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Sugar, Shave, Wax - Oh My! Understanding Hair Removal and the Options That Work

Sugar, Shave, Wax - Oh My! Understanding Hair Removal and the Options That Work

When it comes to beauty routine and maintenance, there are things that are fun and undeniably enjoyable (looking at you, delicious lotions, fun face masks, and bath time). Then there are things that are not. At the top of that list? Hair removal. 

Luckily, there are more options available today than ever before. Here, we've rounded up the top choices on the market and broken down everything you need to know. Let's dive in. 

Sugaring

The process:Sugaring is a natural hair-removal technique that's often used as an alternative to “traditional” strip wax. Technicians start by applying a warm paste made of sugar, lemon juice, and water. They let the paste sit for a few moments and then flick it off in the direction of hair growth.

The claimed benefits? Well, it’s supposed to cause less hair breakage than traditional wax, and the paste is usually free of chemicals, fragrances, and coloring. This makes it a great option for those with allergies or those who are looking for a more holistic hair removal process.

Pain scale: ☹☹☹

Overall, people find sugaring to be less painful than waxing. This is, in large part, due to the fact that the sugar does not stick to skin cells in the same way that waxing does. Instead, it adheres only to the hairs that will be removed. 

Price:Anywhere from $16 for the upper lip to $126 for the full legs, though prices vary depending on the salon. 

Results:Since hair is removed at the root, over time it will grow thinner and more slowly. Results last for 2-3 weeks, depending on the rate of hair growth.

Strip Wax

strip wax hair removal

The process:This is what most people think of when you bring up waxing, and, with movies and TV shows often highlighting the pain of this option, it's not at the top of a lot of lists. Here's what's really going on. 

 With strip wax, a thin layer of wax is applied directly to the skin using a disposable wooden spatula stick. Then, a single-use strip of paper is applied, rubbed, and quickly removed.

Overall, strip wax is most effective for larger or less sensitive areas of the body, including the legs, arms, and back. Why? It grips strongly to both hair and skin, which means it can cause bruising, tearing, and ingrown hairs when used on more sensitive areas - yikes!

That said, it's a relatively quick and effective choice, and the results can last for weeks at a time. 

Pain scale: ☹☹☹☹ 

Price: Cost can range anywhere from $15 to $80, depending on area and salon pricing. 

Results:Waxing lasts anywhere from two to six weeks, depending on how quickly your hair grows.

Hot Wax

The process:With hot wax, a thick layer of wax is applied directly to the skin and left to cool for up to a minute. As it sets, it wraps around individual hairs and opens up pores until it is dry enough to remove.

It is often seen as less painful and more effective than strip wax, particularly when it’s used on sensitive skin or on people with thicker hair. This makes it more suitable for the bikini area and for the face.

Overall, strip wax and hot wax can be seen as complementary treatments. Each works for different areas of the body and for different types of hair.

Pain scale: ☹☹☹

Price:Hot wax can cost anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on your technician and where you go.

Hot wax is typically slightly more expensive than strip wax because it takes more time and requires more skill.

Results:Results last from two to six weeks, depending on the rate of hair growth.

Laser Hair Removal

The process:Looking for a more permanent hair removal solution? Then consider laser hair removal.

Here’s how it works: the laser essentially hones in on the pigment cells, or melanin, in the hair follicle. It then zaps that follicle and burns all the way down to the root, killing the hair growth center in the follicle and preventing future hair growth.

It can be done anywhere on the body, and you can potentially be hair-free after four to six sessions (scheduled about six weeks apart). Why so many?

Well, not all hair grows at the same rate - some are “resting” while others are “growing.” A hair in the “resting” part of the growth cycle may not be able to absorb enough pigment to be destroyed, so multiple sessions are necessary to get all the hairs at the right time.

The pros? Again, this is the most “permanent” solution on the list - though it doesn’t last forever!

Unfortunately, though, not everyone is a candidate for laser hair removal. Because it works by targeting melanin, it is most effective on people with dark hair and a light skin tone.

Pain scale: ☹☹

Price:This is the most expensive option on the list. Small areas like an upper lip range from $150 to $250 per session, while bikini, Brazilian bikini and the larger areas like full legs and backs can cost $500, $700, $1,200 per treatment, respectively.

Results:This is a semi-permanent solution. While some women will go hair-free for years, others may require touch-ups in six to twelve months. Unwanted hair growth may also happen if you go through any hormonal changes like a pregnancy - so this is not always the “forever” solution that many people think it is.

Threading

The process:This hair removal treatment is extremely popular on eyebrows - though it is commonly used on other areas of the face - and it’s used as an alternative to waxing and tweezing. The technique, which has actually been the primary mode of hair removal in Asia for centuries, consists of rolling twisted cotton thread over the eyebrow hairs, allowing the thread to essentially rip each hair out of its follicle. Sounds pretty gruesome, to be sure, but here are some facts.

First, threading is super precise, meaning that you won’t be left with any strays or stragglers. It’s also a fast and less irritating alternative to waxing: it takes a maximum of ten minutes, and it doesn’t pull or strain the skin.

Pain scale: ☹☹☹

Price:Anywhere from $10 to $40 dollars.

Results:Lasts for four to five weeks.

Delipatory Cream

The process:Ah, Nair - the smelly, scary hair remover of old.

This cream is generally full of chemicals - like sodium thioglycolate, calcium thioglycolate, and strontium sulfide - that literally dissolve the protein bonds in hairs, turning it into a jelly-like substance that you can then wipe away. The process takes about five to ten minutes depending on the thickness of the hair and the strength of the formula.

The pros? It’s fast, pain-free, and effective. That said, this is certainly not the most holistic option on the list, it smells, and it may not get every single hair. If this happens, you’re out of luck - you can’t reapplysince this will overly aggravate the skin.

Overall, this option makes the most sense for people looking for a quick, cost-effective fix on non-sensitive areas of their body. 

Pain scale: ☹

Price:Anywhere from $6 to $14 a bottle.

Results:Results last for four to six days.

Shaving

shaving hair removal

The process: This is one of the most low-hassle, low-cost options on the list, so it makes sense as a go-to solution. This is especially true for areas like legs and underarms.

It doesn’t last long, and you’re most likely here to deal with ingrown hairs. To avoid this problem, make sure that you shave in the direction of hair growth. For legs, this means shaving downward, while for underarms it’ll likely require shaving in a few different directions. And remember to make sure that you always use new, sharpblades (the gold standard is to replace them every 3-5 uses).

Pain scale: ☹

Price:Razors cost as low as $6.

Results:Results only typically last for one or two days, depending on how quickly your hair grows.