What are the Best Ways to Remove Hair at Home?
What are the Choices?
The truth is that most forms of hair removal can be carried out at home, but some are easier, safer and more effective DIY methods than others.
Additionally, which option is best to go for can depend on which area of the body you want to remove the hair from.
Shaving is the method most commonly carried out at home as part of a daily routine, and this is especially the case for the male beard.
Quick, easy to master, convenient and painless, the downside of shaving is that the results are short-lived and you do need to keep repeating the process very often.
Shaving can be a quick way to cover large areas such as your legs or chest, is often used for underarms and is the best method for achieving and maintaining a bald head.
The choice between wet or dry shaving is largely a personal one and both have their merits.
Generally a wet shave will give you a slightly closer shave whilst an electric shaver is quicker and more convenient when time is short.
One issue with shaving is that regrowth can feel stubbly and may irritate sensitive areas such as the bikini line, so therefore it may not be the best option for that area of your body.
If you have dark hair and pale skin, you may find that you experience an unwanted "5 o clock shadow" effect, as the hair is only cut at the skin's surface. If this is the case, you may prefer to choose a method that removes hair from the root to eliminate the problem.
Pros of Shaving
- Convenient - as part of daily routine, wet or dry in the shower/bath if preferred, travel friendly
- Pain Free
- Easy - to master technique at home
- Cost - relatively inexpensive products available to suit all pockets
- Versatile - you can shave just about any area of the body safely
Cons of Shaving
- Results Short Lived - need to repeat shave regularly
- Regrowth - can be stubbly and irritating
- Side Effects - risk of ingrown hairs and razor burn
- Ongoing Cost - of shaving cream/foam and replacement blades
Depilatory creams are very simple to use, you just spread them on, wait for the prescribed amount of time and then remove, taking the hair with it.
Good for use all over the body, do make sure that you choose one that is suitable for the area you want to treat.
These creams dissolve the hair to just below the skin's surface so the results may last very slightly longer than shaving and the 5 o clock shadow effect is less likely.
In any case, you will need to carry out patch tests on small areas of skin 48 hours prior to any full treatment to check for any adverse effects, and you need to leave at least 72 hours between treatments.
Pros of Depilatories
- Easy to Use - no method required
- Pain free
- Regrowth - no stubbly regrowth
- Relatively Inexpensive - products available to suit all budgets
- Versatility - creams are available for most areas of the body
Cons of Depilatories
- Temporary Results - need to repeat regularly
- Chemicals - uses harsh chemicals, can have unpleasant smell
- Side Effects - possible adverse reactions
- Ongoing Cost - of regularly buying more product
- Skin Test - you always need to carry out patch tests prior to use
You have the choice of two types of wax, either hot or cold:
If you decide to go for hot waxing, you have two options - either soft wax or hard wax, both of which need to be heated to a spreadable consistency.
The difference is that with soft wax, you will need to use waxing strips whereas with hard wax, no strips are required.
In terms of home use, we would recommend that you use soft wax, at least to start with as it is a bit easier to master.
This would be the easiest option for you, at least to start with, as it comes on pre-prepared strips which are ready to use.
All you need to do is warm them between the palms of your hands and apply.
The downside of cold wax is that it is not generally as effective at removing coarser hair as it doesn't adhere as well to the hair as hot wax does.
Whatever you decide to go for, you need to make sure that the wax you buy is recommended for the area you want to wax and your skin, if it is sensitive.
Always carry out a patch test prior to first use as per instructions, to check for adverse reactions.
The wax must be applied in the same direction as the hair is growing naturally, and then pulled off parallel to the skin in the opposite direction.
It is also good for removing excess eyebrow hair if it is very bushy (male or female) or the bit between your brows if they are meeting in the middle, prior to tweezing.
Pros of Waxing
- Quick - large areas can be covered relatively quickly
- Lasting Results - anything from 2 - 6 weeks
- Finer Regrowth - regular waxing can lead to finer regrowth as the hair follicle becomes weakened
- Versatile - can be safely used for most parts of the body
- Inexpensive - relatively inexpensive products available for home waxing
Cons of Waxing
- Pain - as hair is pulled out by the root
- Visible Hair - hair needs to grow back to be at least ¼" long before re-waxing
- Technique - need to master the correct method to use wax for hair removal
- Ingrown Hair - risk of ingrown hair and irritation
- Ongoing cost - of continually buying products
Using an epilator has the same effect as waxing in that it also pulls the hair out from the root.
