Everything you need to know about hair removal at home—from cost to pain levels and effectiveness
If you're seeking hair removal at home methods, these are the best options to consider depending on your budget and lifestyle
Body hair is a natural part of life, so whether you decide to keep yours as it is or utilize hair removal at home methods, the choice is totally yours. That said, if you do decide to get rid of your body hair there are a myriad of options for doing so yourself—whether you want to tame your brows or de-fuzz your limbs, underarms, upper lip, bikini line, or all of the above.
While getting your body or facial hair removed by a professional or laser hair removal is, of course, a brilliant option, sometimes we don't have the time, money, or inclination to go for regular maintenance appointments. That means hair removal at home is our preferred option.
But before you even think about splashing out on an at-home device, there are several things to consider, from the body part(s) you want to de-fuzz to the costs and your pain threshold—not to mention your lifestyle and whether you can commit to a program of regular at-home treatments. So, in order to help you manage both your expectations and your budget, we’ve tapped into several hair removal experts' knowledge for the ultimate guide to hair removal at home.
Meet the experts on at-home hair removal
- Emily Buckwell is a product expert at CurrentBody, an online retailer specializing in beauty gadgets. She's explained some of the benefits of IPL devices.
- Karunesh Jigyasu is brand manager at at-home hair removal brand Flamingo, and has given some insight into waxing.
- Laurretta Power is national eyebrow expert for Benefit Cosmetics, and has shared some of her expert tweezing knowledge.
- Shavata Singh is the founder and CEO of Shavata Singh London Brows & Lashes. Here she has explained how threading works.
- Dr Jinah Yoo is a consultant dermatologist and has explained the laser hair removal process.
What is the best option for hair removal at home?
Shaving with a razor is without a doubt an easy, cheap and foolproof method. But when it comes to long-lasting results, using one of the best lPL hair removal devices is generally the most effective method.
IPL devices rapidly flash light at the melanin (pigment) in your hair follicles, which in turn converts to heat beneath the skin. This damages the hair at the root, effectively "putting it to sleep" so that the strand falls out and grows back much finer, if at all.
What is the healthiest hair removal method?
Threading is largely considered the healthiest hair removal method as it's such a simple process, involving a piece of cotton thread that’s twisted and tugged along areas of unwanted hair. It's a great option for those pondering the age-old question of how to remove pubic hair without shaving, if you want to target smaller areas and can stand the temporary pain.
There are no chemicals, artificial waxes or invasive techniques involved, meaning it's one of the best and most gentle options for your skin—even if it doesn't feel that way at the time!
How can I remove hair permanently at home?
Sadly, no at-home device offers completely permanent results. However, if you're wondering how long hair removal methods last, using any of those we explain in more depth below means that the hair will grow back finer and more —and even, in some cases, not at all!
It’s also worth noting that body hair can grow back as a result of hormonal changes, such as childbirth and menopause, for example. Mastering an at-home hair removal method is therefore not only convenient, but it also means you won't have to fork out for salon sessions if you do experience an unexpected and unwanted growth spurt.
Thankfully, almost all of the many hair removal methods can be done from the comfort of your own four walls, including laser hair removal, threading, and waxing. It's all about nailing the technique, and choosing the option that works best for your pain levels, budget, and schedule.
At-home hair removal methods explained
Best at-home hair removal method for ease and reliable results
- Cost range: $100- $500
- How long does it last? Top up treatments will be needed every six to 12 months
- Value for money: 5/5
- Difficulty level: 3/5
- Pain/discomfort level: 2/5
Most of the best IPL hair removal devices look something like a cross between a hairdryer and a speed gun. When held against the skin above the upper lip or on the body, they use gentle pulses of broad-spectrum light to heat hair follicles at the root to prevent regrowth. Although the initial course of IPL will remove your all your hair follicles, they can grow back, which is why IPL is classed as semi-permanent rather than permanent.
How it works: IPL hair removal devices transfer light energy to the hair shaft. As Emily Buckwell, product expert at CurrentBody, says: "Once absorbed, this light energy is converted to heat, which prevents further hair growth. As hair grows in cycles, you will need to repeat your treatments until you eventually catch each phase of growth, resulting in reduced hair over time."
How to do it at home: You should shave the treatment area first. "If you treat with hair present, the energy goes into the hair shaft and doesn’t reach the root, where the growth comes from," Buckwell explains. Then, simply press your device onto the skin, where it will deliver a flash of light.
