Lifestyle is a major factor.
What's important to understand about body hair removal is there's no right or wrong way to do it. Leaving your hair as is, grooming it with a comb and trimmer, removing it via waxing or shaving, or getting permanent laser hair removal is completely up to you.
While there are a handful of temporary hair removal methods to choose from, shaving and waxing are the most popular. When it comes to which one is better, there are a number of factors to consider like cost, side effects, and more.
To help inform your choice, we turned to experts Jessica Houston, VP Of Operations and Lead Esthetician at BEAUTYBEEZ, and Dr. Jaimie DeRosa, Double Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon and Founder and Lead Facial Plastic Surgeon of DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa, to get all the details on both hair removal methods.
What happens during a waxing treatment?
During a waxing treatment, warm wax is applied to the skin and quickly removed once it cools. This swiftly removes the hair from the root. There are two types of waxes: soft wax, which requires cloth strips to remove and is made with rosin, oils, and other additives, and hard wax, which doesn't require strips and is typically made from rosin, beeswax, and oils.
Regardless of whether you get a professional wax or use an at-home kit, you first need to grow your hair to at least a quarter of an inch (the length of a grain of rice). This requires, time, patience, and planning – especially if you need to time your salon appointments just right.
While any part of the body can be waxed, Houston says the bikini, underarms, eyebrows, and upper are among the most common. Before waxing, the expert says it's important to exfoliate 48 hours before your appointment, drink lots of water beforehand, and take a pain reliever if needed.
It's also important to not use retinol or other retinoid products on the area you're waxing seven-10 days before your appointment as it will make the skin more delicate and, therefore, it may rip off with the wax, leading to wounds and scabs.
What are the side effects of waxing?
During the treatment and shortly after it, you may experience discomfort in the form of redness, rashes, temporary bumps, ingrown hairs, and sun sensitivity. The esthetician may apply aloe vera gel after the wax to help relieve some of these side effects.
Over time, Dr. DeRosa says that regular waxing can exaggerate skin aging. "Long term, the repeated pull on the skin during waxing may also result in stretching the skin and accelerating skin aging and wrinkles," the dermatologist explains.
How do you properly shave?
Shaving is the removal of body hair using a razor that scrapes the top edge of the skin to remove hair. There are a few types of razors commonly used for hair removal: safety razors, which are typically disposable, straight edge razors, which look like an exposed blade, and electric shavers, which typically cost more but deliver a closer shave.
To prepare for shaving, simply cleanse the skin then get to work. Many opt to use a shave cream to help the razor glide smoothly across the skin. "An excellent time to shave is right after (or during) you take a shower since your skin will be warm and moist and also free of excess oil and dead skin cells," Dr. DeRosa confirms. "Use a good shaving cream or gel for the best result."
How often you need to shave will vary based on your hair type. "For some, you may notice hair growth that warrants shaving daily while others can get away with shaving every two to three days for a clean shave," Dr. DeRosa says. "Some of this variability in frequency has to do with the hair thickness — coarser hair stubble is easier to feel than softer fine hair."
What are the side effects of shaving?
Using a dull razor or applying too much pressure while running the razor over the skin can lead to razor burn, cuts, itching, blisters, ingrown hairs, contact dermatitis, and pimples (also known as folliculitis).
"One of the best ways to reduce these side effects is to be sure to change your razor (blades) frequently and to use shaving cream (not soap)," Dr. ReRosa says. "Shaving cream provides added hydration and lubrication to the skin during a shave. It also is a nice reminder of where you have already been so that you don’t go over the same place more than once." The hydration from the cream will also help keep the hairs soft, so they're easier for the razor to cut, which in turn will prevent razor burn and cuts.
Waxing vs. shaving: which one is better?
The answer to this question comes down to which method suits your lifestyle. "Pretty much any skin type could be waxed or shaved so it’s more about what’s easier and less time consuming for you," Dr. DeRosa says.
A few factors that may influence your decision are how often you need to maintain results and price.
Typically, waxing can last four to six weeks, while shaving needs to be done every few days. "Waxing results last longer than shaving. It usually takes two to three weeks after a wax for your hair to be longer than a grain of rice (the length needed in order to get a wax)," Houston says. "So your grow-out time is much longer. Whereas with shaving, growth can be seen within days."
As for cost, a pack of razors can be purchased at the drugstore or Amazon for less than $10. With waxing, the price will vary based on the area of the body, where you live, the type of spa you visit, and the esthetician performing the treatment. Houston says that brows can be $25 and up, whereas a Brazilian can be roughly $55.
And finally, the area of the body you're working on my dictate whether you choose waxing or shaving. "Shaving is more comfortable and is easier to do on larger areas of the body," Dr. DeRosa says.