Fuzzy lips, bushy brows and prickly legs have driven ladies over the edge for years.
While scientists in the world of beauty have made great progress when it comes to hair growth, hair dye and even hair straightening over the last decade, it seems little has changed when it comes to the painful and sometimes embarrassing task of hair removal.
Most American women, at one time or another, have tried ripping out their unwanted hair with hot wax, or melting it off with stinking depilatory creams. Some brave ladies even tried handheld devices designed to rip hair from its roots in the 1980s.
These at-home experiments often led ladies back to the traditional weapon of choice — the razor. In fact, Kristin Perrotta, the deputy editor and beauty director of Allure magazine, says 87 percent of women who participate in hair removal choose to shave their unwanted hair. It is a good choice for those with coarse hair, since it lessens the tendency for ingrown hairs because the hair follicle is only being cut at the surface.
Nonetheless, ladies who've been hurt by wax, cream or even handheld machines in the past, should give them a try again. She says the old products have been improved over the years, and so has the reliable razor.
Highly Rated Shaving Products
Perrotta says the following razors and shaving creams are her top choices:
Gillette Venus ($8.99): The razor has three blades for a very close shave.
New Schick Intuition ($7.99): The razor comes loaded with a shaving soap containing soothing aloe, moisturizing cocoa butter, and vitamin E. It lathers up as you drag the razor over skin and lasts for about nine shavings. The Schick Quatro, which has four blades, will be available in stores in September.
Noxzema Skin Fitness Bikini Size Razors: The razors are small with a single blade, which is less likely to nick the bikini line. These razors are designed to give ladies more control in hard-to-reach places.
Perrotta recommends that women replace their razor after every three shaves. Shaving removes hair for one to three days. If that's not possible, make sure your razor has three blades to insure it is sharp as possible. Never shave on dry skin. Always make sure your skin is moist and lubricated before you start shaving. The razor will glide over skin more easily, and when you add a coating to hair it helps it stick up. Also, remember that underarm hair can grow in many directions, so shave in all directions for the closest shave.
Perrotta advises ladies to shave with a rich creamy cleanser or products like Aveeno Positively Smooth Shave Gel ($3.99), which contains soy, an ingredient clinically proven to make hair 50 percent finer by blocking the flow of nutrients to the hair. (It does not, however, inhibit hair growth.) Even though the gels are shaved off, they contain moisturizing agents that remain on the skin.
For the bikini line, Perrotta suggests using a product that soothes razor burn and prevents post-shaving infections. Keep lather to a minimum so you can see what you are doing and shave using antibacterial soap or cream. There is more bacteria in the bikini area, which leaves you prone to pimple-like infections.
After shaving the bikini area, try Sally Hansen Bikini Plus Antibacterial Pain Relief Gel ($5.99) to soothe raw skin and prevent infections, according to Perrotta. It contains soothing ingredients such as aloe, chamomile and antibacterial agents.
After shaving legs, women should always apply a rich body lotion that doesn't contain fragrance or AHA's (alpha hydroxy acids), which can irritate freshly shaven skin, according to Perrotta. Hair minimizing lotions, Curel Smooth Legs ($6.99) and Jergens Naturally Smooth ($3.99) contain soy to minimize the appearance of hair as it grows back. Soy blocks nutrients that feed hair, so it grows in finer. Manufacturers claim you'll shave half as often.
Hot Wax and Cold Wax
Waxing generally leaves skin hair-free for up to five weeks, but it can be expensive if you go to a professional. Perrotta says it costs around $50 to $75 for legs and $15 to $35 for bikini lines.
If you choose to wax at home, you can try hot wax or cold wax. Hot wax gets a better grip on hair, and wax comes off the skin more easily. But hot waxes can burn the skin if you don't test the wrist before applying. They can also be messy.
Cold wax is easier to handle, but it doesn't grip hair as well, meaning the follicle can break and not come out from the root. It is also harder to get off the skin.
Perrotta recommends the following products.
Poetic Waxing Kit ($40) This hot wax kit works well because the gentle azulene wax doesn't have to get scalding hot in order to work. It doesn't require the cloth or muslin strips that common kits require for wax removal. Perrotta warns that ladies should always test out hot wax temperature on wrist before applying to their body.
Nads No-Heat Hair Removal Gel ($29.99) As seen on TV and in some drug stores, this cold wax kit works best for beginnners, Perrotta says. In the past, cold waxes were messy and left skin sticky. New formulas grab the hairs better and come with products that prevent the wax from sticking to the skin.
The benefit of waxing is that it lasts longer and that it can producer fine, less noticeable, hairs over time. However, frequent waxing can cause painful ingrown hairs. When the hair grows inward, instead of out of the skin, an ingrown hair results. They can generally be prevented by gentle scrubs with a loofah pad while showering.
Perrotta says there are ideal times of year to begin waxing. She suggests getting started in early winter. By the summer, all hair growth cycles will have been waxed at least once, she said. However, women should avoid waxing a few days before and during your period, when women are more sensitive to pain, Perrotta said. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help. Also, trimming hairs to 1/2 inch will the minimize pain when waxing.
After waxing, apply an astringent, such as Tend Skin, to soothe skin and help prevent ingrown hairs, Perrotta said. For sensitive skin, Neosporin acts as an antibiotic, preventing infection and irritation. The skin should be ready for a gentle loofah scrub two days after waxing. If you happen to apply wax and then lose the guts to tear it off, take a warm bath. The wax will soften and slip off.
Waxing isn't safe for everyone. Women who are taking Accutane or Retin-A need to consult a doctor before they attempt waxing. These medications make skin extremely sensitive.
Depilatory creams dissolve hair just under the skin, so they last for seven to 10 days, four or five more days than shaving.
In the past, depilatory creams have always had a horrible chemical smell, (thanks to active ingredient thioglycolate) but new ones, in fruit or aloe scents, are much better.
They have not in the past worked on coarse hair, but a new formula by Sally Hansen claims to effectively do that. Use after you shower or bathe, so hair will dissolve most easily. But be aware that active ingredients can cause irritation or rash. Test a small area behind your ear first. If skin is sensitive, protect it by massaging a layer of Vaseline on the skin before applying the cream
Sally Hansen Spray-Off Hair Remover for Coarse Hair ($4.99) smells of coconut.
Return of Epilady
When Epilady came out in the 1980s, women were excited. But for many the devices were wildly painful, and sometimes they got stuck on hair. Now, Epilady is back with new technology. Coils have been replaced with small metal gripping devices that rip hair out from the root. They are not as painful on the legs, but are still pretty painful on the arms.
Epilady Legend Plus ($69.95)