I’ve been doing some form of hair removal for as long as I can remember. Since I hit puberty, I was always told that shaving would leave me with darker and thicker hair (spoiler alert: it’s a myth), so at some point I turned to waxing. I got so close with my waxer that she knew (and saw) more about me than some of my closest friends. She would tell me that the dozens of ingrown hairs I had were from years of shaving, and waxing would help eliminate those. Her advice went along with what I was told as a pubescent 12-year-old, so I kept going back to her. But finally, after calculating how much I spent on waxing every damn month, I decided to switch to a more permanent hair removal method—laser hair removal. There, the Esthetician told me that waxing is what was causing all my ingrown hairs, and the laser would help eliminate them since I was only allowed to shave from then on.
So now I’m f*cking confused. Does shaving cause ingrown hairs or not? Why was I still getting ingrown hairs when I waxed? This article will break down the truth of whether waxing or shaving is better for you, and for getting rid of those pesky ingrown hairs.
To start things off, no matter what form of hair removal you use, you are susceptible to ingrown hairs. But some people (like me) are more prone to them than others. When you shave, you are cutting the hair at the base of your skin (which is the thickest part), which is why it can appear that it is growing back thicker and darker. While this tends to be a less expensive option, you can be left with the dreaded razor bump that is v itchy. (Don’t lie that you haven’t tried to scratch your recently shaved bikini line in public and been scared someone thinks you have crabs.) On the other hand, waxing uses hot wax that is pulled away from your skin and removes the hair from the root. Because of this, results can last longer and you don’t have that 5 o’clock shadow some get from shaving.
The Pros & Cons
There are many upsides to waxing and shaving. They both remove the hair and can leave you with super soft skin. While shaving is cheaper, it does not last as long. And if you have dark hair like moi, you can still see the shadow of the hair follicle immediately after shaving. Shaving tends to last 2-3 days, whereas waxing can last 3-6 weeks. So while waxing is more expensive, you don’t need to do it as frequently. Finally, the pain. Before my first wax, I was sacred from that scene from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I’m not going to lie, waxing can be painful, but (for me at least) the more you do it, the less painful it is. However, shaving is no walk in the park, either. Like, I still have a cut on my ankle from when I shaved my legs in the sink in college…
Now, for the reason you’re all here. Those stupid little red bumps that call out to you, “pick me! pick me!” but when you do, you’re left with even more unattractive red bumps. So what is causing them? An ingrown hair is when a hair starts to grow underneath the skin. It can happen with any hair removal technique on any part of your body. Grool. But remember, places with thicker, curlier hair (aka your bikini line) are the most at risk. When you shave, you create sharp edges at the end of the hair strand that makes it more likely to curl into the skin. However, while waxing completely removes the hair from the follicle, you cannot guarantee that it will not curl back under the skin when it grows back.
Waxing vs. Shaving: The Verdict
So when it comes to preventing ingrown hairs, should you wax or shave? Honestly, neither. The best treatment plan is to let everything grow, but if that isn’t your style, it isn’t hopeless. Laser hair removal is a permanent way to remove hair. Since, in the long run, it will eliminate your need for waxing or shaving altogether. However, it’s pricy. So as long as you take the proper precautions when you’re waxing vs. shaving, you’ll be fine. Make sure to exfoliate before whatever hair removal you use and moisturizer after. And whatever you do, do NOT pick at your skin.
Images: Taylor Hernandez / Unsplash; Giphy (2)
I’ve been doing laser hair removal on my entire body since 2013. I used to be one of those people who shaved every single day, and sometimes twice a day, because of my total neurosis about having any stubble. Now body hair is making a comeback—women don’t have to feel pressured by the patriarchy to shave/wax/etc. It’s too late for me to be in on this trend, as I’m already a hairless dolphin person, but I do support it even if I can’t actively participate. Look—your body hair, should you choose to have any or not, is totally your choice. But if you despise having hair and are at all interested in doing laser hair removal, let me tell you everything I wish I knew.
