Talk about a hairy situation: a recent poll conducted by Kelton Research shows that about 18 million American women are more stressed out by removing facial hair than their finances. The same study shows that an incredible 80 percent of women would be willing to give up their favorite things—including sex for 30 days and…gasp…chocolate!—if it means they won’t have to deal with an unwelcome mustache ever again.
Although factors beyond our control like genetics and hormones play a big role in how much facial hair we have, the good news is that there are plenty of easy ways to remove facial hair right at home.
Why skip the salon? Getting rid of unwanted hair at home is not only cost-effective, but there’s also the privacy factor, notes Polly Blitzer, beauty expert and founder of BeautyBlitz.com.
“When you DIY, you can do the deed without anyone knowing your business, and you have complete control over the end result,” Blitzer says. Mona A. Gohara, M.D., assistant clinical professor of the department of dermatology at Yale’s School of Medicine, says another benefit is having to worry less about germ transfers.
“We often see bacterial, fungal or viral infections when instruments were not cleaned properly at a salon or spa,” she says. Shudder.
Here, we explain the lowdown home fuzzbusting.
Pros: A quick way to remove facial hair and re-growth doesn’t come back for weeks.
Cons: If done improperly with too-hot wax, the treatment may burn your skin. Waxing can also lead to redness and tiny post-waxing bumps, aka. irritant folliculitis, an irritation of the tiny hair follicles on the skin.
How to: For waxing, technique is essential (just ask Mr. Miyagi). Make sure you hold the skin taut with one hand as you pull the wax strip to remove the hair with the other. If the skin isn’t held correctly, it could lead to bruising, explains Sandra Lakatos, skincare manager at Oasis Day Spa in Manhattan. Another mistake often made? Slathering on the wax in the opposite direction of the hair growth. Instead, you should apply the wax following the direction of the hair growth and then pull off the wax strip in the opposite direction, advises Lakatos.
“That way, you are ensuring optimal removal and preventing hairs from breaking with the pull,” she says.
What to look out for: If you have sensitive skin, you may be prone to post-waxing breakouts. To prevent this, Dr. Gohara recommends applying a fine film of talc powder to the area before hair removal and cortisone cream after, which works as an anti-inflammatory and eases redness. Most kits also come with soothing oils, like azulene oil, to apply immediately after.
If you use prescription retinoids (like Differen or Renova) or OTC retinol, waxing can rip your skin right off. Don’t use any products with retinoids for at least 10 days before you wax.
Post-waxing, avoid irritating products for at least a day, such as exfoliants, retinol or benzoyl peroxide. “Let your skin regroup before you restart your regular skincare regimen,” says Dr. Gohara.
Try: Clean+Easy Tea Tree Roll-On Wax, which Lakatos recommends for its antibacterial ingredients like tea tree oil. Veet Ready-to-Use Wax Strips for Face makes waxing even easier by taking the guesswork out of applying the wax since it’s already on the strip (you just have to rub the sheets together, pull them apart and you’ll have two strips ready to use). It also works on hair as short as two millimeters, so you don’t have to get all Planet of the Apes before you can wax again.
Pros: Inexpensive and easy to apply.
Cons: Depilatories can get messy and some creams emit a strong odor because of the chemicals, which break down the sulfur bond within the hair to weaken it for removal. Effects don’t last as long as waxing.
How to: Depilatories are creams that are applied by hand or with a small spatula over the hair and kept on from about three to 15 minutes before wiping off.
What to look out for: If you have sensitive skin, make sure you do a patch test somewhere that doesn’t require much precision, like your arm. And don’t overdo it—Dr. Gohara points out that leaving it on too long can lead to red, itchy skin, which can cause lasting discoloration.
Try: Olay Smooth Finish Facial Hair Removal Duo—an upgrade from the usual hair removal creams because it’s easy to use and aimed at reducing inflamed skin. It’s a two-step system: first, apply a light cover of their Skin Guarding Balm, which contains Chinese wood and canola extract to protect skin, and then immediately top it with the Hair Removal Cream. Less than eight minutes later, hair will wipe off with minimal irritation and sans the off-putting smells other creams can emit.
Pros: Precise removal of hair that works best on stray whiskers and the eyebrow area. If you’re allergic to certain waxing ingredients, plucking is a better way to go, and since you’re pulling the hair out from the root, it slows down re-growth.
Cons: Plucking is time-consuming. It can be more painful for sensitive areas like the upper lip and the hair removal process is not as convenient for larger patches of hair.
How to: When tweezing the brows, hold the tip or slant against the skin the whole time, going the direction of hair growth, suggests Elke Von Freudenberg, a Manhattan-based celebrity eyebrow specialist who has worked with the likes of Kate Moss and Anjelica Huston.
“By keeping the tweezer against the skin, you lessen the ouch factor,” she says. Von Freudenberg also advises that your brows should start between the bridge of your nose and your tear duct—any more space than that will actually make your nose appear bigger.
What to look out for: Avoid dropping your tweezer, which will cause it to lose some of its spring and can chip the ends.
Try: Tweezerman slant tweezers, which come with a lifetime warranty—you can even mail it to them for free re-sharpening when your tweezers start to get dull.
Pros: Easy to use and chemical-free. Re-growth is even slower than waxing—some hair removal gadgets claim up to a 94 percent reduction in facial hair.
Try: Consider No! No! 8800 from Radiancy.
How to: No! No! is built with a trademarked technology called “Thermicon,” which zaps unwanted hair as you glide it over your skin.
Miami-and New York-based dermatologist Dr. Fredric Brandt notes that Thermicon is heat energy, so unlike lasers, it doesn’t target melanin in the hair and can be used to treat all hair colors (lasers only treat dark hair). However, its benefits may be more superficial than a treatment at a derm’s office.
“We don’t know how deep the heat penetrates to target the hair follicle,” says Dr. Brandt. Dr. Gohara also points out that lasers, considered to be the gold standard in hair reduction, makes the claim to reduce facial hair to about 70 percent so No! No!’s margin seems a bit high.
What to look out for: The smell of burnt hair, which may be a small price to pay—unlike the actual price, which runs at about $270.