You are here

Grin and Bare It: The Best Hair-Removal Products and Tools

  • Peter Ardito

    Put Your Best Face Forward

    "You need to be precise about removing hair from your brows to get the best shape," says Cindy Barshop, the founder of Completely Bare Spas in New York. First comb your brows and pinpoint stragglers. "Then use cool, hard wax, which adheres to only the hair, not the skin, so it's great on delicate areas," Barshop says. "It's also thick enough to not drip in your eyes." Try Parissa Brow Shaper Mini Wax Strips ($10, Start at the inner corner of the brow and work outward. Press each patch on firmly, smoothing it in the direction of hair growth, wait 10 seconds and pull it off in the opposite direction. "This uproots the hair for a clean finish," says Keisha Pittman, the lead aesthetician for Bliss49 Spa in New York City. The same cool wax also works wonders for defuzzing the upper lip, chin, and sideburn area. Try larger wax strips, such as Veet Ready-to-Use Wax Strips for Bikini, Underarm, and Face ($9, drugstores); sprinkle skin with baby powder first to absorb oil that can prevent the wax from grabbing fine hairs. If you're sensitive, consider a depilatory cream, like Bliss 'Fuzz'-Off Facial Cream ($24,, which contains aloe. Spread on a thick layer to dissolve hair, wait three to four minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp tissue.

  • Peter Ardito

    Smooth Your Underarms

    The hair under your arms grows in different directions, which makes it tricky to remove. The quickest and most convenient option for most women is shaving, says Jody Levine, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Rub on an exfoliating body scrub to slough dead skin, which can trap hair and lead to ingrown hairs; then use a five-blade razor with a flexible head that pivots to follow the contours of your pits and eliminates fuzz in a single pass, such as the Gillette Venus & Olay Razor ($11, drugstores). "I tell patients to install a small mirror in the shower so they can see exactly what they're doing," Dr. Levine says. Start in the middle of your underarm and shave in the direction of hair growth — upward for the top half and downward for the bottom half. As you shave, pull the skin taut.

  • Peter Ardito

    Show Off Silky Legs

    Before you lather up your legs, consider this: Waxing will not only cut time from your shower routine, but it will also let you enjoy hair-free results for as long as three weeks. Pittman suggests using hot wax, which has a thin consistency and spreads easily over a large area. Try Sally Hansen Ouch-Relief Wax Kit for Face and Body ($10, drugstores). Dip your spatula in the heated wax pot, wipe off any excess, and work in zones — thighs, knees, shins, and ankles — to make sure you don't miss any spots. Spread on in patches that are roughly four by six inches, applying in the direction of hair growth, Pittman says. To remove, press a cotton or muslin strip over the wax for a few seconds, hold the skin down firmly with one hand and whisk the strip in the opposite direction of hair growth. Use two pulls instead of one: Pull the strip halfway off, then regrip it at the base and continue the rest of the way. "This helps prevent stubble and bruising," Pittman says.

  • Peter Ardito

    Get an Oh-So-Bare Bikini Line

    Though many women are quick to reach for a razor when it comes to removing hair down there, experts recommend waxing to prevent ingrown hairs. Their pick for this most sensitive of areas: a hard wax applied without strips. "It has a lower melting point than other types so it hardens quickly and poses less risk of burning," explains Ramon Padilla, the director of Strip: Ministry of Waxing in New York City. "It also functions like shrink wrap around coarse hairs, making it easier to remove them quickly." We like Completely Bare Salon Quality Face & Other Sensitive Areas Wax Kit ($13, After heating the wax to a molasses-like texture, spread a thick layer over your bikini line in the direction of hair growth, working in four-square-inch sections on each side and moving from the hip inward. (To get a better view, sit on the floor in front of a mirror with the soles of your feet pressed together.) Leave a thick edge and wait 10 to 15 seconds, Pittman says. "Once the wax hardens, hold the skin taut with one hand and pull the wax in the opposite direction of hair growth in a quick, fluid motion," she advises. Finish by pressing gently on skin to soothe the area. Still feeling the ouch? Try the BareEase Prep Kit ($18, Created by an anesthesiologist, it contains a lidocaine-based cream to numb skin prewax.

  • Peter Ardito

    Zap Hair for Good

    Curious about laser hair removal, which destroys hair follicles with a concentrated beam of light? Here's the deal: It works best if you have light skin and dark hair, says Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, a dermatologist in Washington, D.C. Expect to have three to five treatments, spaced a month apart, to permanently reduce hair growth. The cost is about $1,000 for the upper lip and $3,500 for the legs. If you're not ready for such a commitment, consider the Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X ($449, The first FDA-cleared at-home laser device for the face and body, it utilizes the same diode laser derms do. Use it once a week and you can permanently remove hair in three to six months, the manufacturer says.

  • Peter Ardito

    Waxing vs. Shaving

    Waxing Pros

    The results last. Because you're removing hair at the root, your skin will stay smooth for weeks. Regrowth feels smoother. Waxing doesn't create blunt edges, so hairs come back softer and finer.

    Waxing Cons

    It's messy. You need to use a cotton sheet or a towel to catch any drips, and then you have to wash off sticky residue. It takes skill. Unless you're a pro, waxing is time intensive. Plus it hurts and can create redness if not done right.

    Shaving Pros

    It's fast and easy. As long as you shave with a fresh razor cartridge (replace it after about 10 uses), you can zip across each body part speedily. There's no pain. Just lube up with a hydrating shaving cream, like EOS 24-Hour Moisturizing Shave Cream ($4, drugstores), and go slowly around tricky spots like knees and ankles to avoid nicks.

    Shaving Cons

    Hair grows back fast. Shaving cuts off hair only at the surface, so you'll start to see regrowth by the next day. There's stubble. A razor slices hair bluntly, which can create a prickly feel.

    Originally published in FITNESS magazine, March 2013.