It seems a bit of a cliché to talk about how the sun’s out and therefore we must all ramp up our hair removal. But facts are facts, and chances are that because the sun is out, or perhaps you’re even about to jet off on holiday (hoorah), then hair removal may have been moved from near the bottom of your beauty to-do list up to the top.
And as much as we adore our professional hair removal friends, sometimes either budget, time constraints, preference or a combo of all three mean that at-home hair removal is where’s it at. But where to start and how to know which at-home hair removal method is best for you? Well, that’s why we sat down with Trish Coulton, founder of the Bondi Body salon, who has over two decades of experience in the de-fuzzing business, to get her expert-approved answers to all your burning questions.
At-home hair removal: the pros and cons of shaving
Pros: Pain-free, hassle-free, quick and easy.
Cons: High maintenance and time-consuming. Shaving essentially just "mows" away the length of hair above the skin’s surface, meaning within 24 hours, most of us will start to feel regrowth as stubble.
So, hair does grow back thicker after shaving?
Yes, and more robust. "Anyone with thick, dark body hair will find their hair is more obvious the more you shave,” Trish says.
How often should you shave?
Obviously, this is a personal choice and depends on how fast you experience regrowth, but don't be tempted to shave too often. "The length of hair needs to be over 2-3 mm," Trish says. "If you have to press into the skin to reach the stubble then the hair is not long enough to shave and you are likely to damage the pores and cause razor burns and bleeding." If you do cut yourself, stay out of the sea or pool if you're on holiday as this can cause more sensitivity and allow the area to breathe and heal. "As always, use a high SPF regularly as after any form of hair removal your skin will be more sensitive."
And how often should you change your razor head?
Fun fact: razors carry more bacteria than any other personal care tool, according to Trish. "You are, in effect, spreading dead, putrefied skin over your most intimate areas, and if you have a cut or cut yourself shaving, this can cause inflammation and skin infections too, which means this method is less suited to sensitive skin."
Sound gross? Try this test. “Take the back of your razor off and look behind the blade - you’ll see the build-up of the dead skin, and that’s what you’re smearing all over your body every morning," she says. For this reason, she recommends changing your razor blade every week regardless of how many times you shave, to prevent infection.
Bacteria aside, we all know it's super convenient. So if shaving is for you then just make sure you always do so on wet, not dry, skin and use shaving foam to minimise rash and reduce the chances of nicks and cuts.
The shaving addict's top picks
“I am a regular and consistent shaver,” says SJ Corfield-Smith, GTG Freelance Beauty Director. “I have very fair hair and not that much of it so I'm lucky enough to only need to shave once a week, plus I’ve never had any reactions or skin issues, so any other kind of at-home hair removal just seems like too much hassle. I have tried waxing before, but I found it more painful than labour, so I’m sticking with shaving.”
Best subscription razor service: Estrid Starter Kit, £7.95
“I’ve used lots of razor brands over the years but Estrid impresses me the most. They offer a razor subscription service, so you will never run out of razors again. It's eco-friendly (the packaging is all 100 per cent recyclable and the razor is made from steel rather than plastic) and inclusivity and diversity are at the very heart of the brand. The starter kit contains the razor, the wall mount, which I have stuck in my shower, and five razor heads, after which you can choose how many you want delivered and how often. The razors come in very aesthetically pleasing colours too, which adds a little something to what is a fairly mundane beauty task.”
“While this is not a traditional shaving foam, there is no reason why you can’t use it as one. I love it because it creates a gorgeous silky foam that allows for a great slip when moving your razor. And it contains lots of hydrating skin oils that leave the skin feeling super smooth.”
At-home hair removal: the pros and cons of waxing
Pros: Low maintenance, no stubble, rash, nicks or cuts. The more you do it, the less regrowth you get, and the finer and softer the hair becomes because waxing removes the entire hair and the follicle so you get more hair-free time between waxes.
