Pubic hair removal (if that’s your cup of tea) can be accomplished by a variety of techniques. Shaving remains the most popular way to remove pubic hair due to its convenience, while other alternatives, like waxing, electrolysis, and laser hair removal, make up in longevity what they lack in convenience. "Hair removal is a personal choice, and all methods have pros and cons—the choice is ultimately up to you," says dermatologist Dr. Henriette De La Garza. "No matter what method you choose, always make sure to clean the area properly before removing the hair."
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Henriette De La Garza, MD, is a Dermatology Research Fellow at Boston University School of Medicine.
- Deidra Green is the Field Training Manager at European Wax Center.
"You should consider the results that you are looking for, long term benefits for the health of your skin, and your budget," advises wax expert Deidra Green. "Most people don’t really want to just remove the hair, they want to reveal beautiful skin underneath. Some removal methods won’t give you those results long term." Whether weighing the pros and cons of each technique or trying to minimize the nasty aftereffects, we've compiled a go-to guide for all your hair removal needs.
Read on for our expert tips to find the best hair removal option, get smooth skin, and soothe irritation just about anywhere—but especially down there.
Most of us started our hair removal experimentation with a razor in hand and for many of us it remains the fallback method of choice, always there for a last minute clean up. However, Green would advise against it if you frequently default to waxing: "Shaving between waxes will guarantee that you won’t get as smooth as you possibly can when you go back to get waxed. It can also make the wax more uncomfortable." And while shaving has a lot going for it with its convenient and cost-effective process, it can be quite high maintenance. "Razors won't provide long-lasting results, as smoothness only lasts one to three days," says Green. "It can also cause you to have prickly stubble in between shaves."
If shaving remains an option for you, whether by choice or as a last-minute savior, following the right steps is key to achieving the smoothest results. First, take a shower or bath to loosen up the follicles. Gently exfoliate with a washcloth or loofah, then use shaving cream before you shave your pubes. (Your lady bits will thank you later.) Using a regular razor is safer than an electric one, as you don't want to accidentally hurt anything important (eek!). Whatever you do, use a fresh new blade, as a dull one is dangerous. Green advises against storing your razor in the shower as this can create a breeding ground for bacteria.
Trim down the hedges first. Cut any long hairs with haircutting scissors to make the job much easier.
The downside of shaving is razor bumps and ingrown hairs, but we've got some tips to help. First, trim in the direction of the hair growth wherever possible to avoid razor bumps. Cortisone cream can be applied as soon as you're done. Some dermatologists recommend refrigerating the cream to immediately cool down the razor burn, though you may want to let your roommates know first. Try an aftershave serum, oil, or cream to stop ingrown hairs.
Laser Hair Removal
This procedure involves a laser light that zaps the hair follicles to remove them permanently. The process, which takes about six sessions per area spaced five weeks apart, can reduce the amount of hair, making regrowth both finer and lighter, and even permanently remove the hair to different degrees. De La Garza adds that the procedure can also help eliminate ingrown hairs.
While this is the most costly technique on our list, it can end up being one of the more cost effective options when calculated over the long term. Although this may be a painful method, especially on the genital area, topical anesthetic can be applied 20-30 minutes before to reduce discomfort. "Laser hair removal can be problematic for people with dark skin since the laser can target the pigment (melanin) in the skin in addition to the hair follicle and can potentially cause discoloration and/or scarring of the skin," explains De La Garza. "This is why it is important to get these procedures done with licensed and board-certified physicians and dermatologists who can choose the right laser device depending on your skin type." We recommend trying it on another body part first before hitting the nether regions.
Keep in mind that you won’t see immediate results as the damaged hair follicles can take a few days to fully shed. If you need a little maintenance between sessions, shaving is your only option. "It is important to avoid waxing or plucking hairs for four to six weeks before the treatment," says De La Garza. "Shaving is an acceptable option, as it cuts the hairs at the skin level and leaves hair follicles intact. In fact, shaving is recommended the day before treatment, so the laser can locate the follicles more easily. Long hairs can be burned during the procedure and cause increased discomfort." You also won't be able to expose the treated skin to sunlight while going through treatments, so you can forget wearing that sexy new bikini while lasering.
"Waxing provides smoother and longer lasting results by removing the hair from the root, [which] also allows hair to grow back thinner and finer," explains Green. "It [also] provides a physical exfoliation, removing lifeless surface cells." A professional wax job can cost anywhere from $20 to $120, but one thing is for sure—don’t try this at home. "This can be unnecessarily painful, messy (goodbye beautiful bathroom floor), allows for missed hairs, and you can even risk damaging your skin if waxing is not performed by an expert and with high-quality wax," adds Green.
A professional bikini wax lasts about a month, so it’s high maintenance. You may also have to be extra gentle with your skin right after due to sensitivity and empty hair follicles. "Like most hair removal methods, waxing can be very painful," explains De La Garza. "Other disadvantages of this method are redness, irritation, and rashes that may occur after the procedure." Green advises against working out and going in pools, oceans, or lakes immediately after as it can lead to skin irritation. "You can shower after waxing, just make sure to use lukewarm or cooler water," she adds. "Hot showers can dehydrate skin. Also remember your skin is freshly exfoliated from your wax so don’t use any harsh soaps or body washes that contain too many oils or leave a film on your skin." And make sure to wear loose, breathable clothing afterward.
To prepare for a pro bikini wax, wait until your pubic hair is at least one-quarter inch long. If it’s shorter than that, the wax won’t grip the hair. The salon will offer you a “panty line” wax which just removes the hairs on the top and side so they don’t peek out when you wear a swimsuit. A "full bikini" wax takes it all off with the option of a landing strip, triangle, or whatever other shape you like. And finally, the "full Brazilian" wax goes one step further by removing the hair in your butt crack.
Hair Removal Creams
Over-the-counter hair removal creams, also called depilatories, are formulated with chemicals that damage the hair, weakening each strand to the point of falling out. Once the process is complete (typically about 10 to 20 minutes) the hair can be wiped away along with the excess cream. The benefits of this is option are that it's relatively quick and creams are usually inexpensive, housing several applications worth of product in a container.
The process can be high maintenance as hair will grow back at its natural pace, though somewhat stunted, similar to tweezing or waxing. "Depilatory creams penetrate the skin through the hair follicle but do not target the root, offering a more lasting solution than shaving," says De La Garza. "The downside is that the products can be quite messy depending on your application technique and often come with a chemical odor." Depilatories can also be quite irritating to the skin or cause allergic reactions. "Pay attention to ingredients and instructions because if left on the skin too long, they can cause a chemical burn," says Green.
If mild irritation occurs, use a gentle moisturizer to hydrate the skin.
"Electrolysis is a hair removal procedure where a thin wire is inserted into the hair follicle under the surface of the skin," explains De La Garza. "An electric current moves down the wire to the bottom of the follicle, destroying the hair root." Similar to laser hair removal, the disruption causes the damaged hair to fall out and prevents it from growing back. Unlike laser, electrolysis can target white hairs and works on all skin types. While this is a major advantage, the procedure destroys a single follicle at a time (instead of an entire patch) requiring between 15-30 sessions and taking longer per appointment.
When booking your first visit, De La Garza notes that different prep rules apply: "Compared to laser hair removal, you should not shave for at least three days before treatment—the hairs need to be long enough to be grabbed with tweezers in order for the needle to follow the hair follicle and remove the hair."