The Great No-Shave Experiment

No matter which side of the body-hair debate you fall on, there is one fact that stands: Many women in the world choose to keep their bodies shaved. We pull out our razors regularly (especially in this heat) to keep our arms and legs smooth. Now, whether that's because of societal pressure or something we do because it makes us feel good is a debate for another time. The aspect of this whole back-and-forth that we were most interested in learning about was how women feel about their razors — and what they would do if they couldn't use them for a whole 14 days.
After all, most of the ladies who choose to remove their hair go the razor route. Why? It's the cheapest, it's the most convenient, and you can do it in the comfort of your own home. Yes, this grooming tool is the clear winner in the battle against stubble. So, we posed a no-shave challenge to four of our staffers who rely on razors to keep themselves smooth. Three of them were given other methods of hair removal to test-drive, like waxing and depilatory creams, and one was told she had to go completely natural for those two weeks.
So, would razors still reign supreme, or would someone find a hair-removal method that suited her better? Would the girl going au naturel have a mental break or an eye-opening experience? Read on to find out what happened when we told these women they had to break up with their razors. Spoiler: Things got a little hairy.
1 of 9
Kelsey Miller
Hair-Removal Method: Epilator

"I'm not a super-vigilant shaver to begin with. I'm not bothered by a little stubble, and my hair isn't dark, so I usually shave my legs and underarms about once a week. I might tackle the outer bikini area if I'm going to the beach, but in general I like to use sugaring for that area since shaving typically gives me bumps and irritation.

"There were a few reasons why I was hesitant to try this out. First of all, I remembered using my friend's epilator in middle school and it hurting like hell. Of course it does. Pulling hair out by the root is going to hurt. But, I hoped that epilators had, perhaps, advanced since 1998 (spoiler: not so much). Secondly, I had a swimsuit shoot already scheduled for a day during the experiment. Being photographed in a swimsuit felt gutsy enough — I didn't feel the need to expose my thighs and my pit hair all at once.

"Honestly, as a not-so-constant shaver, the first week wasn't so different for me. But, the day finally came when I had to use the epilator. I showered and exfoliated, then started with my armpits. And, yeah, it didn't tickle. But, I was pleasantly surprised to find that after the first couple of passes, the pain fades significantly. By the time I was done, it barely hurt at all — and boy, oh boy, was I smooth!

"As for the legs, it was a different story. The epilator pulled about half of my hair out by the root and the rest was kind of just yanked. It wasn't stubbly, but it felt like I'd shaved two days prior and it was just starting to grow back. The epilator also left me covered in little red dots that looked like razor burn. But, those dots faded within 12 hours or so.

"The only real disaster was when I got to the upper/inner thigh. Up there, you're generally more fleshy (for lack of a less gross word), and the epilator chewed me up! I got two little patches of slightly bloody bumps. My boyfriend saw me changing for bed and kind of screamed. So, that's not a great look."
2 of 9
Did the routine change your normal habits?
"I did a pretty dumb thing before my swimsuit shoot. I wasn't allowed to shave, but I wasn't going to get all up in my bikini area with the epilator after the thigh-chomping incident. So, I reached for my old high-school favorite: Nair.

"Nair, if used correctly, can be a great, bump-free hair remover. But, like many women, I learned the hard way (years ago) that it doesn't belong anywhere near your lady parts. Still, I applied the chemical cream just along the outside of the area and figured it'd be just fine. It wasn't. Cream, by it's very nature, doesn't like to stay put. Needless to say, I felt the burn."

How did you feel after you were able to shave again?
"I will say, my first shave after the epilation was smooth as silk. My legs look pretty snazzy this week. And, my underarms still feel freshly plucked, so no need to shave those babies yet."

Would you ever completely ditch your razor?
"Probably not. Shaving isn't the best when it comes to hair removal, but it's definitely the most convenient and least irritating (with the exception of the bikini area). And, even though quality razors aren't cheap (I still use the good ol' Schick Intuition), they're still cheaper and quicker than booking a wax or a sugaring session. And, when you're really in a pinch, you know what's even cheaper and quicker than shaving? Putting on pants."

Would you try this routine again?
"I'm definitely going to keep epilating my armpits. It worked like a dream there, and the effects are quite long-lasting. As for my legs, I really want to believe I can make it work. Maybe I'll look for some more pro tips for better epilating and try again. But, when it comes to anything above the knee, I'll leave that to the professionals."
3 of 9
Taylor Bryant
Hair-Removal Method: Depilatory cream

"I don't tend to keep up with a 'normal' shaving routine as much as most women probably do. I'm super lazy when it comes to that, and a little hair here and there doesn't bother me too much. So, I'd say I shave under my arms maybe once a week. I shave my legs a lot less frequently — about once every two weeks or once my friends point out how gross it is.

