The Everything Guide to At-Home Hair Removal, Demystified

Rachel Krause
The Everything Guide to At-Home Hair Removal, Demystified
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Photo: STYLECASTER

At-home hair removal is a divisive topic. Some stick to good old shaving, which mows down hair quickly and easily but leaves stubble and sliced ankles behind, while others opt for the other end of the spectrum, with intense DIY laser hair removers (lasers!!) to keep their faces, legs, and bodies smooth. (And wherever else it’s needed, of course.)

MORE: Are DIY IPL Laser Hair Removal Machines Really Worth the Money?

Going the salon course, with regularly scheduled waxings, is one way to do it, but those $60 appointments start to add up—and fast. But before you write off hair removal as another thing best left to the professionals, educate yourself on the things you need to know about the at-home approach to shaving, waxing, lasering, and more. You might find it’s not so impossible after all.

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Shaving
Your standard method of at-home hair removal—quick, easy, and if your hair grows quickly, very, very annoying to keep up with.

Who's It For? Everyone, wherever they please. If you can reach it with your razor, you can shave it.

How Long Will It Last? Depends on your personal hair type and growth pattern, but not long at all, really. Let's say three days tops before you start seeing new growth.

Is It Cheap? Generally, yes. A pack of name-brand disposable drugstore razors will set you back around $12, so it's not much of an investment. However, you'll need a new blade after every several uses, so the price does add up over time.

Cons? Razor bumps and ingrown hairs are a given, especially around the bikini area. There are also the standard risks associated with dragging a razor across your skin, so just be careful around your knees. And ankles.

Gillette Venus Disposable Razors, $9.59; at Drugstore.com

eos Shave Cream, $3.49; at Walmart

Tend Skin Liquid Skin Care Solution, $15.99; at Target

Waxing
An at-home wax can be quite intimidating, considering the reality that is using wax to rip hair off your skin, but an easy-to-use kit takes the sting out of it (literally). A tip from Completely Bare expert Jessica Johnson: "Look for formulas that have a creamier consistency and titanium dioxide. They're less sticky, less painful, and leave less residue."

Who's It For? The dexterous, the confident, and the committed. You'll need to properly clean, prep, and exfoliate the skin before waxing to avoid ingrown hairs, and getting it right takes time and effort—and depending on which hair you're trying to remove, being flexible is a huge plus too.

How Long Will It Last? For sparse or slow-growing hair, you could get two to three full weeks of totally smooth skin, whereas more hirsute types will see regrowth in about a week. But the more you keep up with waxing, the more hair growth starts to dial back overall, so being diligent about it pays off in the long run.

Is It Cheap? Cheaper than getting it done in a salon for sure. A simple at-home kit from the drugstore usually hovers around the $10-15 range, but should you become proficient enough to be a kind of at-home waxing connoisseur, you can invest in more professional (and therefore more expensive) methods, like using a wax warmer.

Cons? Hair needs to be at least 1/4 inch long so that the wax can grab onto it, but too long and yanking it out will be extraordinarily painful, so trim before you apply the wax. Many at-home kits are strips designed to be warmed up with your hands, but if you're using a formula that does require heating in the microwave, always, always make sure it's a safe temperature before putting it on your skin.

Completely Bare Ready, Set, Wax! Wax Strips Kit for Face, Bikini & Body, $12.99; at Ulta

GiGi Wax Warmer, $30.99; at Overstock

Shaveworks The Cool Fix, $12; at Sephora

Laser
Not for the faint of heart (or wallet), at-home lasers are the big guns of DIY hair removal, but once you get the hang of it, it's one of the best ways to reduce unwanted hair—permanently.

Who's It For? Anyone brave with cash to spare on an FDA-approved at-home laser, provided they have fairly light skin and fairly dark hair. Because laser hair removal works by targeting pigment in the hair follicle, it's not an option for anyone who has light hair or skin tones darker than fair-to-medium.

How Long Will It Last? It's as permanent as hair removal gets, but you won't have the instant gratification and smoothness factor as you would with a close shave or wax—it generally takes several sessions before you see results. That said, laser is proven to permanently reduce unwanted hair, so if you stick with it it's only a matter of time before you're hair-free for good.

Is It Cheap? Not exactly, but it's definitely cheaper than professional laser treatments, which are about $250 per session on average. Multiply that by 6-12, and the price of the at-home device starts to seem pretty sweet.

Cons? It's a bummer that it can't be used on darker complexions or lighter hair, but if you follow the rules, at-home laser is actually quite safe. Just don't look into the light.

Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X, $449; at Sephora

Silk'n Flash & Go Hair Removal Device, $199; at Kohl's

iluminage Touch Permanent Hair Reduction System, $445; at Nordstrom

Depilatory Cream
Quick, painless, and inexpensive, chemical depilatory creams can be a great choice for the face and body, especially if you have thick, coarse hair that doesn't respond well to frequent shaving.

Who's It For? Most people are good candidates for chemical depilatories, but you may want to avoid them if you have super sensitive skin—those chemicals are strong, and can cause irritation, burns, and worsened sensitivity if used incorrectly or left on too long.

How Long Will It Last? An estimated 3-5 days, so not much longer than shaving, but because depilatory creams dissolve hair beneath the skin you won't get coarse regrowth, which is ideal for parts of the body in which visible regrowth is undesirable. As in, your mustache.

Is It Cheap? Quite—in the $5-15 range, generally.

Cons? The sulfuric chemical smell is probably the biggest drawback, but some newer formulas have done a pretty good job of hiding it with… other smells. While most of the newer iterations are also fairly gentle, avoid putting anything designated for the body on your face, as the chemicals in body formulas tend to be stronger.

Olay Smooth Finish Facial Hair Removal Duo, $17.99; at Target

Nair Hair Remover Lotion with Cocoa Butter and Vitamin E, $4.94; at Walmart

Sally Hansen Simply Smooth Hair Remover Creme, $9.99; at Bed Bath & Beyond

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