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Laser or Razor? Shave or Light Wave? The Difference Between Hair-Removal Methods.

Pain, price, and performance: how the hair-removal methods stack up.
Photograph by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Hair Removal Legend

The Pain

The discomfort of hair removal is highly subjective—it varies according to pain tolerance, body part, and how thick and plentiful your hair is.

Hair removal icon: how painful the hair removal treatment is.

Waxing

Depending on how coarse your hair is and where it is, waxing can hurt a lot—you may feel as if your hair is being yanked out (which it is).

Hair removal icon: how painful the hair removal treatment is.

Electrolysis

While the technology has improved in recent years, using electricity to remove single hairs is generally more time-consuming and involves more discomfort than using lasers. Imagine an intense pinch and some heat.

Hair removal icon: how painful the hair removal treatment is.

Sugaring

Waxing’s gentler cousin, in which a warm sugar paste is used to pull hair from the roots. It’s less painful because sugar crystals adhere just to hairs, not to skin, which means less pulling and redness.

Hair removal icon: how painful the hair removal treatment is.

Laser

With sensations that range from pinpricks to slight burning, laser hair removal isn’t exactly comfortable, but many users report that it’s less intense than waxing.

Hair removal icon: how painful the hair removal treatment is.

Shaving

Unless you cut yourself or have extra-sensitive skin, shaving is minimally painful. The exception: Coarse-haired areas (bikini line, men’s faces) are prone to ingrown hairs and bumps.

Hair removal icon: how painful the hair removal treatment is.

Depilatories

Nair and other chemical hair-removal creams are smelly and messy but pain-free.

 

The Cost

Below are price quotes for one year of hair removal on the bikini line, but costs vary depending on products and practitioners. (Electrolysis is not included because it’s rarely used to remove all bikini-line hair.)

Hair removal icon: the cost of hair removal.

Laser

$735 for six 20-minute sessions at Shobha. (1730 M St., NW; 202-912-8455)

Hair removal icon: the cost of hair removal.

Sugaring

$636 for 12 15-minute sessions at Shobha. (1730 M St., NW; 202-912-8455)

Hair removal icon: the cost of hair removal.

Waxing

$528 for 12 20-minute sessions at Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. (10213 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda; 240-644-1319)

Hair removal icon: the cost of hair removal.

Shaving

$56 for 12 disposable Gillette Venus Embrace Sensitive women’s razors at Target.

Hair removal icon: the cost of hair removal.

Depilatory

$13 for three 1.7-ounce bottles of Nair Sensitive Bikini Cream at Walgreen’s.

 

The Results

Hair-removal methods can last anywhere from forever to a few days. Here’s how long results last for various methods.

Hair removal icon: how long the results last.

Electrolysis

Dubbed permanent hair removal by the FDA; but it targets only visible hairs, so it can require frequent treatments over time.

Hair removal icon: how long the results last.

Laser

Reduces hair by 80 to 90 percent but can require yearly touchups.

Hair removal icon: how long the results last.

Waxing

Removes hair for weeks; long-term waxing can cause hair to grow back more thinly.

Hair removal icon: how long the results last.

Sugaring

Removes hairs for weeks; long-term use can weaken hair follicles, resulting in finer regrowth.

Hair removal icon: how long the results last.

Depilatory

Removes hair for several days; long-term use doesn’t affect regrowth.

Hair removal icon: how long the results last.

Shaving

Removes hair for days; long-term use has no effect on regrowth.

Jennifer Barger (jnbarger@gmail.com) is a freelance style writer and personal shopper.

This article appears in our February 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

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