Cons: More painful and awkward to do yourself.
How soon before your holiday should you wax?
As near to departure time as possible. "Any redness, if you get some, will go overnight,” says Trish. “We always recommend a cooler shower post-treatment, no hot baths, and an unscented moisturiser - then you can venture out into the sun with freshly waxed pins 24 hours post your appointment (not forgetting that factor 50 of course!)."
How much hair should you have right before a wax?
A 1/4 inch is ideal, but that does mean that you have to go through a slightly awkward stage of letting your hair grow so you can have it removed. If your hair is getting long, trim it down otherwise the hair may break above the skin’s surface, which defeats the purpose of waxing.
Strips or hot wax?
“Hair grows in different directions and with waxing you need to apply the wax in the direction of the hair growth, which is hard - if not impossible - to do with wax strips," explains Trish. She generally recommends people get professional waves, but if you're doing it yourself at home, hot wax is usually easier to use.
Get The Gloss waxing favourite
"I have middle eastern hair, which is very dark but not that thick and I’ve been waxing it off for more than 10 years. Some of my hair follicles don’t grow hairs anymore at all, proving the more consistent you are with it the less you have to wax away,” says Amy GTG beauty and social media assistant. “I think I’ve got used to how waxing feels and I honestly don’t find it bad, but it definitely helps if you don’t let hair grow too long, and I never wax when I’m PMS’ing as it's definitely more painful. I love that I can have smooth legs for at least a month before I I have to wax again. The only drawback is the cost (when doing it professionally), but it’s definitely the best option for me."
“Before Covid, I always had professional waxes but suddenly I was forced to try at-home waxing kits and this is the best one I’ve found. While I have returned to the salon, if I can’t get an appointment or I need to remove some hair quickly, this is what I use. You need a good friend or partner to help you with some areas. Thankfully, I have my sister and we wax each other, it's much better when someone else rips the wax off! This is definitely as close as you can get to a pro wax at home and is best suited to anyone who feels confident waxing themselves. It’s definitely more cost effective.”
At-home hair removal: the pros and cons of creams
Pros: Pain-free, fuss-free and easy to use.
Cons: Smelly odour, creams can irritate the skin and hair grows back thicker afterwards.
As with shaving, hair removal creams only remove hair from the surface of the skin without affecting the root. “Hair removal creams dissolve the hair down to the skin and as with shaving, they increase the quantity of hair and thicken up the root,” says Trish. And while they are easy to use and are fairly fuss-free, be mindful of how long you leave them on for. “It’s not uncommon for the skin to react to hair removal creams for all kinds of reasons but the most common is that the product has been left on the skin for an extended period of time or has an active ingredient your skin reacts with.”
The hair removal cream addict's top pick
“I have very thick, dark hair, and I’m often looking for something that gives me fast results. When it comes to hair removal, I typically stick to shaving. Waxing is way too painful and I’m far too impatient for IPL but I’ve recently discovered hair removal creams and love how easy they are to use,” says GTG designer and social media manager, Jemma Thompson.
“There’s a reason this hair removal cream scooped up both a gold and bronze award in our Get The Gloss Beauty and Wellness Awards, it really does work. Unlike other creams it doesn't have that unpleasant eggy smell. In fact, it actually has a pleasant fruity scent! I’ve told friends countless times the results are just as good as a wax for a fraction of the price. You can use it all over your body and it leaves your skin ultra-soft and smooth, plus hairs don’t grow back irritated or ingrown. It’s so easy-to-use as well, just pop on for five minutes before going into the shower and wash off.”
At-home hair removal: IPL
Pros: Long-term results, simple to use and easy to incorporate into your self-care regime.
Cons: More expensive than other methods, doesn't work on all skin tones.
How does IPL home hair removal work?
