What’s the best way to remove unwanted hair?

Summer is almost here! But if you’re still not sure of the best way to remove unwanted hair, our beauty writer Sarah Brooks-Wilson breaks down the most popular methods. 

Summer is on its way, and that means revealing parts of your body that have been under wraps for months. Hair removal is possibly the biggest chore on your way to gorgeous, flawless summer skin, but it doesn’t have to be all “no pain, no gain”. Here’s how to look better naked with soft, smooth skin, no matter your budget.

Waxing

How It Works: Hot wax is applied to the desired area and removed in the opposite direction of the hair growth, pulling hairs out from the root.

Best For: Legs, underarms, chest, back and bikini areas. Good for those with coarse, dark hair that tends to be stubborn.

Pros: Temporarily removes hair at the root for an average of three weeks, depending on your hair type and thickness. The hair regrows inside the hair follicle so it grows back with a smooth, tapered end, making the regrowth hair feel soft to touch.

Cons: Waxing requires some regrowth to be effective — around a centimetre of stubble for it to adhere to. Treatments are moderately painful, as hair is being ripped out at the root, but it becomes more tolerable over time. Waxing can also result in ingrown hairs.

Average Cost: Anywhere from $20 for salon waxing, depending on areas waxed and your salon of choice.

Tips: You can do this at home with a waxing kit, but be sure to follow the instructions carefully. Try ones like Veet Natural Inspirations Sugar Wax, $15.49 and Waxaway Aquawax Roll On Kit, $14.95. Arm yourself with an ingrown hair solution like Bump eRaiser Lotion, $16.75 to prevent pesky ingrown hairs.  Avoid waxing if you have very sensitive skin or have recently been in the sun or consumed alcohol.

Electrolysis

How It Works: Electrolysis uses a fine, needle-shaped electrode to apply an electrical current to the hair follicle.

Best For: Small areas such as the eyebrows, beard edges, ear, nose, upper lip and underarms, as it treats each hair and follicle individually, which is time-consuming and can get expensive.

Pros: Can permanently remove hair and is suitable for very fine and light-coloured hair, unlike laser, which works best on darker hair.

Cons: When improperly done, electrolysis can lead to scarring or skin discolouration. Treatments can be uncomfortable and cause a “stinging” or “pricking” sensation, and as with laser hair removal, permanent results require multiple sessions.

Average Cost: Around $30 for a 30-minute session.

Tips: Dehydrated follicles can be more difficult to treat, so be sure to drink plenty of water the day before, the day of and the day after your treatment.

Laser Hair Removal

How It Works: Laser technology penetrates the skin to target the hair shaft and inhibit hair growth. It essentially destroys the follicle, meaning it can achieve permanent removal over a period of time. Typically, the hair on areas treated by laser fall out within two to three weeks of the session.

Best For: People with hair darker than their skin. Lasers target the melanin in the hair, so it’s not suited for people with dark skin or pale hair. The laser needs to be able to lock onto the dark pigment of the hair and differentiate hair from skin.

Pros: Great for long-term hair removal in all areas. It causes no damage to the dermis, so even the most sensitive skin can be treated.

Cons: Laser hair removal can be painful, with most people describing it as a “snapping” sensation against the skin, as well as a sensation of heat from the laser. Best performed in the winter months as tanned skin increases the likelihood of laser burns. This means no tan, not even fake tan, is allowed during treatments.

Average Cost: From $45 per treatment depending on the area being treated, with an average of six sessions recommended to capture the hair follicles in different growth cycles.

Tips: While it may seem expensive, in the long run laser removal is an investment that can pay off. It’s the most effective and cost-effective treatment.

Shaving

How It Works: Shaving removes hair at the skin’s surface by cutting it off with a razor.

Best For: Legs, underarms, chest, face and those with lighter, finer hair.

Pros: Inexpensive, painless and quick and easy. As shaving cuts the hair off at the surface it doesn’t distort the hair follicle like waxing or leave the skin quite as prone to ingrown hairs.

Cons: Regrowth happens quickly, and regrown hair is blunt, not tapered, so it can appear thicker. Razor burn, nicks, and cuts are possibilities, and regular shaving can also produce ingrown hairs in some people.

Average Cost: Razors and shaving cream can be inexpensively purchased at any supermarket or pharmacy.

Tips: Razors are now loaded with moisturising ingredients around the blade to give a smoother, more hydrating shave. Try Schick Hydro Silk Disposable Razor, $9.99 or Gillette Venus Breeze, $18.15. A shaving cream like Gillette Venus Satin Care Shave Gel, $7.79 will prevent nicks and moisturise the skin. Always use an aftercare product like Kiehl’s Razor Bump Relief, $42 to stop razor bumps and burns.

Depilatory Creams

How It Works: Hair removal creams use chemicals to weaken the hair follicle so you can effectively wipe the hair away.

Best For: Those who want quick, easy, relatively painless at-home results. Good for face, back, arms and legs, underarms and bikini lines.

Pros: Can be done easily at home and removes hair just below the surface of the skin, ensuring slower and less coarse regrowth when compared with shaving.

Cons: Chemicals in these products can irritate sensitive skin, particularly in more delicate areas. These creams are infamous for their odour and can also lead to ingrown hairs.

Average Cost: Very affordable, from $15 a tube.

Tips: Choose a cream suited for the specific area you’re treating — and maybe light some scented candles to mask the strong smell. Andrea Roll-On Hair Remover Crème for the Body, $16.99 contains honey so the smell isn’t so bad, and Nair Sensitive Hair Removal Shower Cream Body, $12.99 is great for sensitive skin.