Out of all the different options you have for removing your unwanted hair, three of the most popular methods are shaving, epilating and waxing. If you are new to hair removal, or just fancy a change, we are going to help you out by giving you the low-down and discussing the pros and cons of three of the most popular methods so that you can decide which is the best method for you.
Hair removal falls into one of two categories – epilation and depilation. Methods which remove the hair from below the surface of your skin are called epilating, and these give you longer-lasting results. This includes using an epilator device, waxing, sugaring and threading. On the other hand, methods which remove hair from above the skin are known as depilating methods – quicker to use but with short-term smoothness. These include shaving and using hair removal creams.
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Introducing Epilating, Waxing and Shaving
Before we get into the pros and cons of each method, you need to make sure you understand what they actually are and how they work.
An epilator is a small, handheld device which has multiple sets of tweezers on a roller. As the roller rotates, the tweezers grab your hairs and remove them from the root. It is very similar to the method you may use for tidying up your eyebrows, but with more tweezers over a wider area, meaning you remove more hairs quicker. You can find out more about what an epilator is by clicking here.
Using an epilator can remove very short hairs, and because it is from the root, it can be long-lasting. Plus, over time you may find your hair growth is finer and slower. You can get epilators which are specifically for your body, others which are designed to be used on your face, like these, and some which have attachments so that you can use it for both. You can even use some epilators in the bath and with your favorite products. They are very versatile, discrete and highly effective.
Waxing involves applying wax to your skin in the direction of your hair growth and then removing it quickly against the direction of your hair growth. Unlike epilating, it has an exfoliation effect on your skin as the wax can remove the top layer of dead skin too. It is long-lasting and over time you may notice that your hair growth becomes finer and less dense.
To make things a little more complicated, there are different types of wax. You can get pre-made wax strips which you apply cold to your skin, wax which you apply hot with a stick and then remove with a fabric strip, like you can see in our wax warmer reviews, and wax which you apply hot to your skin which cools and hardens so that you can pick it off without any strips. These methods are very similar, so it is generally just down to which one you prefer.
Shaving is when you glide a razor along your skin against the direction of the hair growth, to remove the hair which is exposed above the skin surface. It is very quick to shave, but because you are only removing the hair above the skin, you will only have a day or two before you get stubble, so to get the same smooth-skin effect, you will need to shave more regularly than you would use other hair removal methods.
Plus, because you are cutting the hair at an angle, when the new growth comes through it will probably feel thicker and denser. Depending on the razor or shaver you choose, you can shave your skin wet or dry. Typically, disposable razors are for you to use with wet skin and a lathered-up product such as shaving cream or shower gel, although some also have built-in moisture bars instead.
How Much Does It Cost?
Buying an epilator is a higher upfront expense, but once you have bought it, you will pay next to nothing for each session. You can spend between about $30 and $300 for a body epilator. The cost difference will depend on whether it has any extra attachments, whether it can be used in water, whether it is battery-powered and of course the quality of the epilator itself. Higher quality epilators have more tweezers, and they can remove finer and shorter hairs.
Once you have your epilator though, the only cost is how you power it, which really is pennies per session, whether you are using a mains-powered device or a rechargeable one.
Waxing, on the other hand, is a lower up-front cost, but over time it will add up. If you go to a salon, you can expect to pay between $15 and $25 for underarm waxing, and between $60 and $80 for a full leg wax in America. Alternatively, if you want to wax yourself, it will cost about $30 to $50 for a wax warmer and $10 to $15 per pot of wax beans, which will give you about 8 smaller sessions (e.g., underarms) and 2 larger sessions (e.g., full legs). Wax pots which you microwave are about $10 to $20 and cold wax strips are about $15 to $20 for about 40 strips.
That’s a lot of numbers we’ve just thrown at you, but the take-home message is that while waxing doesn’t have a high upfront price, it has a moderate regular cost that will add up over time.
Now onto shaving, which you may find that most surprising. If you go for the disposable option, you can pay as little a $5 for a pack of 4 basic razors, or as much as $20 for a multipack of high-quality, moisturizing razors. If you choose to use shaving foam you can pay between $2 and $20. However, despite these low prices, it is estimated that over the course of her life, the average woman will spend $10,000 on shaving-related products!
So overall, yes shaving is a lower price up front, but because you will have to shave more often to maintain silky-smooth skin, it adds up greatly over time.
Is It Painful?
If you are new to epilating and have only every shaved, then it is likely you will feel some mild discomfort. You are pulling the hairs out of the follicle, and some of them come out with the bulb at the bottom, so it is unsurprising that you feel some sensitivity. Some areas such as your bikini line will be more sensitive than others though.
However, over time you will notice that the discomfort you feel reduces, and after a few sessions, you may not feel anything at all! In fact, we think the thought of epilating is far worse than the actual sensation, and once you have encountered the long-lasting smooth skin it gives you, you won’t go back! Plus, you don’t have the risk of burns or skin damage that you do with waxing.
You are unlikely to catch your skin in your epilator, but to make your hair removal easier, keep your skin pulled taut, especially on more sensitive areas. Also, try not to epilate when you are on your period as your skin can be more sensitive then.
Top tip: If you are concerned about the discomfort, go for an epilator that can be used both wet and dry. This means you can use it in the bath or shower, where you are not only more relaxed, but the warmth naturally opens your pores, making it easier and therefore less sensitive to the hairs being pulled out. You can even use some epilators with shower gel, which can be soothing on your skin as it lathers up around the epilator!
Similar to waxing, when you first start waxing you are likely to feel some discomfort, but with time you will notice this reduces. The warmth of the wax being applied can open your pores as well as relax you, meaning that you feel less sensitivity.