1. You Will Forever Need Touch-Ups
When I bought my first laser hair removal package, they were like “oh, it’ll take 6-8 sessions.” I thought that meant 6-8 sessions to never having hair again. I have been going every 2-4 months for the last six years. That’s a f*ckton more sessions than “six to eight”. That’s math I can’t even do. And I still get regrowth and still need touch-ups. However, it’s a huge difference. The hair that comes back is patchy and only in certain spots. Additionally, you decrease how often you need touch-ups—originally, I was completely hairless for 2 months before I’d get regrowth. Now I can be hairless for four months before I need to go back. When I get regrowth, it only shows up in a tiny patch on my knee or elbow, or like, six scattered armpit hairs. It’s way easier to manage than when I used to look like a yeti, even when I do need to shave. And then it’s time to go again to be hairless for another four months.
2. You Can Accidentally Activate Follicles
If you don’t have hair in a particular spot, don’t let the tech just go ham all over you. For example, I actually don’t have any foot hair, but the tech would always try to do my feet. If you don’t stop them—like, “hey, I actually only have hair on the top of my arms, not underneath, you can actually activate dormant hair follicles.” Because that can actually happen, which is literally the opposite of what you want. Be vocal and make sure they are only getting sections that need it, lest you make the situation worse.
3. You Will Still Need To Shave
Laser hair removal is pigment based, so it only kills dark hair. I had so much dark hair that it didn’t occur to me that I also grow blonde peach fuzz hair. Instead of shaving daily, I only shave every few weeks to get rid of the blonde fuzz that will never go away. The good news is it isn’t stubbly and no one can really see it. But it’s quite a shock when I wear shorts for the first time in a while and go in the sun to find a literal inch of blonde hair on my legs. Whoops.
4. It F*cking Hurts
Did they tell you it doesn’t hurt? Because it hurts. Especially when you’re first starting out. The less follicles you have over time, the less it hurts, but then they just turn the intensity of the laser up so it hurts again. My place sells expensive numbing cream that takes the bite out of laser hair removal, and I consider it an absolute necessity. Put it on your underarms, bikini, knees, and ankles. Trust me. Your skin also feels raw/sunburnt for a day or two afterwards and you can’t go in the sun unless you want to feel like a scalding vampire and risk scarring. But tbh, waxing hurts way more for worse results—especially since you have to grow your hair out each time. Laser hair removal, on the other hand, requires you to shave before your appointment, so you never have to be hairy to be hairless ever again.
5. You Get Almost Immediate Results
I thought I wouldn’t really see results after my first session, but I was sooo wrong. After just one session, I never had the same amount of hair grow back ever again. Your hair does grow in stages, so the laser kills only the follicles that currently have a hair at that time. That is why you have to go back every couple months. After my first session, it took about a week for the hair follicles to fall out (you can try to shave them but they’re so thick it still looks like you have stubble) and I was completely hairless for two months on the dot. Then only about half the hair returned. So if you do decide to try it out, it will immediately change your life.
6. It Saves So Much Time/Money Long Run
When I was shaving every day, I had it down to an exact science. I could shave every hair in 15 minutes flat, and that included exfoliating beforehand. But I spent that 15 minutes every single day (and sometimes twice a day). Now I go for a 15 minute touch-up appointment every four months and shave every few weeks or so. It’s so much easier to get ready now, I can take a four minute shower if I don’t wash my hair (and I only wash my hair sparingly because it’s dyed). While LHR is expensive, so is other hair removal. My place was really expensive upfront but offered free touch-ups for life. I also rarely need to switch my razor head since I use them so sparingly, whereas before I burned through them. And let’s be real, I’d rather have to pay for a touch-up that works for four months than get a $65 bikini wax once a month that makes me cry and it really only works for two weeks before you have to start growing the hair out again. In my opinion, the results are totally worth it.