Basically, an epilator is an electrically operated set of tweezers on a rotating head that pluck out multiple hairs simultaneously, to cover larger areas relatively quickly.
Epilators can be painful to use, and you will likely need several passes to effectively remove all the hair.
As with waxing, as your skin gets used to the process it is more tolerant and the pain becomes less, regrowth is finer and lighter over time with none of the stubble associated with shaving.
They are best used for the arms and legs, although if you can stand the discomfort they can also be used for underarms and bikini line (forget Brazilian though!). Some are also suitable for facial use.
It is important to keep the skin as taut as possible to prevent dragging and pinching.
Results will last anything from 2 - 4 weeks depending on the area of body and hair growth rates. You need to let the hair grow out just slightly (not as much as waxing) so that the tweezers have something to grasp onto (from just 0.5 mm - 2 mm depending on the device).
We have published a separate guide setting out the pros and cons of using an epilator vs waxing which you can read here.
Pros of Epilating
- Easy - simple to do at home at your convenience
- Lasting Results - longer lasting than shaving or depilatories
- Regrowth - finer and lighter over time with regular use
- Cost Effective - a one off cost; if well maintained your epilator should last for many years
Cons of Epilating
- Pain - painful to use as hair is pulled at the root.
- Side Effects - risk of ingrown hairs and skin irritation
- Time - the epilator needs to be passed slowly across the skin to catch all the hairs.
Tweezing is specifically used to pluck one hair at a time from the root.
Tweezers are therefore perfect for shaping your eyebrows, removing strays you may have missed by other methods e.g. waxing, or the odd chin or mole hair.
Simple to use, tweezers are inexpensive, although it does pay to purchase a decent, well aligned pair that are shaped specifically for the job in hand.
For example, if you want to shape your eyebrows, a slant edged tweezer is best, whereas if you want to remove an ingrown hair, you will need a point-edged tweezer.
Pros of Tweezing
- Convenient - easy to do in your own home, easily portable for travelling
- Precise - for removing individual hairs
- Lasting Results - hair removed from the root
- Useful - for catching strays left by other methods
- Inexpensive - one off cost of $10 - $20 for several years use
- No Mess
Cons of Tweezing
- Pain - some discomfort, more like a sharp sting, lessens over time
- Ingrown Hairs - can be a side effect of tweezing
- Time Consuming - removing individual hairs when shaping brows, especially initially
- Restricted Use - only viable for limited small areas.
IPL (intense pulsed light) home hair removal devices have become widely available and there are a lot to choose from.
They use light energy to target the dark pigment in your hair, which is found in concentration around the hair root, to damage it and cause the hair to fall out.
If you would like a more in-depth explanation as to how IPL and laser hair removal works, see our separate post: Home IPL/Laser Hair Removal - What you Need to Know.
Home IPL devices can be used all over the body, with some safe for female facial use (cheekbones down only, not to be used anywhere near the eyes).
The important things to realise are that your skin tone should not be too dark, and that IPL is currently ineffective for light, white, grey or red hair.
The advantage of IPL is that it can have long lasting effects (over time) and you can shave between treatments so there is no need for unsightly regrowth.
However, IPL is a long-term method of hair removal and not a quick fix.
Following treatment the hair falls out after one to two weeks, and regrowth tends to be lighter and finer. IPL can even lead to permanent hair reduction for some individuals with regular treatments.
The skin heats up during IPL treatment and you can expect to experience some discomfort. Your skin will likely be tender with some redness afterwards, but this should be transient and can be soothed with a cooling gel.
Pros of IPL
- Results - permanent hair reduction can be achieved with regular treatment
- Easy - quick and simple to use, with no mess
- Regrowth Lighter - and finer, and you can shave between treatments
- No Ingrown Hairs
- Cost Effective - after the initial high outlay, no further cost involved as the device should last for many years (although some models still require replacement light cartridges)
Cons of IPL
- No Guarantee - results are not the same for everyone
- Not Always Suitable - best results are achieved if you have light skin and dark hair
- Pain - treatment can be painful
- Side Effects - redness and tender skin to be expected, and a patch test must be carried out 24 hours prior to treatment
- Initial Outlay - relatively high cost of good quality home IPL device compared to other methods
When is it Best to Leave Hair Removal to the Professionals?
You can carry out most hair removal processes at home in one way or another, however there are times when I really would advise you to visit a professional: