If You Shave Or Wax, You Need To Check This Out

Photo: Getty Images.
Shaving is expensive and irritating and the results last only until the next cool breeze blows by, giving you that sexy goose-bump stubble. Also, it wastes water. Also, I have a better way.

If you’re into hair removal (and if you’re not, more power to you — skip this post and go watch this corgi video), then there is a method for you that is better than shaving in every way. I’d argue it’s better than every other hair-removal method, in fact, yet I’m the only one I know who actually does it. We’re talking epilation, friends.

Epilation is not new. The Epilady was created in Israel in 1985, in what The New York Times called a “revolutionary” change in the hair-removal industry. And, for a while, it was. Then the revolution waned and, for some unknowable reason, we gravitated back to shaving. Epilators have a kind of old-school vibe about them, and not in a vinyl-records way. But I’m here to lead a revolution. I hear your cries of resistance (“Doesn’t it hurt?”), but hear me out. If you like smooth legs for weeks, if you hate bleeding nicks and pokey stubble, if you have sensitive skin, or if you are just really lazy, then you are one of us. Read on to learn the truth about this method and the myths that have held it back — until now.

Vive La Epilation.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
It works as well as waxing.
A modern epilator is basically a series of tweezer heads on a spinning wheel. You turn on the device and roll it up and down your skin, letting the tweezers grasp and yank out hair from the root. Shaving, obviously, just lops off the hair at the surface level, leaving a blunt tip.

That’s why many believe shaving makes your hair grow back thicker or coarser. It doesn’t, but the blunted follicle gives it the feeling and appearance of greater coarseness. (And, um, aren’t feeling and appearance kind of the point of hair removal?) But epilation gives you the same results as waxing — in the short and long term.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Hair grows back slowly, finely, and sparsely.
If you’ve ever gotten waxed, you know that thrill: weeks of smooth freedom with zero maintenance. But if you’ve ever gotten regularly waxed, then you know the best part is how it reduces the volume and thickness of your hair in the long term. The same is true for epilation.

I’ve been epilating for almost two years, and I now do so about once a month. For most of the intervening time, I’m totally smooth. When the hair does return, it’s thin and sparse — "spindly" is the word that comes to mind. Every time I epilate, it comes out more easily and returns more reluctantly.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Does it hurt?
I mean, yeah, it doesn’t tickle. Epilation is essentially tweezing, and that’s what it feels like (albeit, much faster). I find it less painful than waxing, but that may also be due to the fact that I’m doing it to myself. Tickling yourself doesn’t tickle as much either. Epilation hurts less over time — both in the short and long term. That first moment may sting, but 30 seconds later, it won’t be pain as much as sensation. Furthermore, the more frequently you do it, the less painful it will be (thanks to the aforementioned effect on the hair).

Pain is one of the primary reasons I think people avoid epilating, and that’s fair enough. But it still boggles my mind that many of those folks still shell out big bucks for a special-occasion wax when they could be getting the same results at home — in less time, for less money, and with at least a little less discomfort. And I think I speak for many in saying that, when it comes to hair removal, a little less pain goes a long-ass way.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
But it’s way easier on your skin.
Frankly, I’d rather have a few minutes of tweezer-level pain than constant low-grade irritation from shaving or the raw tenderness that comes from waxing. The primary difference between waxing and epilation is that waxing yanks off a bunch of skin cells along with the hair. This rough exfoliation can leave your skin more prone to sun damage, not to mention susceptible to pain. Anyone who’s ever gone into the ocean too soon after a “vacation wax” can tell you that. Furthermore, depending on your hair type, waxing and shaving can cause more trouble than they're worth: ingrowns, broken-off hairs, pimples around the follicle. Talk about fun in the sun, amiright?!

I’ve always had thick, strong hair, head to toe. Waxers comment on my “deep roots” (is that a compliment?), warning me to expect some hairs to break off rather than come out, especially the shorter ones. On top of that, I have sensitive skin that’s prone to scarring and reaction. Not only does waxing leave me rashy and sore, but it leaves behind a pack of strays just waiting to become ingrowns. But my trusty Braun leaves no shorty behind. Yes, my skin reddens for a few minutes after the process, but it calms down fast and stays calm. Phew.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
It’s cheap.
An epilator will run you somewhere between $20 and $100, depending on how fancy you want to get. That might not sound like a money-saving price, but consider the alternative. You can spend the same amount on a single wax, and a three-pack of disposable razors runs about $10 a pop. Multiply that by how often you shave or wax per year, and there’s no contest.

Epilators are not disposable. They are durable, cleanable, rechargeable, and they last. I recently upgraded to the Braun Silk-épil 9, simply because I’m such a convert that it seemed like a no-brainer to go for a top-of-the-line model. But even when we’re talking top-of-the-line, we’re still talking about a drugstore beauty buy. Most epilators come with a warranty, and many come with multiple heads.

If you’re just epilating your legs, you’d probably do fine with a basic model. But if you want to do underarms, face, and/or other hairy bits, you might want to spring for something with some accessories. But no matter which device you purchase, I guarantee your wallet (and your local landfill) will be better for it in the long term.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
It’s not for everywhere.
There is one caveat to the magic of epilation, and it’s right between your legs. There are some brave souls who epilate their nether regions, but not this gal. I learned that lesson quickly. Epilators don’t work well with soft, cushy bits. Early on, I casually ran it over the upper part of my inner thigh without pulling the skin taut and yowza. The good news is many models come with a trimmer attachment, which is ladyparts-friendly. Honestly, you might get away with epilating the pubic mound, but just take my word for it and steer clear of your labia. Not worth it. At all.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Epilation is the lazy gal’s best friend.
Of all the things I love about epilation, this is the feature I love the most: It’s lazy-proof.

Epilating is one of those things you can do while watching Netflix. Hell, you can do it while watching a foreign-language movie on Netflix. That’s how effortless it is. You don’t need to look out for nicks, or prep your skin with shaving gel. No need to even get wet (though most epilators are usable wet OR dry). Just lay down a towel, take off your pants, and turn on that Austrian documentary about seals you've heard so much about. Or just a 30 Rock rerun. I’m not here to judge.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
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