Standing for Intense Pulsed Light, IPL uses strong pulses of light to target the melanin in the hair, the heat from the light travels down the hair causing a burst of heat that damages or kills the cells that cause the hair to grow. For years it was a treatment that was only available in salons and clinics, but brands have been able to harness all that power and technology into at-home gadgets so you can now safely blitz hairs from home.
“IPL is the most effective way of permanently reducing unwanted body hair and at-home gadgets make it simple to incorporate into your existing regime,” Trish says. But there are two main issues with IPL. The first one is the cost. At-home gadgets and in-clinic treatments come with a more expensive initial outlay, however, long-term they will end up saving you money. The other issue is that IPL doesn't work for all hair tones. “IPL only works on those with darker hair tones to their skin tones and not on red hair, natural white blonde or those with dark skin tones as it needs to identify tonal changes between the skin and hair.”
The at-home IPL addict's top pick
“IPL works for me because I am a hopeless shaver, my eyesight is so bad that I often miss bits when I’m in the shower, plus as you get older you get less hair. So now I’m in my 50s, IPL is easier than in my more hirsuit days when there was more to do!” GTG Editorial Director, Victoria Woodhall.
“This is one of the cheapest IPL devices on the market, it’s also the simplest and fastest I have tried and if you’re someone who normally goes to the salon for hair removal (or like me, simply forgets to shave) this could well save you time and money (there’s a 50-day money-back guarantee). I liked the fact that one handpiece with eight intensity settings (I went straight to the max with no sensitivity) does all areas - pits, bikini, upper lip, legs. You get a pair of dark glasses to screen out the bright flashes, a small touch that makes a big difference. After three sessions a week apart, I almost forgot to shave as my regrowth was so sparse and ‘weedy’. Armpits take 30 seconds each and lower legs less than ten minutes. Fast, effective - this is your summer legs sorted.”
At-home hair removal: epilating
Pros: Gets easier to do (if you persist). Hair takes a good two to three weeks to grow back (similar to waxing), and when it does is usually non-stubbly and thinner, with few in-growns.
Cons: Can hurt at first. Requires some practice to get your technique right.
How does at-home epilating work?
“Epilating is a fancy term for pulling your hair out, and these quite advanced at-home devices do it smoothly and easily – just pass the headpiece along your skin and Bob’s your uncle,” says GTG beauty director Ingeborg Van Lotringen, who is a big fan of home epilating. “The best ones are by Braun Silk-Epil, and there are many models with lots of fussy and unnecessary add-ons. I say just get a simple one, like the Silk-Epil 5 – it comes with an additional shaver head but nothing else.”
"It's a great 'quick fix' for those who have sparse lower leg or underarm hair," agrees Trish, but she warns: "If you have a lot of hair, such as a bikini line, epilating can be painful. The discs which grab the hair sometimes do not rotate fast enough to pull the hair by the root and can end up pulling the skin and jamming these rotating disks."
The at-home epilating addict's top pick
Best at-home epilating device: Braun Silk-épil 5-625 Power Epilator, £54.99
“An epilator, as far as I’m concerned, is the most effective AND cost-effective way to de-fuzz. Yes, it smarts a bit, but things get easier the more often you do it – and if you do it for a very long time, a lot of hair won’t grow back at all. Taking a hot bath or shower pre-epilating makes a world of difference in terms of discomfort. Just make sure you don’t use bath oil or apply body lotion before you get going, as the oils will just clog up your device.
“I do all my body hair with it, and yes, that includes my bikini line. Generally, the chances of getting your skin caught are very small, but you do want to make sure it’s pulled taut in your armpits and er, around your bits (I wouldn’t quite go ‘right down the middle’ there by the way, if you get my drift). I suggest you try to remove as much hair as possible working in the direction of the growth to prevent in-growns altogether. You can catch new hairs at quite a short and early stage, so it’s not like you have to wait until you're all hairy again before you go for the next round. In the case of your bikini line, it’s best not to let the lot grow out much at all because it will all become a bit of a mad tangle." IvL