How it works with different hair types: IPL devices aren’t suitable for everyone as there needs to be a sufficient amount of contrast between the skin and hair color. For example, IPL won’t work on naturally light blonde, red, white, or gray hairs as they contain little pigment. It's also not one of the best hair removal options for dark skin (five or higher on the Fitzpatrick scale), as IPL is also absorbed by the melanin found in the skin, causing it to heat up and potentially burn.
Typically, those with pale to medium skin tones and naturally dark blonde, brown, and black hair are the best candidates for IPL. But if you're unsure, there's no need to worry, as many of today's IPL devices come with a built-in skin scanner and simply stop flashing if they detect skin and hair color that isn't suitable.
Best at-home hair removal method for hair removal novices
- Cost range: $8-$50
- How long does it last? Around 4 weeks
- Value for money: 5/5
- Difficulty level: 4/5
- Pain/discomfort level: 4/5
If you want to know how to remove pubic hair without shaving, look no further than waxing for an affordable option. This versatile hair removal method involves pulling the hair from the follicle and it can be used on the face (brows, mustache) and the body (underarms, legs and bikini line). There is one caveat, though: dermatologists warn against waxing your eyebrows at home. The skin in this area is thin, delicate and sensitive. Hot wax, in amateur hands, could cause burns and scarring. Not only that, but you’ll also get a better shape when a professional works on your eyebrows, rather than using DIY waxing strips. However, used elsewhere on the body with a little know-how will ensure you get silky smooth skin.
How it works: There are two main waxing options. The first involves applying a thin layer of warm wax to the hairs you wish to remove. A paper strip is placed over the top, the wax solidifies and the strip is quickly ripped away. The second method uses pre-waxed strips that don’t need to be heated and are simply applied and stripped away. These tend to be easier and less messy to apply.
For the latter, Karunesh Jigyasu, brand manager for Flamingo, advises: "Treat the wax like you’re sealing an envelope by completely rubbing the hair into the wax. Once this is done, hold your skin taut as this will ensure tension and allow the wax to pull out the hair."
How to do it at home: Make sure you do the necessary prep work. Test an area of your skin 24 hours beforehand to ensure that the wax formula doesn’t cause an adverse reaction. Then, wash away any makeup or moisturizer and wait about 10 minutes before you start waxing to ensure your skin is dry.
When de-fuzzing your upper lip, place a waxing strip on one side, following the angle of your lip line. "Rub the strip firmly, and then pull the skin taut at the base of the strip," says Jigyasu. "Remove the strip quickly, pulling across, not up, like you’re applying lipstick. If you don’t get all the hair off on the first try, wait 24 hours [before you] try again to prevent irritation. Once you’re done waxing, clean away any excess wax residue on the skin."
While it’s common for leg hair to grow in multiple directions, it’s important to rub a soft-gel wax strip firmly in the direction of hair growth for an effective wax. As Jigyasu says: "Pubic hair often grows down and inwards, meaning you’ll need to place the wax strip at an angle."
How it works with different hair types: Waxing works on all hair types, but it’s worth noting that you are causing trauma to the skin barrier. As a result, darker skin tones may experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or darkening of the skin where the wax strips were applied.
Jigyasu points out that ingrown hairs can be another issue. "Pubic hair and underarm hair are described as 'terminal hair', which means that it’s thicker and coarser than lighter vellus hairs found on the upper lip or legs. Terminal hair grows from further in the dermis, and while it can still be removed using wax, it is often more prone to forming an ingrown hair." If one does pop up, here's what to do with ingrown hair: exfoliate the area to remove any dead skin that could be preventing the hair from breaking through the skin’s surface.
Best at-home hair removal method that's a quick fix for facial hair
- Cost range: $13-$45
- How long does it last? 3-4 weeks
- Value for money: 4/5
- Difficulty level: 1/5
- Pain/discomfort level: 1/5
If we were to take a wild guess, we would say that most people’s past experiences of DIY tweezing weren't ideal. If you've previously been left with skinny tadpoles for brows instead of what you were aiming for (a full brow that looks like it's been achieved through microshading, for example), and have steered clear of tweezers ever since, this is what you need to know.
How it works: The idea is to pull the hair out of the follicle at the roots using a pair of tweezers. As it’s a fiddly process, it doesn’t lend itself well to larger areas, so stick to tweezing your brows and upper lip.
How to do it at home: Ideally, you should always visit a professional to have your brows shaped with wax in the first instance. Then, in between wax appointments, you can use tweezers to nix any strays. Laurretta Power, Benefit Cosmestic's national eyebrow expert, says: “Always use clean, slanted tweezers for more control and to prevent breaking the hairs. Hold the skin tight, grip the hair from the root, and then pluck at an angle, in the direction of growth. This will protect the hair follicle and ensure it grows back properly—this is important if you accidentally overpluck!” As it's a temporary fix, tweezing isn't the best option for how to remove facial hair permanently.
