Hair Removal 101
Regardless of why you want to be fuzz-free (string bikini versus leg-baring pencil skirt), when it comes to hair removal, we all want the same thing: easy, painless, guaranteed results. That said, choosing a method is all about give-and-take. You could spend very little money on methods like shaving or depilating and get used to high maintenance (like near daily shaves). Or you could shell out considerably more and deal with unwanted hair far less frequently (laser treatments cost the most but, according to some converts, are worth every dime). Here, WORKS breaks down the most popular options.
How it works: A razor blade cuts the hair at the skin’s surface.
Average cost: $3 and up
Pros: It’s convenient—you can do it anytime, anywhere. And it’s the least expensive option to boot.
Cons: The hair grows back almost immediately; razor burn (somewhat avoidable if you change the blade on a regular basis); and ingrown hairs (to prevent them, exfoliate often and keep skin well moisturized).
How it works: Chemicals weaken the hair, causing it to break just below the surface of the skin.
Average cost: $5
Pros: Less expensive than salon waxing—and a lot less painful. Results last for three to four days, perfect for an impromptu beach weekend.
Cons: The chemical process can be irritating to some people’s skin, causing a burning sensation or a rash. Always try a depilatory on a test patch of skin before applying to a large area.
How it works: Wax is applied to the skin, and the hair is pulled out at the root.
Average cost: $10 and up (depending on the size of the area)
Pros: Waxing is a fairly quick process with long-term results (think three to five weeks). And the more you wax, the better the results: Waxing regularly for one year usually results in finer and less dense hair regrowth.
Cons: Ideally, hair needs to be at least one-quarter inch to be waxed (a challenge during swimsuit season); the pain factor (ibuprofen taken one hour before waxing may help); and ingrown hairs.
How it works: An electrical current, transmitted through fine needles inserted into the hair follicles, destroys the hair growth cells.
Average cost: $90 to $110 per hour
Pros: Electrolysis is the only form of hair removal that is permanent.
Cons: Hyper- or hypopigmentation—a darkening or lightening of the skin—at the site of hair removal may occur, yet both are usually the result of improper needle insertions or improper application of electrical current. In other words, go to a certified electrologist (certification by the American Electrology Association is the industry gold standard).
How it works: The laser targets melanin (pigment) in the hair follicles to destroy them.
Average cost: $250 to $500 per treatment
Pros: On average, you get a 50 to 80 percent hair reduction after three consecutive monthly treatments.
Cons: Some hair has a tendency to regrow, so additional treatments may be required for maintenance; safety issues—in the wrong hands, a laser can cause blistered, burned skin (which can lead to infection, scarring, and pigmentary changes). The best advice? Go to a doctor to have this done (only a handful of states currently require an M.D. to operate a laser; everywhere else, aestheticians and massage therapists can legally use them—regardless of training).