However, though the discomfort you feel from waxing may not be as bad as you are expecting, some risks are worth noting. Firstly, it is important to ensure that the wax is a safe, appropriate temperature (you don’t need to worry about this with pre-prepared wax strips). Wax that is too cold will not spread and therefore can’t be used until it is warmed up, but it is dangerous if you heat wax too much. Wax that is too hot can give you a straight-up burn, or it can cause a “skin lift.” A skin lift is when the skin comes away with the hair as the wax is removed. It can be very painful and unsightly for a while.
Unless you catch your skin when you are shaving, you won’t feel any pain. The razer should gently glide across your skin, cutting the hairs off as it goes. It may be more sensitive however if you have bumps or acne on your skin. It is important, however, to remember to renew your razor head regularly.
If you shave every day, you’ll want to replace the blades every week or two, and every third or fourth week of you shave every other day. You can maybe make your razer last up to 6 weeks if you only shave a couple of times per week, but it is important not to use it once it gets blunt or starts to get rusty. Using a blunt or rusty blade can increase your risk of cuts and infection.
How Convenient Is It?
There are two main elements of convenience as far as we are concerned. Those are: how quickly you can perform each method, the ability to travel with your chosen hair removal method, and the ease of fitting it into your life in general. To start with, let’s think about how long it takes to perform each method of hair removal.
We all know that shaving is quick. For example, shaving your full legs and underarms takes just a few minutes in the shower. In comparison, waxing takes far longer. If you are doing it yourself, you must first wait for it to heat up, then bit by bit, apply and remove the wax. Treating your underarms may take just a few minutes but treating a large area such as your legs will take a while, plus you have to put up with the stickiness!
Professional salons often estimate an hour for full legs and about 15 minutes for underarms. In comparison, once you’ve got the hang of it, you should be able to use an epilator almost as quickly and thoroughly as you would use a razor or electric shaver. You can do both underarms in under five minutes, and both full legs in about 20.
Traveling with an epilator is very easy. It is a lightweight and discreet device that will easily fit into your suitcase so that you can touch up while you are away. Some battery-powered models can last for your entire trip, while mains-powered ones will easily charge with the right adapter.
Similarly, traveling with a razor is very easy. In fact, I know of ladies who even carry one in their purse just in case! If you are flying with hand luggage only though, you may need to buy one when you arrive at your destination, as you may not be allowed to carry a razor in hand luggage. Take a look at our best travel shaver review for more information.
Waxing while you are traveling though is a little harder. You will either have to hope that it lasts the entire trip, organize a salon appointment while you are there (and potentially pay higher prices), or just take cold wax strips with you. Cold wax strips will fit easily into your suitcase, and they are effective, but they are not the ideal solution.
In terms of “fitting in,” we are thinking about how well the different hair removal methods work around our busy lives. There is more to it than the time each session takes. In fact, the issue we are most concerned about is the grow out time. Modern epilators can remove hair as short as 0.5mm (0.02 inches), which is probably about the same length you would notice stubble if you shaved. That means that you don’t need to grow it out long in between. Waxing, on the other hand, requires hairs to be about 6mm (¼ inch), meaning you have to grow it out to a noticeable length before your next wax session. This may not be so bad in colder months when it is easier to cover up, but if you have a long, staggered list of events in your diary that you want to be smooth for, waxing isn’t the best option for you.
What Are The Side Effects?
There are minimal side effects with epilating. You may notice some red dots around the pores for a few hours after you epilate, which is a normal reaction to the hairs being removed, but these will soon soothe. You may find that you experience some ingrown hairs when you wax, and these are more common in areas where your clothes are particularly tight. To prevent this, try to exfoliate before you epilate and then again a few days after you have epilated.
The Side effects of waxing are similar epilating – there is a risk of getting ingrown hairs which is reduced if you regularly exfoliate. In addition, you are applying the product to your skin, which some people may be sensitive or allergic to, depending on the make. You may also experience some bleeding or bruising in some more sensitive areas. If you or the salon you go to does not take care of hygiene when waxing, there is a chance of folliculitis or infection if you do bleed or have a lot of skin irritation. Also, you may find that your skin gets very dry or sore after if you need to go over an area multiple times to get all the hairs out.
Shaving can also give you a few side effects. Razor burn can occur on your more sensitive areas, particularly around the bikini line, and can range from mild irritation to bumps. Occasionally you may get ingrown hairs, although this is less likely as you are removing hair above the surface of the skin. You can minimize the risk of having side effects by keeping your skin moist and shaving in the direction of hair growth, although you won’t get such as smooth finish. It is also important, as we have mentioned before, that you replace your blades regularly to get rid of blunt or rusty razors immediately.
|Higher upfront cost, minimal ongoing cost||Moderate cost per session, expensive over time||low but regular cost, very expensive over time|
|Some discomfort which reduces over time||Some discomfort which reduces over time||Painless unless you tear your skin|
|Long lasting, 3 to 6 weeks||Long lasting, 3 to 6 weeks||Short term, 1 to 3 days|
|Removes hairs just 0.5mm (0.02 inch) long||Removes hairs 2 – 12 mm (0.8 – 0.5 inch)||Removes very short stubble hairs|
|Easy to travel with||Harder to travel with||Easy to travel with|
As far as we are concerned, the hair removal method which outshines the others is epilating. It is almost as quick as shaving, yet it is much longer-lasting and doesn’t create a sticky mess as waxing can! You can easily travel with an epilator, and you don’t need to wait for long regrowth in between sessions. You can, of course, start epilating after you have a wax but touching up the regrowth. You may find that you get used to the sensation better this way.
If you are interested in finding out more about epilating or buying an epilator for yourself, check out our reviews on the epilators we tested to find out which is the best one on the market.