May 21st 2021
Sense and Sensitivity
Sense and Sensitivity: The best hair removal for sensitive skin
September 1st 2016 / 6 comments
Whether you're a fan of waxing or shaving, there are hair removal products and methods that can be kind to sensitive skin
There are some beautifying practices that those of us with sensitive skin just can't escape. I've made peace with the fact my perfume will only ever be on my clothes, not my skin; I've accepted that a massage at a luxurious spa might not be possible due to the essential oils and I'm even OK with using scent-free shampoo. But when it comes to hair removal, well, I'm just not willing to embrace the fuzz - even if it is hard to find razors, shaving gels, waxing and hair removal methods that suit sensitive skin.
And it really is difficult. Shaving gels and foams are, in particular, the toughest to find; scour the aisles of chemists and supermarkets and you'll see plenty of glossy cans claiming to be gentle, 'pure' and soothing, but they'll often still be filled with risky ingredients. Even one of the most popular brands for shaving contains perfume and Butylphenyl Methylpropional, a synthetic fragrance and known irritant, in its most sensitive formula - proving yet again that labels can rarely be trusted. The stench of hair removal creams alone is enough to put anyone off (sensitive or otherwise) and waxing is a worry both in the products used and the person doing it.
The one good thing about hair removal (it really is a chore) is that there's plenty of choice in terms of methods - you just need to shop around to find the most sensitive-friendly formulas. Thankfully, I've done the job for you - here's my top pick of the hair removal heroes that leave only silky, smooth skin behind. No redness or rashes allowed...
The best razor: Venus Embrace Sensitive
As our Editor-in-Chief Susannah Taylor said to me when chatting about this feature, 'You can't beat a Venus'. I've used the Gillette Venus for years and though shaving in general can cause a bit of irritation, on the most part it's been fine. Even better, though, is the Venus Embrace Sensitive razor, £9.99, which has five blades and a lubricating strip which helps to protect the skin and allows the razor to glide rather than drag or scratch. I like to follow with Shiffa Healing Balm, £50, which soothes and protects if skin still feels a little dry or hassled - pricey, but deliciously luxurious.
The best shaving gel: Gillette Satin Care Pure and Delicate Shaving Gel
Shaving rash and itchy regrowth are bad enough without a reaction to a shaving cream, but I've rarely found one which doesn't somehow irritate the skin. For a budget option I'd recommend sticking to a trusted shower gel (if you can navigate the subtle packaging differences within the range, Sanex do one which is fragrance free, or check out my other favourite sensitive shower gels here) or even your preferred conditioner. Kiehl's used to rule the roost in this area with their Simply Mahvelous Legs Shave Cream, which was around for over 65 years and contained aloe, chamomile and allantoin to soothe, calm and reduce inflammation, but after a little research it seems to have been discontinued, more's the pity. However, Gillette yet again own the shaving space with their Satin Care Pure and Delicate Shaving Gel, £3.55, which is free of both dyes and fragrances for a more sensitive shave.
The best wax: Ministry of Waxing
I'd always thought waxing would be the worst solution for sensitive folk seeing as it's a bit painful even for the more resilient, but a trip to Ministry of Waxing proved I couldn't be more wrong. Going to a pro meant I could have a patch test, find out which wax was best for me and benefit from their brilliant expertise and aftercare products - so if waxing is something you're considering, ditch the at-home kit and book yourself in.
The team at Ministry of Waxing (waxes start from £15) use a wax that they create themselves, so they know exactly what's in it and why. For a bikini wax (which is sensitive in itself, never mind if you're prone to irritation) they use hot, hard wax; this may sound scary but actually it's the best way, because unlike soft wax which is used for legs and involves pulling strips away along with a couple of layers of your skin, hard wax simply holds onto the hair and pulls it out, leaving your skin intact. Their chocolate formula, which I tried, is used because of its antioxidants while the strawberry flavour contains calming chamomile. Followed with their 'Ice Cream' aftercare, skin is left soft, smooth and irritation-free. Since testing it out I've become a loyal customer - it's worth every penny. Carry on the care back home, too, with my new favourite, MooGoo's Post-Hair Removal Cream, £17.
The best hair removal cream
Now when I say 'best', here, I do not refer to the luxurious nature of the product; simply the fact that sensitive skins are in my experience safe with it. Nad's Sensitive Hair Removal Creme, £10.99, is an oldie but a goodie in terms of being gentle, despite containing fragrance, which does little to mask that fairly standard stench that all hair removal cream formulas have. Having not used one for years I'd forgotten quite how unpleasant it could be (note to self: open all windows next time). However, with a bit of nose-pegging and a few extra minutes of waiting, it removed hair while leaving skin intact. If it's your preferred method, breathe through your mouth and feel safe in the knowledge you can show off tanned legs rather then red and bumpy ones. Veet's Aloe Vera and Vitamin E edition, £7.35, is also worth a go, but be warned again, despite the classic stench it does contain fragrance. Bottom line? Patch test all hair removal creams before use - you'll thank me later.
The best permanent hair removal
Imagine not ever having to worry about a shaving rash, waxing irritation or reaction ever again? The thought is what beauty dreams are made of and laser hair removal, if you're suited to the procedure (best for those with pale skin and darker hair) could make it a reality. Not only does the method itself avoid all those after-effects that often occur with other hair removal methods, but the fact that one course could allow you to stay fuzz-free for good makes it a great option.
"Laser hair removal is often the best answer to those with very sensitive skins because a long term, permanent method of hair removal eliminates the ongoing stresses of redness, irritation and ingrown hairs left from shaving, depilatory creams and waxing," says permanent hair removal expert Sonya Cross. "Laser hair removal works by cauterising (drying up) the blood capillary at the base of the follicle, the laser is attracted to the pigment in the hair, therefore it has very little interaction with the skin. Because we are not scratching, pulling or breaking the skin, those with very sensitive skins often have the best tolerance for laser and find they feel very little during the treatment." For IPL laser hair removal, head to Sonya's clinic, The YOU Clinic, where consultations are £20 and redeemable against your first treatment.
Don't worry if you're fair-haired, though - there are other options. "For laser to work the hair does need to be brown/black, for those with red/ginger/blonde hair you would need to look at electrolysis instead. With both treatments the area can look a little red immediately after but this subsides quickly and the benefit is that once the hair has been removed permanently this will then eradicate the problem of skin rashes in the long run."
Of course, laser hair removal is costly, but given how pricey razors are (and the irritation they can cause), it could be worth the investment. At-home devices such as the Tria Hair Removal Laser Precision, £235, use professional strength diode laser technology to reduce body hair with permanent results. The built-in sensor also checks your skin tone before you begin to confirm it's compatible with the laser, and aside from a little pinching sensation it's fairly painless, which is more than can be said for some of my past reactions to hair removal products....
What are your favourite hair removal products and methods? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @Judy_Jay
Struggling with your sensitive skin? Download my Beginner's Guide to Sensitive Skin now for 25 pages of expert advice, skin care routines, product recommendations and more