worse experience than for my brunette girlfriends. Our hair follicles are thicker and are therefore more difficult – and consequently, more painful – to remove. That said, however, my first Brazilian felt like a rite of passage of sorts into womanhood. Going prepubescent – completely hair free – is worth the pain. And, though the grow-back time varies among women, typically the hair takes two weeks before it grows back to the skin’s surface again. For safety and hygenic purposes, it’s best to find salons that meet certain standards (like European Wax Center), but you will pay a heftier price for it.
Also, on certain places on the body, years of diligent waxing in the same areas may even result in the hair not growing back at all. I hardly have to worry at all about my eyebrows, because I started waxing them when I was fifteen. An occasional plucking is all it takes.
I recommend waxing for the bikini area. When it comes to bikini waxes of any variation, if baring your bits to your esthetician (that’s the word! Your wax specialist is an esthetician) makes you uncomfortable, I promise it gets easier and less awkward each time you do it. My wax girls have all been awesome. Once you find a good one – i.e. she works quickly, gets you in and out of your appointment in a snap, and puts you at ease – you keep her in your arsenal and plan to book ahead for recurring appointments.
Finally, watch out for those pesky ingrown hairs, which are most likely to occur with waxing because your skin is highly irritated from the waxing process (you know, the violent ripping of multiple hair follicles from their cozy home in your skin at once). Many salons, especially those that specialize in waxing, offer gentle exfoliating scrubs made especially for your sensitive bikini area. (Sorry, penny pinchers…best to avoid your DIY sugar scrub around your cookie, as that will likely do more harm than good.)
Pros: longer grow-back time, quick, less painless with each repeat visit.
Cons: expensive over time, some pain involved, upkeep required to prevent ingrowns, waiting too long creates more painful waxes, takes practice to do it yourself at home.
These products, left on the skin for a certain time, have chemicals that dissolve the hair at the root, and are then to be wiped off, taking the hair off with it. An easy addition to your self-care routine (as it can be done simultaneously with face masking, teeth whitening, polishing your nails, etc.) if you’re brave and used to doing all the DIY things at home.
Pros: less costly, easy to DIY.
Cons: time-consuming, unfriendly to sensitive skin, messy.
Haven’t done it myself but my friends do it and say it hurts, especially on the brows. But it’s supposed to be cheaper and doesn’t create ingrowns, and the grow-back time is slower than waxing. I’m skeptical, because it looks to me like it’s the most rapid yanking out of individual hairs there is. But, alsothe most extensive and painful option there is. But I also haven’t tried it, so anyone who’d like to leave a comment with their experience please feel free.
Pros: no ingrowns, suitable for all skin types, longer-lasting results
Cons: more of a painful option
Similar results to waxing but better for those with sensitive skin. It also attaches more to the hair than it does the skin, making it less painful. It’s also faster than waxing. Another bonus is that frequent trips eventually damage the hair follicle enough to stop growing hair.
Pros: better for sensitive skin, less painful than waxing, eventual permanent results
Cons: ongoing cost, unknown number of visits required
I started this as a college student, (a much-appreciated gift from my mom, sympathetic to my ongoing hair removal plight) in pesky areas where my hair grows longer and darker (my stomach line, bikini line, chin, lip, and arms). Electrolysis is more of a hair removal investment, so get ready to shell out. While it is one of the more expensive options, the process works by zapping each individual strand of hair with an electric current, killing the hair from its point of growth, because presto! It doesn’t grow back. This option is good for those who have more money to shell out on the spot. However, because it can be challenging to “zap” the follicle at the right stage in the growth process, sometimes it does not kill the strand of hair. Repeat appointments are necessary as a result.
Pros: (alleged) investment for hair to never grow back, (alleged) longterm savings on longterm hair removal efforts.
Cons: expensive, frequent consultations required, unclear how many trips are needed before it “zaps” the hair away permanently
Which do I use today? I’m glad you asked. Given my consciousness of budget, time, and longterm commitment to both, my current removal options of choice are these: shaving and waxing. I wax my bikini area, and I shave my arms, legs, underarms, and face. Yep, I shave my face. Sorelle Amore, a lovely Youtuber I follow, gave me the idea when she shared in a video that she did it for exfoliation purposes, swearing that scar tissue on her face and neck has gradually diminished over time since she started shaving. For me, it’s an easy part of my shower routine, and something I have no trouble doing quickly every day. It also makes sense to do right before I put on my makeup, as it sits more cleanly and directly on my face. I save a tremendous amount of money, and time spent going to waxing appointments twice a month for diligent upkeep.
Currently, while we’re sharing details of intimate rituals anyway, I’m trying a new thing friendly for wintertime – considering my idea of cuffing season this year is cuffing myself to my couch with Fresh Prince reruns playing, clad in slippers and a fuzzy onesie, surrounded by all my plants – where I grow out my leg hair and wait for it to fall off. Stop laughing. Unusual as it may sound, a friend of mine shared that her mother started doing this more out of laziness than anything else. But evidently her laziness paid off, because after an extensive period of her hair follicles rubbing against the fabric of her jeans, they actually started falling off…and not growing back. Okay, occasionally she has to still shave for periodic upkeep, but only occasionally people!! Imagine banishing daily shaves for the rest of your life, all because you committed to a couple of months-long no-shave winter!
Cover image via Center for Plastic Surgery