An expert guide to delicately removing unwanted hair.
You’ve heard of waxing and tweezing—but there are actually more than ten expert-approved ways to remove unwanted facial hair. The methods below all have one thing in common: they’re gentle, since we’re talking about delicate facial skin and minimizing any irritation. From shaping your brows to removing hair above your lips, this is the comprehensive guide on all the ways to get rid of facial hair.
Waxing involves—you guessed it—wax to remove hair on your body. Gina Petak, an education manager at the European Wax Center, explains that it adheres to hair and removes it by the root. This helps to avoid rough stubble and help keep skin smoother, longer. The wax is usually made of honey or other skin-friendly ingredients.
A waxing specialist will first prep the skin by cleaning off any makeup, oils, or lotions that would prevent the wax from grabbing the hair properly. Then a hard wax is applied to the desired area. When it cools, the wax will harden and be gently ripped off. The specialist will then help soothe the waxed skin with either a lotion or oil. This shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes.
Petak says waxing causes minimal irritation if done by a licensed professional and that the pain depends on your level of discomfort (though, it does get easier the more often you do it). Before your appointment, Petak says you’ll want to make sure hair is at least ¼ of an inch long so that the wax can grab onto it. She recommends not shaving for at least two weeks prior to your appointment. You’ll also want to exfoliate the day before (and in the weeks following) to remove dead skin cells and allow for a smoother wax.
Aftercare involves avoiding certain activities like swimming or working out and using harsh scrubs to avoid skin irritation.
While you could wax at home with at-home waxing kits, Petak warns that the margin for error increases and you might be setting yourself up for ingrown hairs, breakage, and skin irritation.
Similar to waxing, sugaring is a method of hair removal that uses a paste—which is made of lemon, water, and sugar—that is heated to a taffy-like consistency to remove body hair from the root. Courtney Rashidi, a licensed esthetician at Perfect Image, explains that there are two main differences between the two.
First, wax is usually applied in the direction of hair growth and then removed in the opposite direction, whereas sugaring involves putting the substance in the opposite direction of hair growth and removed in the same direction the way hair grows. Second, the sugar paste doesn’t adhere to skin like wax does, so it won’t cause skin irritation or hair follicle breakage.
Safe for most skin types, sugaring is considered a gentler version of waxing, though one might experience some redness, irritation, or itching. Those with sensitive skin may get bumps or rashes.
She recommends to exfoliate and moisturize skin a few days before your sugaring appointment so that the sugar can properly remove the hair root. Try to relax, too: experts say the tenser you are during the process, the more painful it can be. If you’re worried about pain, Rashidi recommends taking an over-the-counter pain reliever (like Advil) an hour before your appointment.
Aftercare includes avoiding exercise, scented lotions, or heat for 24 hours to prevent irritation. (You’ll also want to avoid touching the freshly sugared area). You can expect results to last up to around three weeks before hair starts to grow back.
Threading is an ancient eyebrow hair removal technique that involves using threads to quickly pull and remove hair. Two long threads are twisted in unison to pluck hair out with a quicker movement than tweezing.
Rashidi says threading is ideal for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin because the swiftness of the threads moving along the skin lessens the chance of irritation and ingrown hairs. Before your appointment, she recommends exfoliating skin to remove dead cells. If it’s your first time threading, the sensation can be a bit strong, Rashidi notes, and will take some time getting used to.
Another benefit of threading is the precision. Unlike with waxing, threading can actually grab onto even the shortest of hair follicles to give you a seamless and clean look. Results from threading can last up to four weeks.
Dermaplaning is a facial treatment that shaves off the top layer of dead skin and peach fuzz to smooth and brighten the face. It can be done in-spa by a licensed esthetician with a surgical scalpel or at-home with a dermaplaning device. Dara Levy, founder of Dermaflash, says doing it at home takes less than ten minutes.
First, you’ll prep the skin by cleansing to remove excess oil and moisture; Levy says this will allow for a deeper exfoliation. Pat your skin dry and grab your device (Levy recommends the DERMAFLASH Luxe Anti-Aging Dermaplaning Exfoliation Device). With your free hand, hold your skin taut while your other hand moves the device down your face in short, gentle motions.
You can go ahead and apply your favorite serum, moisturizer, or sheet mask directly afterward, and you’ll find makeup applies smoother, too. There is no downtime, but she does say to wait at least 24 hours before using retinol to prevent irritation.
Tweezing involves using a tweezer (our personal pick is Tweezerman’s Slant Tweezer) to pluck hair out from the surface. While easy to do, there are some ways you can get the most out of tweezing. Rashidi recommends making sure your skin is squeaky-clean so that you can get the best grip on each hair. She also suggests sterilizing the tweezer so you don’t transfer bacteria while also reducing the possibility of irritation. When using the tweezers, she says to grab each hair as close to the skin as possible to ensure that the entire root of the hair follicle is removed. If you grab too far away from the skin, she says it can cause breakage, leaving the hair still in place. If your tweezers are dull, you can look into getting them resharpened—or consider buying a new pair.
Coil removers, like the Bellabe Facial Hair Remover, may look complicated but are actually fairly easy to use. Think of them like a blend between tweezer and threading. Rashidi says to place the coil on top of your skin and bend it into a “U” shape by taking both ends and rolling the handles inward as you glide it against the skin.
As with threading, she recommends exfoliating skin before using a coil remover to reduce the chance of ingrown hairs. Coil removers are best for hair found on the upper lip, chin, and cheeks—not eyebrows.
HAIR REMOVAL CREAMS
Hair removal creams—which are also known as depilatories—work by dissolving the hair right down to the root, according to Dr. Morgan Rabach, a board-certified dermatologist at LM Medical in New York City. Dr. Jeannette Graf, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, adds that this breakdown of the hair strand’s protein structure allows for hair to easily slough off when the cream is removed.
Graf warns that hair removal creams can irritate the skin or cause an adverse dermatological reaction based on your skin type and the brand you choose. “I would try a large name brand like Nair with great reviews first, but truly hair removal cream efficacy is very reliant on the person’s skin type,” she says. She recommends doing a test patch on your arm to see if you’ll have a reaction, wait a day or so, then go ahead and apply the cream to your face.
The only prescription cream for hair removal that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is Vaniqa (eflornithine). Rabach explains that this cream stops hair growth at the beginning phase of its production. She also says that cream only works if you continually use it. “Otherwise the hair grows back,” she says.
Graf says Vaniqa is for people with extremely sensitive skin and mostly catered towards individual needs (like if you have coarse hair). Over-the-counter hair removal creams, she says in contrast, are more generic and “one size fits all.”
LASER HAIR REMOVAL
Lasers are a popular option for hair removal. “The energy that comes from the laser is absorbed by the hair follicle which damages it and kills the hair,” says Rabach. “The damage also prevents future hair from occurring in that location.” She adds that facial hair cycles are shorter than body hair, so upkeep means coming in every four weeks instead of every eight weeks.
Those with darker skin should only go to laser hair removal providers with devices that deliver the right wavelength frequency for their skin tone. Rabach recommends no retinol, exfoliants, or tanning/sun exposure the week before your appointment. Wear sunscreen following your appointment (and always).
If you’re looking for a more permanent hair removal solution, there’s electrolysis. Electrolysis sends electric currents through the follicles to remove hairs and stop new ones from growing. “Many people enjoy electrolysis because it is a permanent treatment that can safely target sensitive areas while being precise,” Graf says.
Electrolysis is a lengthy process that requires a lot of commitment. Graf says a monthly session can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and you might have to go in at least 10 to 30 times, depending on the size and number of hairs being treated.