However, if it’s an emergency and you really can’t book in at your fave brow bar, start by using a brow pencil to fill in your desired shape (yes, really). Power says: “Then tweeze the hairs that fall outside of this shape. Use a larger mirror so you can see your entire face when shaping your brows and finally, use damp cotton to wipe over the brow, cooling your face and collecting any unwanted plucked hairs."
How it works with different hair types: Power says: "Tweezing will work for all hair types, however, it takes longer and can be uncomfortable, so we’d always recommend waxing brows first of all."
Best at home hair removal method for speed and cost
- Cost range: $6 - $22
- How long does it last: Skin can stay silky smooth for up to three days
- Value for money: 5/5
- Difficulty level: 0/5
- Pain/discomfort level: 0/5
It’s thought that about 75% of women are wedded to their razors for removing hair from the bikini line, whichever side of the bikini vs brazilian wax side they fall on. And for good reason: shaving is fast, easy, cheap, and effective, and it can tackle all types of hair from the neck down.
How it works: The sharp blade of a razor cuts the hair off very close to the skin, removing the tip of the hair shaft that pokes out of the skin.
How to do it at home: If you're constantly dealing with ingrown hairs, red bumps, and stubble that seems to grow back in what feels like the blink of an eye, there may be room for improvement in your shaving routine. For a start, ensure your skin is well-hydrated before shaving, otherwise the hair will be more difficult to cut due to friction, and you increase the chance of razor burn. If you’re shaving your bikini line, exfoliate the pubic area beforehand to prevent irritation. Then, apply shaving gel and use long, steady strokes with the razor, working in the direction of hair growth. On the legs, shave against the grain and bend your leg to better shave the kneecap.
How it works with different hair types: All hair types can use a razor, but you may encounter the same issues when shaving as you do waxing the stubborn terminal hair along the bikini line.
Best hair removal method for lovers of natural treatments
- Cost range: $15-$45
- How long does it last? 3 - 4 weeks
- Value for money: 5/5
- Difficulty level: 5/5
- Pain/discomfort level: 3/5
At one time shaving and waxing reigned supreme, but threading has risen in the ranks to become one of the most popular treatments to achieve the perfect eyebrow shape. Normally, a highly skilled professional uses one hand to stretch your skin taut, while the other wields a thread that speedily plucks out hairs and shapes your arches. However, with a lot of practice, it’s possible to get to grips with the technique yourself for hair removal at home.
How it works: After wiping the brow area clean with a cleanser or alcohol, the thread is fashioned into a lasso that moves back and forth to tug out the hair.
How to do it at home: Threading your own brows can be complicated, so whatever you do, don’t practice on the face. Find a good online tutorial and start on your upper thigh to get a feel for rolling the thread. Shavata Singh, founder and CEO of Shavata Singh London Brows & Lashes advises: “I also recommend starting on a smaller area like the upper lip that doesn’t require so much stretching.” She adds that it’s also important to only work above the eye—"Your eyelid is the thinnest layer of skin on your face so I wouldn’t recommend threading below the brow, as the skin can get caught in the thread and cause cuts or grazes.”
How it works with different hair types: Singh says: "Threading works for all hair types. Whether the strand is coarse or fine, it can pick it up and remove the hair from the root."
Laser hair removal
Best at-home hair removal method for quick results
- Cost range: Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X costs $469
- How long does it last? Top up treatments are needed once a year
- Value for money: 3/5
- Difficulty level: 3/5
- Pain/discomfort level: 4/5
Diode laser technology is a long-lasting form of hair removal that targets the active follicles that lie beneath the skin on the body. Facial hair on the upper lip can also be lasered away. When each follicle gets zapped it may sting a little, a sensation not unlike a rubber band being snapped on the skin.
How it works: "Lasers use one single narrow wavelength of light to selectively damage the hair follicle without affecting the surrounding skin," says consultant dermatologist Dr. Jinah Yoo. "The melanin [natural pigment] in your skin then absorbs this light energy and converts it into heat, ultimately damaging the hair itself. The eventual outcome will be a reduction in the amount and thickness of the hair."
