Oh, the joys of hair removal. For me it started in the third grade with an intense, adolescent fury at the fact that my mother wouldn't let me shave the peach fuzz from my chicken legs. I've since had plenty of conversations with roommates and friends about shaving versus not shaving, waxing versus not waxing, whether spending more money than I ever should have on laser treatments that failed was worth it, and how Advil is sometimes necessary to get through the pain of a nose wax. My first ever professional Brazilian wax was perhaps the most physically painful experience of my life (including the time I broke my foot dancing around my kitchen with headphones in). I've gone through phases. I've grown all my body hair out. Then waxed my arms. Plucked the invidual hairs from my upper lip and shaved my entire face.
All that said, body hair is nothing if not about personal choice—do it, don't do it...but if you are going to do it, there are lots of options. Which one is right for you? I'm not sure—but I've dissected them below just in case you're looking to feel like a seal, but don't totally know how.
Pros: Waxing is the process of ripping out all the hairs in a specific area out by the root all in one go. The great thing about this method is that it actually removes all the hair from an area. Every last one. It lasts longer than shaving, is fairly affordable even when done by a professional, and there are safe at-home options you can do yourself.
Cons: It also is a famously painful hair removal process. (I'd argue the most painful.) Especially when your body hair is as course and dense as mine is. It's not permanent and you can’t use in sensitive areas or while on retinols—I learned this the hard way (i.e. waxing my upper lip while on Tretinoin)—lest you want to lose a layer of skin along with the hair.
Pros: Shaving is supremely easy. It's also an inexpensive technique you can do at home. Find razors—both disposable and reusable—available in literally any drugstore. Shave every day if you want to. Works especially well on bodies with very fine, thin hair.
Cons: Ingrown hairs. Razor burn. Need lots of water and a good lather for it to work at all. All for a process that doesn’t last. And the pink tax is real.
Pros: Sugaring is a technique that uses a concotion of lemon, water, and sugar to pull the hairs out by the root. I have yet to try this method, but after talking to a handful of Glossier employees, all of whom go to Hortus in lower Manhattan, I learned that this all-natural process is similar to waxing but "WAY better," "does not hurt as much," and is "great for sensitive skin." The solution is water soluble, doesn't contain resins like waxes do, and over time, can ultimately result in permanent removal.
Cons: Still yanking all the hairs out by the root = still painful. The lemon can be sensitizing depending on the person, and, like waxing, this shouldn't be done in conjunction with retinols or retinoids.
Pros: If you have fair skin and very dark hair, you're a good candidate for laser hair removal because it targets the color of the hair follicle, essentially burning it so that the hair falls out. In my opinion, it's not as painful as people say—especially if you have an experienced professional using a machine with soothing mechanisms like cool wash cloths and aloe gel. Just little zaps once a month.
Cons: Laser hair removal is fucking expensive. And it doesn’t always work. If your hormones change, everything you paid to remove will probably grow back. You have to do a minimum of six different treatments about every six weeks for it to really last, and even then, it might not be enough. It's a waste of your damn money if that is the case.
Pros: I haven't tried this method either but Senior Editor Ashley Weatherford, a regular Nair user, says it does actually work. The process is affordable and it creates fewer ingrown hairs than shaving. A fairly easy, DIY routine.
Cons: According to Ashley, even the "new, improved scent" formulas still smell bad. The chemicals in it are "probably bad for you" and Nair needs to be left on for a specified, slightly awkward amount of time (eight minutes) during which you must sit immobile on a towel in your apartment and wait. While smelling bad.
Pros: A medical process that really works!...even more permanently than lasering. It's essentially done by inserting an epilator into the hair follicle to kill the center of hair growth. No permanent side effects. Electrolysis is also backed by the FDA, who says it can be safely done anywhere on the body (including eyebrows!).
Cons: Really, really, really painful—more painful than waxing OR lasering—and, while perhaps not as expensive as a laser treatment, still costs more than a lot of the other options.
Pros: Incredibly easy (do nothing!). Kinda sexy, especially because it defies unrealistic societal expectations about the human body.
Cons: An aesthetic choice that’s based on preference—AKA not for everyone.
Photo via ITG.