"I had never used hair-removal creams before. I always thought they were something from the '80s that my mother would use. If I had any caution, it was definitely from trying something new — specifically a chemical remover — without being familiar with what it does or how it works. Also, when I mentioned to my mom that I was doing this experiment, her advice was 'That stuff stinks. Do not use it indoors or else it will stink up the whole house.' She also mentioned that if I left it on too long it would burn. So, yeah, I wasn't looking forward to either of those.

"The first week or so I didn't really need to use anything at all. Yes, I had stubble here and there from my last shave, but nothing that bothered me enough to have to whip out the hair remover. When it finally came time to use the cream, my mom's don't leave it on too long advice lingered in the back of my mind, so I made sure to read the directions very carefully. The first thing I noticed while spreading it on was how bad it smells. Like, it reeks. If you've ever had a perm or relaxer at any point in your life, it smells exactly like that.

"You apply the cream to dry legs and then jump in the shower after a few minutes and rinse. I didn't notice anything happening, so I left the cream on for a couple of minutes longer. After five minutes, I repeated the process, and still nothing. Even though no burning occurred, I still started to fear that my skin would somehow start falling off if I left it on too long, so I began slowly taking the cream off with a washcloth.

"I was a little disappointed because the directions made it seem like it would be super easy to remove. But, I found myself having to go over my legs several times with my washcloth. And, even after that, I still had sections of my legs that had hair on them. I will admit, it left my pits pretty soft. Aside from a few stray hairs, I was satisfied."
4 of 9
Did the routine change your normal habits?
"Not really. Like I mentioned earlier, I tend to let a good amount of time pass between shaves anyway, so I kind of went about my life as I usually would. I definitely rocked skirts and shorts during the two weeks, so it was business as usual for my legs. And, as far as my underarms go, I tend to wear T-shirts rather than tanks anyway, so that wasn't a problem.

"That said, there was one day, about a week into the experiment, when I wore a sleeveless dress. And, when I was on the subway while hovering over this lady and gripping the bar above me, I noticed her look up and give me a little side-eye. She did not approve."

How did you feel after you were able to shave again?
"I absolutely appreciate my good ol' razor and (good-smelling!) gel a lot more now that I've used the chemical cream. I'm able to be a lot more thorough while shaving, and since I basically have it down to a science now, it's a lot easier and more convenient."

Would you ever completely ditch your razor?
"I don't think so — at least not in exchange for the hair-removal cream. It just doesn't seem like something a person should be regularly using. One thing I didn't miss about shaving is the accidental nicking that occurs when I shave too fast. The smooth finish definitely lasted longer with the cream, but I think the cons outweighed the pros for me."

Would you try this routine again?
"Probably not. I'm sure if I used it more frequently, the hair-removal process would become easier, but I just don't think it's worth it. Plus, did I mention the smell? That alone deters me from ever trying this again. I'll stick to shaving, thank you very much."
5 of 9
Vanessa Golembewski
Hair-Removal Method: Waxing

"Every day, no matter what, I shave my underarms. They probably don't need it every single day, but I'm so aware of even the slightest prickle that I graze over 'em anyway. As a result, my pit skin (horrible phrase, but what do you call that?) is often bumpy or irritated.

"I shave my legs most days in the summer, but come winter, I'm like, NOPE. Because, extra warmth and no boyfriend are both better reasons than conforming to societal expectations. As for my bikini line, I keep things under control, no matter the season. You just never know when you're going to get naked.

"It's still summer, so I'm all about wearing dresses and skirts. Admittedly, I felt strange walking around with hairy legs. Also, I've never done waxing before, and it seemed super painful.

"I've never been more aware of my armpits in my life than I was during this experiment. I stopped wearing sleeveless shirts after about three days. It was liberating to not have to worry about shaving, but I also missed having a safety net. I was telling people, 'Please excuse my hairy-ass legs. I'm doing it for a story.' I said that as if it were the only reason I could get away with not shaving. And, the beach? Let's just say I didn't take off my shorts, lest a stray hair show itself.

"I felt dirty, that people who maybe noticed my hair would think I was some crazy hippie who didn't do anything that anyone else did, man. I wanted to shave really badly. The only thing that stopped me was that I knew waxing would be so much more painful if I went in with barely any hair to wax off. I realized on the final day that if the zombie apocalypse comes and I'm forced to live like a vagabond, this is what I'll look like. A yeti.

"I had fairly terrifying ideas about what waxing would be like. I was prepared to emerge a changed woman — a 'you can't come back from that' situation. But, the wax at Bliss SoHo was incredible. Surprisingly, the most painful part wasn't my bikini but the front of my legs. Still, the whole experience wasn't that bad, and I would actually go again if it didn't mean spending another couple of weeks hairy. Growing out the hair was almost worse than getting the wax."
6 of 9
Did the routine change your normal habits?
"It changed everything about my routine. Every morning I was like, 'What can I wear today that won't show my hair?' I ended up telling a guy I went on a date with about my experiment ahead of time — just in case he noticed, even if he didn't say anything. Normally I don't volunteer my grooming habits as third-date conversation, but I was less embarrassed of an honest discussion about what I was doing than if he noticed on his own and formed his own opinions about me silently. Basically, I decided that not shaving = undesirable woman. And, I didn't wanna be that person."