Images: Giphy (6)
I’ve literally always wanted laser hair removal. It seemed completely unattainable; an urban legend of hairlessness reserved for celebrities (or like, Corinne). Then things changed. Instagram influencers started publicizing the “secrets” of their beauty routines. (Hint: many involved laser.) Laser centers multiplied (at least in NYC/LA), and prices dropped. And, most importantly, I graduated college, got a job, and started paying my own bills (*sob*). The only silver lining of that last change? I suddenly had free reign over how I wanted to irresponsibly blow spend my money. So on a day I was feeling particularly brazen (read: my paycheck had just hit), I went for it. I bought five Brazilian laser hair removal sessions at the “special discount price” of $800. Having gone through the process, here’s what you should know before getting laser hair removal.
The Cost Of Laser Hair Removal
Obviously, the cost of laser hair removal will vary depending on what you want done, where you go, and whether you’ve heard of Groupon. Groupon is a must (especially if you live in NYC or LA, where you’ll get the best deals), but don’t go crazy. You should always research facilities by reputation first—a hack lasering job can leave you with scarring, burning, and a whole host of other nasty consequences—and then see what deals are available. It’s also important to note that most areas will take a minimum of five sessions to see lasting results. (If you have particularly thick hair, it can take a few more). So, most places offer packages of 5 or 6, which I highly recommend if it’s your first time.
All told, you should be able to buy a set of underarm treatments for around $200, bikini/Brazilian for around $500, and lower leg for upwards of $700. (Disclaimer: I live in DC, so my options were more limited. Hence the $800 payment). And while I found myself paying off my laser hair removal treatment over several months, I haven’t regretted it. I’ve been getting Brazilian waxes since high school, usually at around $50 each. So I went to a very dark place thinking how much money I could’ve saved by getting laser earlier. On the other hand, the cost of shaving my legs is so relatively cheap (financially—the emotional toll is enormous). So I couldn’t quite justify a laser leg treatment since a razor is like, $20 every few months or whatever. You ultimately need to decide what makes sense for you.
As I said before, I’ve been getting Brazilian waxes monthly for a little under a decade. So compared to that, the pain of laser hair removal was NBD. It’s kind of like a hot, sharp pinch, but it passes quickly and they give you a cooling pad after. It’s obviously not the most relaxing experience in the world—I’m naked from the waist down and talking about my weekend plans with a stranger, after all. Other cons include some redness/swelling for 24 hours max (not every time), the terrifying comment that I might find “ash in my underwear,” and the time my time my technician shaved me instead of giving me the option to do it myself. But it only takes about 15 minutes per session (legs take longer), and honestly, no hair removal is fun.
Disclaimer: If your skin is particularly sensitive, or if you’re at a facility that’s using shitty machines, you may have a more painful experience. Never be afraid to ask questions about what to reasonably expect from treatment, or more information about how the procedure works and what they’re using.
To be honest, I’m not as blown away as I thought I’d be. Five sessions later, I’m still growing hair—thin and fine hair, granted, and it’s mostly invisible unless you’re six inches away. Then again, I’m really only doing this treatment for the people who are six inches away, and I’d been hoping for a full-on Beyoncé bikini line. I also have some ingrown hairs, and hoped laser would heal those marks. And it did—but again, it didn’t eliminate them entirely. It just made them less obvious.
Since having a few fine hairs on my lower legs would bother me less than having them on my bikini line, I don’t think I would have these complaints with lower leg laser treatment. I’m just still trying to justify the cost to myself. Which brings me back to the original question: Is laser hair removal worth it?
In certain cases, like replacing a waxing habit, I say just do it. Even if it’s not quite the swath of Barbie skin I had in mind, my bikini line is effectively clean. I won’t have to put mental energy into whether I’m bikini-ready all summer, and I’ve already saved $250 and three hours of my life from waxes I no longer need. On the other hand, buying laser for areas where the alternative is shaving (like my legs) is still something I can’t commit to. In the end, it all comes down to your current needs. If you’re someone who shaves her legs every day, is sensitive to razor burn, and freaks out at the first sign of stubble, then laser might be for you. It won’t turn you into a Victoria’s Secret Angel, but it will take unwanted hair off your mind for a long, long time.*
*(Touch-ups after a few years are common.)
