Hair Removal: an Informed Review

We’re going to ignore the fact that I skipped Science Thursday this week. I was tired and didn’t feel like writing. It happens. So instead of reading about cheese, you get to learn about different methods of hair removal. Yay!

Now, I know there’s a big movement for women to stop shaving, and I in no way want to take away from that. Telling people they don’t have to do something just because other people think they should is a great thing.

However, I don’t shave because I feel like I have to. The Boy has told me more than once that he would be perfectly fine with it if I didn’t shave, and I wear pants almost all year-round, so there’s no one to notice or care if I shave or not. I do it for me. I don’t like hair; it doesn’t feel comfortable to me. Even when I was a kid, I was terribly afraid of people with beards, I used to hide behind my mom (my poor uncles must have thought I hated them).

No matter the reason you shave (or don’t shave), you do you. It’s about your comfort, not anyone else’s. And if you’re in the shave group like me, hopefully the following reviews will help you find the most efficient method of hair removal 🙂

1. shaving

So many options for doom!

Can you tell I like itemized lists? Shaving with a traditional razor probably familiar to most people, whether they use this method or not.

Pros: The process of shaving is pretty fast. It takes me probably 10 minutes to shave my legs; The Boy can do his face in 5 if he tries. There are also no chemicals involved, unless you use fancy shaving cream, which isn’t required (some people use conditioner, which I think is ridiculous because that crap’s expensive!). Shaving is also a nicely portable method of hair removal. Shove your razor (carefully!) and some soap in a bag and you’re good to go. Another benefit of shaving is that you can use it to remove hair on any part of the body, provided you are very careful around the delicate bits.

Cons: Shaving is involved, both in cost and in process. Let’s pretend first that you don’t use shaving cream, so you’re saving about $5 a month. The razor itself is another $5, and the replacement blades are $15 for 5. And that’s for a middle of the road razor (better than disposable, not as great as the 10 blade, macadamia nut-infused blades). Now let’s say you go through a box of razors every 2 months (If you shave everyday, you probably go through a box a month I’m guessing). And I know you’re going to lose or break your razor, so you’ll need to get another one. That’s $100 a year on shaving if you’re being frugal ($250 if you’re not).

The process itself is another issue, at least with me. You have to be fully engaged while shaving, otherwise you gash the crap out of your skin, which all of us who have cuts ourselves shaving know that’s basically a mortal wound. And heaven help if you try to shave in a small shower! If you try to brave it and go for the dry shave, you take a gamble with razor burn, which also really hurts. I don’t want to have to by another expensive cream to fix the mess shaving made of my bikini line. I won’t have it!

All that, and a good shave only lasts a couple of days at best. No thanks razors.

2. electric shaving

“Please razor, tell me your secrets”

Electric razors are supposed to be the faster, more versatile version of its Sweeney Todd-like cousin. For convenience, I’d say they measure up.

Pros: Electric shaving is a little faster than tradition shaving, because you don’t have to be as careful, and there are electric razors for wet and dry situations, so they’re definitely more flexible. The also come in different sizes, so you can use them anywhere. You also have the benefit of a one-time cost. Electric razors cost from $20-$150 (or thereabouts), but that’s the only cost you put out there, unless it breaks (the one we have in my house is ancient, if that’s any indicator).

Cons: The biggest con is that an electric shave lasts less than a day. Fine if you’re in a pinch, but maybe not practical for the everyday, especially if you like the feel of silky smooth legs. Also, though in general electric razors can be used everywhere, be extremely cautious of delicate skin. I tried buzzing my armpits a couple of times because I was in a rush, and 10 minutes later the skin was red and burning (and made worse by deodorant). With the little pen shavers, if you don’t keep the skin taut sometimes the blades will pinch the skin, which is not the most comfortable thing I’ve ever experienced.

3. waxing

It’s just like honey!

There are a lot of factors the go into waxing. Personally, waxing is my favorite method of hair removal, but it’s not for everyone.

Pros: My favorite part about waxing is that you can have someone else do it for you. That’s the ultimate luxury for me, not having to be an active participant in my beauty habits. It also lasts a good long while. 6 weeks is the average length of time you can go between waxes, and that time increases the more you wax. This is also another all-body removal method, which is good.

Cons: Waxing can be painful for some people. It gets less painful over time, but some people can’t handle the initial owie, which is perfectly fine. If you try to wax at home, you’re likely going to run into trouble until you get some practice in. I had about 6 months of practice before I decided I wasn’t destined to be a waxer and moved on to less-troublesome methods. The at-home waxes are of a lower quality than that found in salons, so you’re more susceptible to rash, bumps, and ingrown hairs. It also takes a really long time to do it yourself.

The cost of waxing may be prohibitive for some. To get your armpits, bikini line, and legs waxed costs about $100 at a middle-range salon, and that’s not including a tip. I dream of a day when I make the kind of money to be able to afford that…

As a bonus, watch these attractive gentlemen get waxed for the first time:

4. epilating

I don’t even need to say anything do I?

Epilators are the devil. In essence, an epilator is like an electric razor, but instead of blades there are dozens of little tweezers to pluck out the hair.