Would you ever completely ditch your razor?
"No. I'm a wuss."

Would you try this routine again?
"I'd try it out on the bikini and maybe the legs. But, I could never go that long without shaving my underarms again. Have you tried not lifting up your arms for two weeks? It was like I was pretending to be a T. rex."
7 of 9
Maria Del Russo
Hair Removal Method: Nada — she went au naturel.

"I come from a pretty hairy family — my brothers and I used to all go together to get our eyebrows waxed in high school (true story). Ever since I started sprouting hairs, I've shaved about every other day, even in the winter. Something about having overgrown hair always makes me feel dirty. So, the idea of throwing my razor away and growing my hair out for two entire weeks scared the shit out of me. This was complicated by the fact that I recently ended a nine-month relationship and have been using my online-dating apps to pitch myself back into the NYC dating scene.

"The fact that my boss told me I couldn't wear pants and long-sleeved shirts the entire time — coupled with the hot, humid summer we've been having — made me realize I couldn't get through this experiment in a caftan. So, the night before the experiment was set to begin, I gave myself the closest shave I could with a brand-new razor. I then put my trusty blade in my sink drawer, tucked myself into bed, and had a dream where I was on a date with a guy who brushed against my shin and ran off screaming. This was going to be rough.

"For a few days, I pretty much forgot that I wasn't shaving. That lasted until about day four, when my baby hairs grew back in enough for me to feel them. And, holy hell, those suckers killed — especially under my arms. The stubble got so bad that I actually had to start massaging the body oil I use as a moisturizer under my arms and over my legs to keep it from rubbing me raw.

"As my hair grew and grew, I became more self-conscious about what I wore and how people looked at me. If I had to hold a high bar on the subway, I would immediately think the man with the briefcase, the couple making out, and the nanny dealing with her three screaming children were all looking under my arms (they, obviously, were not). On the first date I had with my new, hairy limbs — about a week into the experiment — the guy I was with put his hand on my leg and I literally jumped halfway off my seat.

"The following Saturday (day 11), I went to a bar to celebrate my cousin's boyfriend's birthday (in a black, long-sleeved shirt) and wound up flirting with this guy all night. But, every time he got a little too close to my legs, I'd shy away. He eventually asked what my deal was, and emboldened by the three vodka-rocks I'd just imbibed, I blurted out every detail of my hairy experiment. We had a good laugh, he asked to touch my legs, and I told him to shut up and order me another drink instead."
8 of 9
Did the routine change your normal habits?
"Absolutely. I was never 100% comfortable showing both my pits and my legs, so every morning was a bit of a struggle deciding what to wear — especially since Mother Nature felt this was the time to raise the thermostat about a million degrees.

"I'm also not a super-shy person when it comes to talking to people — men included. But, if my underarms or legs were exposed, I didn't feel as confident chatting up dudes or anyone else I'd never met before. What if they noticed my underarms? Would they think I was lazy or dirty?

"By the end of the experiment, I just kind of threw my arms up and let my neuroses go. I wore shorts and tank tops in tandem and just stopped caring about what anyone thought of me. Because, in truth, there was nothing different about who I was. I just decided to break up with my razor for a few weeks. And, you know what I found? No one cared at all. No one ever said anything unless I brought it up first, and all the people who I thought were staring at me on the subway were just wrapped up in their own lives — because obviously they are."

How did you feel after you were able to shave again?
"Even after that massive revelation, I was so relieved to be able to shave again. I pulled out two of my favorite exfoliants and body oils, took my razor out of hibernation, and went to town. All night, I couldn't stop feeling my legs — my smooth, smooth legs."

Would you try this routine again?
"I'd say no, but the experience itself was pretty liberating. I'd been so tied up in the maintenance of my body hair that I never realized what a pain in the ass it was. It was nice to take a two-week vacation, and I enjoyed the fact that my showers were about 10 minutes shorter than they typically are.

"In the winter, I will probably let my legs and underarms go a little longer since I'm able to cover 'em up. I was actually super surprised by how little hair I grew on my legs. My underarms were a little shaggy, though, so regular shaving is required there. The fact of the matter is, I prefer a smooth leg and pit. It's kind of like putting on lipstick — it helps me project the face I want to the world. And, just like there's nothing wrong with displaying your body hair, I don't think there's much wrong with my approach either."

Teadora Rainforest At Dusk Bath & Body Oil, $58, available at Teadora.
9 of 9
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!

More from Hair


R29 Original Series