Want to know the best way to remove hair? I’ll compare four hair removal methods I tried: shaving, depilatory cream, waxing, and electric epilator. I’ll give you my recommendations, and I think they’ll be especially helpful if you’re just starting with hair removal.
I’m a (hirsute) male massage therapist, and I use my forearms a lot in my massage style. Soon after I started practicing, the repeated drag on the hair caused irritated follicles, or folliculitis. That made it unsanitary to use my forearms, and that cramped my style.
I needed to remove my forearm hair. That’s simple right?
Shaving – Short Term Good, Long Term Not
My first attempt made perfect sense to me. After I shave my face, I shave my forearms. Simple.
And yes, this works just fine, as long as you are willing to do it every day. Otherwise, clients notice the stubble. And you don’t want to nick yourself a lot, like I do. Again, I have to be sanitary as a massage therapist, and blood is a no-no.
I resurrected my old electric razor for home use, but that wasn’t convenient for the gym, which is where I usually shave. My arms usually got done with a disposable razor.
I couldn’t manage to shave my arms without frequent nicks and cuts, so I had to find another way.
- quick and easy
- smooth (that day)
- have to keep up with it, every 1-2 days, or…
- nicks, cuts
Depilatory Cream – Forget it!
Another male massage therapist recommended a “for Men” version of depilatory cream for arm hair removal. I thought, before I invest in a bottle of the “for Men” stuff, I would try my wife’s depilatory. Maybe that was my first error, I don’t know.
A definite error was ignoring the warning on the label. “If your skin is irritated, sunburned, inflamed or broken, avoid use.” Remember the nicks I had from shaving? Yeah.
The product was packaged like a stick deodorant, and it glided on easily. The smell wasn’t unbearable. It didn’t hurt… mostly. After a minute or so, I could feel it eating into the couple of nicks that were still on my arms from shaving. Being a stupid, tough guy, I didn’t do anything right away, and waited the minimum recommended three minutes. Tough guy.
Removing the goo was a messy process. I finally finished, and my arms were smooth… except…. The tiny nicks were now gaping sores! That stuff got in there and turned my skin to soap anywhere it could find an opening. I washed away a bunch of skin around each nick, and the borders were angry and raw.
Needless to say, I wasn’t using my forearms for massage for a while. And I was NEVER doing THAT again!
Depilatory Cream PROS:
- easy to apply
- smooth for days (where properly used)
Depilatory Cream CONS:
- dangerous if you don’t follow directions!
- not so easy to remove, might take practice
Waxing – Excellent, but Costly
After I healed from my hazardous chemical encounter, and the hair regrew, I tried waxing.
I went to a European Wax Center, twice. It was very pleasant. I called for an appointment, and had no trouble getting one at a convenient time. A friendly receptionist met me and paired me with a waxing person… not sure the proper title.
The whole thing took about 10 minutes. The wax tech (?) spread a warm goo on my arm with a tongue depressor, in strips. The warm wax smells and feels really good. While one strip cooled, she’d spread the next, then go back to the first and ZIP! Tough guy, no problem. Repeat until the arm is done.
After she finished both arms, she returned to each one with a tweezer, and pulled any strays that she missed with the wax. That actually hurt more than the ZIP! Finish with some special soothing cream she tries to sell me (no thanks), and done.
The soothing cream was important, because your arms get really angry for an hour or two after all the hair gets pulled out of them! But it only lasts a little while.
She told me I had to wait for the hair to grow back at least ¼ inch, before she could wax again. She explained if I keep up with it, the time to grow back will get longer and longer, and the hairs will appear softer and smaller.
Each session cost about $40, plus tip. I had to wait for the hair to grow back, longer than I wanted, before my second session. That was about 3 weeks, and still she said I should have waited longer.
I’d sunk more than $80 in the waxing endeavor, and the results were mostly good. My arms were smooth for a while. But there was no way I could keep spending $40 a pop to remove my arm hair, and not as often as I’d like.
- pleasant human interaction
- easy to schedule
- warm wax feels good, zip not bad like in the movies
- smooth for about a week
- really, REALLY expensive!
- you’re irritated for a few hours after treatment
- you have to drive to an appointment
- you have to wait too long between waxings
Electric Epilator – A Good Investment
So now I’m thinking about ROI, and decided to look for something I use at home that would be as effective as waxing, that I could do as often as I needed. I figured I’d sink some money into some equipment, and hope I didn’t have to do this too many times before I found something that worked!
I got lucky on the first try. An electric epilator, the Braun Silk-épil 7, cost me about $70 – less than two waxings.
The epilator charges from the wall socket with a charging cord that’s included. You have to charge it fully before use. The charge lasts a while, though, about 3 full forearm hair removal sessions. A red light blinks, to show low battery, long before you run out of juice. Then just charge it again before you need it.
The model I got has two speeds, and two different heads to cover the working parts. The low speed and one head is kind of for beginners. Once you get used to the feeling, you’ll want to switch to the high speed and more efficient head.
The working parts consist of a roller about one inch long and 3/8 inch diameter. The roller spins on gears inside the head. All along the roller are little tiny tweezers. The tweezers open wide, when rolled away from your skin, and close to clamp on the hair as it circles around to reach the skin. When it’s at speed, it feels like thousands of tiny tweezers a minute.
It hurts like heck on mature hairs. It doesn’t hurt at all on little baby hairs. The littler, the better, I think! As soon as those guys are big enough to grab, you can grab ‘em and pull ‘em, no pain.
And everything the wax woman said was true! The more I used my epilator, the smaller and softer my arm hair got. Or, at least I never let any get big enough to be trouble!
I use my epilator once a week, the evening before my day off. Just like with waxing, the hair follicles get inflamed for a short time after you remove the hair, so I give mine a full day to recover before going back to massage.
Sometimes a hair growing back will curl under the skin, and get inflamed. That’s rare, and happens more often if you wait too long between sessions. So, keep ‘em short, and you’ll be good!
- long-term low cost equipment investment
- smooth for about a week
- not painful, if you keep up with it
- do as often as you like – hairs get smaller, softer
Electric Epilator CONS:
- up front investment
- hurts like heck on mature hairs
- inflamed hair follicles for hours after treatment
- occasional ingrown hairs
Recommendations – How To Remove Hair
For me there’s no question – for the long term, an electric epilator is the best hair removal method.
But don’t start with an electric epilator! It really hurts to pull mature hair that way!
Instead, start by getting your forearms waxed. That’ll ZIP away the mature growth, and you can begin your home hair removal with just the baby hairs, in about a week.
To avoid getting ingrown hairs and infected follicles, I like to use an astringent with salicylic acid on my arms right after hair removal, and after every shower. I follow with a nice body lotion, usually the lotion I use for massage, to keep the skin soft and hydrated.
I’m so happy that I finally found the best way to remove my forearm hair. And my clients are, too!