Pros: Epilating lasts as long as a wax, and you can do it at home. Again like an electric razor, you only have to pay for it once, though starting cost is about $40.

Cons: Um, how about everything! First of all, the pain is terrible. Way worse than waxing, which is the opposite of how the reviews said it would be. The tweezers don’t just grab hair, they grab skin, and at places like the knee, they tend to actually shred the skin like scraping on the concrete (it stings similarly). Because of this, there’s no way in hell you could use it near the bikini line, and I’ll argue that you shouldn’t use it on your armpits either.

In addition, it takes a very long time to remove not a lot of hair. I worked on my lower legs for 30 minutes, and only about half the hair was removed. And you need to prepare to deal with a high number of ingrown hairs. Because of the ripping nature of an epilator, you have to be sure to exfolite afterwards, which exacerbates the problem of irritation, but hey, at least there are no ingrown hairs. Last time I epilated my legs (before I threw the damn thing out) I decided to skip exfoliating and ended up with ingrowns on 75% of my lower legs. It was gross, it was painful, and I will never do it again.

5. cream (Veet, Nair, etc.)


It even looks classy.

My second favorite hair removal method, even though I’ve had some issues. For me it’s the best balance of price, ease of use, and results.

Pros: Hair removal creams are by far the least expensive hair-removal method. A bottle of the stuff is about $10-12, and lasts about 2 months, so we’re talking about $60 a year. There are creams for body and creams for face, as well as products for men and women, so hypothetically you can use it anywhere you have hair you want to get rid of.

Time-wise hair removal creams are on the shorter end (which is good). To do my whole body (legs, underarms, etc), it takes about 3 minutes to apply the cream (I’m currently using the spray; it takes a bit longer if you’re using the tube or the pump) and then a 7 minute wait and I’m hair free. During that 7 minutes I can be on the computer or reading a book, I don’t have to be constantly paying attention to my legs, except to make sure I’m not rubbing cream off on things. After that it’s a 5 minute removal and rinse, and after I put on aloe gel to prevent any irritation. Ta done!

Using the cream lasts about 4 days, and since the hair isn’t bluntly cut like with shaving, it grows back thinly. Which is good, because you have to wait so many days between using the cream (the bottle days 10 days, but I don’t like to listen to printed instructions so I usually wait 4).

Cons: We are talking about using a chemical here, and some people aren’t into that. You also have to be VERY aware of your skin. I have very sensitive skin, so I have to make sure to buy the sensitive skin formula and keep track of long I have the cream on. You also have to make sure you wait a couple of days between treatments. If you missed a spot, either leave it or shave it. Don’t go back over it with the cream.

One instruction I actually follow on the label is do not apply cream on irritated or broken skin. That includes dry skin (use lotion for a couple of days, do a test patch, then proceed). If you fail to follow these directions, you will get chemical burns. I used the cream on my legs once not realizing I had a small scratch on my calf, the cream got into the scratch and burned like crazy. It felt like someone was trying to rip my skin off. I rinsed of the cream as fast as I could, by my calf was still swollen and red and I ended up with a small scar.

I also highly recommend staying away from the cream that finds its way to the clearance section. I bought a bottle once because it was super cheap, but it was super cheap because it had gone bad (it happens, though rarely). This coupled with my dry skin (it was winter) resulted in terrible chemical burns all over my thighs. I had to put aloe gel on my legs several times a day (excruciating) and wearing pants was sheer torture.


6. no-no

I’m going to let my friend Bunny take care of this one:

7. laser treatments

This is exactly what expect laser hair removal to be like.

I’ve never personally had a laser treatment, but I did the research. Just for you.

Pros: The biggest pro of laser treatment is that it lasts forever. After hair is laser-removed, it never grows back. And it can be done absolutely anywhere on the body. It’s also my understanding that it doesn’t hurt very much.

Cons: Laser treatments are pretty pricey. for your legs, you could expect to pay upwards of $200 for one treatment. The cost will vary depending on how thick your hair is and how many treatments you need (some hair takes multiple treatments to be fully removed). Luckily, most places do 60% discounts during the fall/winter months, because there’s less of a demand for hairless-ness. Most places also offer financing, so you can pay for your treatments a little at a time.


Science Thursday: Monsters

Happy Science Thursday! It’s the last post of October, and I’m not-so-secretly glad about it. Not that I didn’t like looking up fun, Halloween-related things, but I kept having ideas for posts that didn’t fit into the theme so I had to set them aside. I’m looking forward finishing them and sharing them with you over the next couple of months.

This week we’re looking at a mix of religion, mythology, biology, and psychology as I go through the origins and explanations of 13 Halloween monsters (all about those unlucky numbers). I learned a ton doing the research for this, and I hope you will too. Have a safe and happy Halloween!

1. werewolves

Awe, he’s such a cute little monster!

Almost everyone recognizes werewolves. They’re hairy, they have a thing about the full moon, sometimes they’re nice, and sometimes they take their shirts off. If you lived in the B.C. years, you would see a man walking around with a wolf skin thrown over his shoulders like a cape, getting ready to join the other warriors of his tribe. No full moon needed (unless that’s when his initiation was carried out). No aversion to silver (he wouldn’t have even had access to it for another few thousand years). Not that a warrior running around in a wolf-skin isn’t scary, but it’s not supernatural, and he’s not going to bite you. Sorry.