Images: Tumblr (3); @alexiswaters_ / Instagram
Currently, I have four different methods of hair removal in play—threading, epilation, shaving, and waxing (I’ll let you guess which one goes where, if you’re into that). I’m something of a hair removal expert. I introduced most of my friends to their first waxers, had a socially scarring moment when I was caught dry-shaving in my freshman year dorm room, and no longer even flinch during Brazilians. While all of this could probably be traced back to the high school ex who would literally check my legs for hair the patriarchy, the point is that by now, I am a motherfucking expert in hair removal. And while my hair removal routine clearly suggests that I’m a fucking psycho I have a little too much time on my hands, we’re not here to talk about me. Let’s discuss what your hair removal choices say about you.
Monthly Wax: Booked In Advance
Okay, you’re either hairy as hell or you have your shit together like Samantha in Sex and the City. If you have the patience and fortitude to grow out all your hair to a wax-able length, get it all waxed at the same time, and know your hair follicles well enough to know when you’ll next need an appointment, you are everything my 13-year-old self thought I once would be an inspiration. You’re the kind of type-A bitch who goes to the gym at 5am and packs a lunch every day, and I respect it. I would never fucking hang out with you, but I respect it. TBH those girls are typically actually a little fuzzy, because they’ve decided things like “being healthy” and “saving money” are somehow more important. Whatever.
Shaving 3-5 Times A Week
This level of frequency means you definitely care about not having visible hair, but not quite enough to invest more time and money in structuring it. The shitty thing about shaving this often is that every few weeks, your hair will reach a point where it’s too short to shave but just long enough that you can feel it, and you have to put the razor down and ride out the stubble purgatory. If you’ve tried other options and never moved past shaving by choice, these few days are probably low-key annoying, but a fact of life you’ve accepted. If you’ve never moved past shaving because women hate you you just “prefer guy friends” and don’t have anyone to teach you these things, these few days are probably a terror-ridden razor-burned nightmare in which you take your failure to be hairless extremely personally and wear jeans three times a week in mid-July. (Definitely not speaking from experience.)
Shaving 1-2 Times A Year
Ugh. I don’t know why, but I think the type of person who only shaves on special occasions, like a beach trip or a wedding where her neutered boyfriend can maybe get laid for the first time this year, is just the worst. If you don’t care about having body hair, then fine. Lean the fuck into it. Post artsy photos of the sunlight streaming through your #fullbush. Get a sponsorship from Burt’s Bees. Live your best life. But if you secretly really, really like how it feels those two times a year that you shave, just shut the fuck up and SHAVE—you’re not going to turn into Kellyanne Conway if you do. Similarly, if you hate the two times a year that you shave, then just stop—no one has the illusion that you’re hairless anyway. This halfway nonsense is just admitting to the world that you’re too insecure and/or lazy to actually make the body hair choices you want year-round.
Look, we all had a desperate moment in high school when the waxing bills added up, or we got razor burn somewhere you really don’t want it. We all thought there had to be a better way, and maybe those microwaveable Sally Hansen jars or tubes of cream that smell like ass were it! Our ticket to freedom! But if you seriously continued with any of these techniques after a first try, you’re probably more than a little broke fuzzy, consistently have weird patches of hair, and are always the one who jumps into the group chat four hours too late to contribute to the conversation. You’re not great with time management, and you pick up a pack of at-home wax strips when you have a party in two hours and realize you haven’t touched your leg hair in six weeks. You tell yourself you can totally get it done in time, then end up on your bathroom floor until midnight, covered in stray bits of wax and that weird little bottle of “removal oil.” Yikes.
This is obviously the gold standard, and it means you have more money than me. If you’re even close to the public eye, you better have this, or go ahead and hibernate for your six months of carefully spaced-out treatments so you can debut your Barbie bikini line in all its glory. If you’re a grown-ass woman with a busy (well-paid) job who cares the amount about hair removal that I do now, then I sincerely hope you have laser, because no one past the age of 30 should be tasked with balancing work, life, and waxing when you have the option not to. Honestly, I’m just going to go ahead and call this entire post a plug for laser hair removal so I can try and demand a brand ambassador discount. Everyone go get laser, and you’ll never have to click on articles like this again.