When it comes to grooming, there are various options available, and although we encourage embracing one’s natural look, hair removal usually involves deciding between two prevalent techniques: Waxing vs. Shaving. These methods differ considerably – waxing involves using heated wax to remove hair from the follicle, while shaving involves cutting hair from the skin’s surface with a razor blade.
Deciding which method to choose can be influenced by several factors, and what’s important to one person may differ from another. To guide making this decision, we consulted dermatologists and a skincare specialist for their expert advice and tips.
- Jodi Shays founded QB Skincare and Queen Bee Salon & Spas.
- Rachel Nazarian, MD, practices dermatology at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.
- Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, is the founder of Entière Dermatology located in NYC.
The Process of Waxing vs. Shaving
Waxing entails the application of either warm or cold depilatory wax on undesired hair, which is then efficiently and safely removed. However, before waxing, whether you choose to do it at home or by a professional, you’ll need to grow your hair to around a quarter of an inch, which requires patience and time. If you opt to visit a salon for waxing, it’s essential to book an appointment in advance. Some individuals avoid waxing because of the frustrating grow-out period. In contrast, shaving is a straightforward process that can be done anytime, whenever convenient, such as while taking a shower.
The time taken to shave varies depending on the extent of hair removal and the body part being shaved, ranging from a few minutes to about 10 minutes. In contrast, waxing is also relatively fast, with a single session lasting up to 30 minutes depending on the targeted area. If you’re waxing at home, you need to account for the time required to heat the wax to the desired consistency, and if you’re a first-timer, you may need to experiment with different techniques to find the one that works best for you.
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The Benefits of Waxing vs. Shaving
According to Shays, “Waxing offers longer-lasting results compared to shaving because it removes hair from the follicle, while shaving merely trims hair at the surface. Waxing can provide smoother skin for a more extended period, and in some cases, the hair may become thinner or not grow back at all. Many people have also reported fewer irritations, such as ingrown hairs and breakouts, after waxing.”
Nazarian notes that both waxing and shaving have their advantages, although shaving is more convenient as it can be done at any time. She advises against shaving too frequently and warns that using shavers with too many blades can be too harsh on sensitive skin, particularly if done daily. “Using a two-blade shaver is adequate,” she recommends.
Which Areas Do Waxing and Shaving Work Best For?
While waxing can be used to remove hair from any part of the body, Shays cautions against using it on the head or very coarse facial hair. Similarly, shaving can also be used on any area but requires extra care when it comes to sensitive spots like the bikini line. According to Nazarian, it’s best to avoid heavily perfumed shaving creams on delicate skin as they can irritate.
Instead, she recommends using unscented, moisturizing cleansers or non-soap cleansers that offer a smooth surface for the razor while preventing over-drying or irritation. Nazarian suggests using products such as Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar ($10) or hydrating gel cleansers that provide additional moisture to the skin without stripping its natural oils.
How to Prep for Waxing vs. Shaving
To prepare your skin for waxing or shaving, especially in sensitive areas, there are several steps you can take. Shays suggests gently exfoliating with a dry brush or exfoliating wash or mitt and removing any deodorant from underarms or lotions/oils from the body.
While waxing requires less preparation, the hair must be visible above skin level. Shays advises trimming bikini hair down if it’s longer than an inch, as the wax will not effectively remove hair that was shaved a few days prior. Additionally, she recommends taking a warm shower or bath right before your waxing appointment to soften the hair follicles.
Levin explains that shaving, when done properly, is a relatively painless process. To minimize the risk of nicks and razor burn, she suggests exfoliating the area beforehand, using a sharp razor and a hydrating shaving cream, and following up with a moisturizer.
Nazarian adds that shaving towards the end of your shower or bath is ideal since it allows your skin to soak in the warm water and softens the hair, leading to a closer, smoother, and less irritating shave. To further reduce friction on your skin, use a gentle, unscented gel or cleanser before shaving.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Like any other beauty treatment, there are potential side effects to consider. Shays advises that if you are using prescription medications like Accutane, antibiotics, or prescription acne or anti-aging creams, a wax could remove some of the skin, resulting in a shiny area or friction burn. In rare cases, people may experience an allergic reaction or break out. It’s important to speak with a dermatologist if you have any concerns about how waxing or shaving may interact with your medication or skin type.
According to Shays, it is essential to seek the services of a trained professional for waxing. If the person performing the wax is unskilled or in a rush, they may damage your skin or hair.
Nazarian explains that both waxing and shaving have the potential to cause side effects such as ingrown hairs, irritated skin, razor burn with shaving, and burns, erosions, and irritated skin with waxing. However, she emphasizes that neither method can change the size or appearance of your pores.
Nazarian suggests that if you encounter irritation from either waxing or shaving, the affected area can be managed with hydrocortisone 1% cream, mild cleansers, and effective emollients like Vaseline.
However, if you observe painful red bumps post-hair removal that doesn’t heal with OTC calming creams or hydrocortisone, it’s best to consult your dermatologist. “This condition could signify more severely inflamed hair follicles and skin, which may require a topical antibiotic or prescription-strength anti-inflammatory steroid cream,” notes Nazarian.
Waxing vs. Shaving: Which Lasts Longer?
Levin explains that hair growth varies depending on the area being treated. For instance, hair on the bikini and underarms may grow faster than on the arms and legs, so it’s essential to compare similar areas when considering waxing vs. shaving.
Hair grows in cycles, with periods of growth, rest, and shedding. As a result, only a certain amount of hair is removed during any given hair-removal session. On average, waxing results last approximately four weeks before regrowth appears. Consistent waxing can extend the time between appointments.
Shaving, on the other hand, necessitates daily or every-other-day maintenance to achieve completely stubble-free skin. Individuals with lighter or thinner hair may be able to stretch their shaving schedule by a day or two, but typically, a couple of days is the maximum.
A pack of disposable razors can be purchased for a few bucks, or you can opt for a good quality reusable razor such as the Billie Razors for around $15. Shaving cream is also affordable, with a can last for multiple uses at under $5. Shaving is the more cost-effective option initially, but it’s important to consider the cost of blade refills and how often you need to shave.
Home waxing kits can cost upwards of $10 but can be used for multiple applications. However, it’s crucial to read the instructions before using the kit to avoid costly mistakes. The price of a professional wax appointment varies depending on the area of hair removal and location. Including the tip in the calculation, these appointments can be quite expensive.
Shays notes that Brazilian waxes can cost anywhere from $35 to $100, while full-leg waxing typically ranges from $50 to $100.
Ultimately, the decision between waxing and shaving comes down to personal preference. Some people find the pain of waxing worth the longer-lasting results, while others prefer the convenience and simplicity of shaving. There is no “better” or “worse” option, only what works best for you and your needs.
Photo: Pexels/ Tima Miroshnichenko