How to do it at home: Laser hair removal is possible at home, but it is not advised. The only FDA-cleared at-home laser hair removal option on the market is the Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X, which claims to reduce up to 70% of hair growth after two treatments. According to Dr Yoo, there’s a very simply reason that laser hair removal is best left to the professionals—safety. "Lasers, if operated inappropriately, can cause considerable harm to your eyes and skin," she explains. "If you’re interested in laser hair removal, it’s important to do your research and choose a qualified medical practitioner."
How it works with different hair types: Dr. Yoo says: "For laser treatment to work, there has to be a big color contrast between skin and hair, which is why dark hair and light skin tones traditionally see the best results. Problems arise for very dark skin tones because some lasers become confused and target the melanin in the skin instead of the pigment in the hair, which results in burning, pigmentation, and scarring." For more information on the process, read our detailed guide on electrolysis vs laser hair removal.
Hair removal cream
Best at-home hair removal method for pain-free hair removal
- Cost range: Up to $8
- How long does it last? 2-3 days
- Value for money (out of 5): 3
- Difficulty level (out of 5): 1
- Pain/discomfort level (out of 5): 0
Officially known as depilatory cream, hair removal cream is a thick substance that you smooth over your skin to remove hair.
How it works: Ingredients commonly found in depilatory creams include salts of thioglycolic acid and thiolactic acids, which dissolve the disulfide bonds and keratin in the hair, so that they are easily removed without any pulling.
How to do it at home: If you can get past the smell of rotten eggs, always patch test 24 hours before using a hair removal cream to ensure that you don't react adversely to the ingredients of your chosen purchase. Never apply a hair removal cream to skin that is weeping or irritated.
Outside of that, apply to areas of unwanted hair before taking a shower—save reaping the hot bath benefits for another day. Leave it on for three to 10 minutes depending on the manufacturer’s instructions, then use a washcloth and warm water to remove the paste-like combination of hair and cream. Do not exceed the recommended amount of time, as you run the risk of a chemical burn.
How it works with different hair types: Hair removal creams can be used on any area of the body, but since you’ll be using a fair bit of the stuff and it can get a bit messy, they lend themselves better to use on the legs and underarms rather than the bikini line. Results don’t last long though, as hair removal creams only tackle the hair below the skin's surface rather than at the root.
Best for lasting smoothness—though sadly it can't be done at home
- Cost range: From $300/£300 for the face
- How long does it last? Permanent
- Value for money: 3/5
- Difficulty level: Not applicable
- Pain/discomfort level: 2/5
Unfortunately it isn't possible to do electrolysis at home, but if you're after a long-term hair removal option, it's well worth going to see a professional about it.
Electrolysis is an in-clinic-only treatment that zaps the hair follicles with electric current. If you’re wondering how to remove facial hair permanently, electrolysis is also the only method the FDA calls "permanent".
How does it work: Electrolysis involves using heat to destroy the reproductive hair cell. A fine probe is inserted into the hair follicle, which then sends a current to stop unwanted hair from growing. The strand is then removed with tweezers. Electrolysis goes deeper into the skin—getting under the follicle—resulting in a truly permanent solution.
How to do it at home: This is a professional-only treatment, so hair removal at home is not possible with electrolysis. However, it’s worth noting that it’s not the quickest or cheapest hair removal option either, as the process involves probing each individual hair follicle. Given that most of these follicles contain several individual hairs, they won’t all be zapped in a single session.
How it works with different hair types: The bonus of electrolysis is that it suits all hair types and ethnicities, and is considered to be one of the best hair removal options for dark skin.
Fiona Embleton is a multi-award-winning beauty editor who has tested over 10,000 products in her 10 years + of writing and shooting beauty stories. For the past four years, she was the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, having previously worked in the role of Beauty Editor at both Stylist and Cosmopolitan. She has recently gone freelance and alongside My Imperfect Life, she has written for titles including ELLE UK, ELLE Canada, Buro 247, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Vogue Scandinavia, and ES Magazine. Beauty journalism allowed her to marry up her first-class degree in English Literature and Language (she’s a stickler for grammar and a self-confessed ingredients geek) with a passion for make-up and skincare, photography, and catwalk trends. She loves jumping on the latest internet-breaking beauty news, dissecting the best red carpet looks, and having the crème de la crème of dermatologists, make-up artists, and hairstylists on speed dial so she can tap them for the best advice. She’s a discerning beauty shopper and knows it can be confusing trying to navigate what’s hype and what really works. So if she really likes something, you can trust that she has reached that opinion by vetting it against everything else she’s ever tried. Her career highs? Interviewing Cate Blanchett and winning a Jasmine Award for the deeply personal feature Cancer Stole My Mother’s Scent.
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