In the Middle Ages, they had a different kind of werewolf. These were the kind that inspired the legends and hysteria that’s making Young Adult authors rich today. At this time in history, the following marked you for a werewolf:

  • violent or cannibalistic behavior
  • association with black magic or paganism (bonus)
  • being extra hairy (optional)

Fear of paganism aside, most of the characteristics people attributed to werewolves were just symptoms of diseases that they had no other way of explaining at the time (science was a bit subpar). Someone with rabies or hypertrichosis will look or act as we think of werewolves today, which usually meant a silver bullet back then.

A person afflicted with rabies will eventually become anxious, angry, paranoid, violent, delirious, or hydrophobic, before they die a terrible death. One with hypertrichosis won’t be any more violent than a normal person, but they will be a little hairier than the average Joe. And by a little I mean Big Foot head-to-toe hairy. Maybe a little alarming at first, but not evil. The lesson here is that rabies is *extremely* frightening, and you should ALWAYS vaccinate your pets (animal/human transfer is how it spreads), and you also shouldn’t judge a person based on his/her appearance.

2. vampires

What? I was checking her for gingivitis!

You’re going to see a running theme of lack of understanding in the Middle Ages. Vampires can be explained by two things: premature burial and mistaken observations of decomposition. When coffins were opened and claw marks were found on the lid, the first assumption was that the deceased had come back to life, not that they hadn’t been fully dead in the first place (why they dug up the coffin, I don’t know).

As far as decomposition goes, I’m going to warn you now that it’s kind of gross (meanwhile, I’m sitting here eating a sandwich). In the Middle Ages, people weren’t aware that various factors affected decomp, so when bodies were exhumed and weren’t as gross as they should have been, people got suspicious. With complete ignorance of diseases like TB and the plague, it looked like whole families are dying from nothing. More suspicion.

Over time, gases in the dead body are released, making the body look plump and well-fed, and blood oozes out of the mouth a little, making it look like somebody just had a living snack. Super suspicious! Stake that SOB NOW NOW!!! OH MY FREAKING GOODNESS HE JUST MOANED WE HAVE A SITUATION HERE!!! Actually, that moan was just the gases being pushed over the vocal chords when you drove a stake through the body. But go ahead and panic. Knowledge is power, kids.

3. witches

Let it goooooo!

This is an easy one. Witches were created by three things: hallucinogens, science, and ignorance. The Pilgrims weren’t exactly in the know of poisonous plants and mushrooms in the new world, so you know they were seeing some crazy pink elephants or something. Must be a witch! Without a strong understanding of scientific phenomena, it was very easy to blame things on other people, and if someone made a guess about anything that turned out to be true, mass hysteria marked them as evil and they be burned as a witch!

Puritans and many other mainstream religions had a hard time understanding or accepting other religions. For reasons I can’t explain, paganism in particular came under fire, along with the indigenous religions of other countries. It was essentially convert or ye be a witch. Classic case of “if it’s not what I know, it’s wrong.” If we’re talking about the Salem Witch Trials, that was a bunch of little girls high on ‘shrooms having fun causing trouble (also, there were heavy political undertones or whatever).

Say it with me: “Hallucinogens, science, and ignorance.”

4. zombies

It turns out pictures of actual zombies are kind of disgusting…


This was probably my least favorite Halloween monster to learn about. Not because the idea of the undead is freaky to me, but what I learned wasn’t a cute anecdote of Ye Olde Ignorance. Zombies are 100% real, and they’re 100% saddening. The concept of Zombies comes from the Haitian Vodou religion, which came about from the religions enslaved Africans brought with them. Vodou priests known as Bokors work with light and dark magic and claim to have the power to create zombies. In a way, they do…

In one method of zombie creation, a Bokor will take an individual and “kill” them, using mixes of super nasty poisons. Next the “deceased” is loaded up with more poisons and hallucinogens. When they wake up they’re all whacked out. In most cases, a person knows the Bokor is going to turn them into a zombie, so when they wake up they are convinced that they’ve died, which completely contradicts the whole looking around and being in the world thing (and the Bokor may or may not have thrown in some hypnosis). As a consequence the person loses his or her mind.

In another method, a Bokor will actually present a family with a dearly departed loved one. Necromancy? No. The Bokor goes out and finds a homeless or mentally ill person who looks like the deceased and says “Boom! Here you go!”

5. ghouls

I guess he skipped arm day.

A ghoul is more or less a cross between a zombie and a vampire. It’s also the name given to people who like to eat dead people or drag them out of the grave. Because that’s a large, thriving counterculture…

The origin of the ghoul comes from Arabic culture. Djinns, or genies as Disney calls them, are very wise, clever deities. When they go bad, however, they become ghouls, dragging people to the underworld. Lots of dragging going on with ghouls. I bet it’s because of those skinny arms.

6. ghosts

He just wanted a snack!

Ghosts. Pretty self-explanatory. They’re a cultural universal, which is an interesting thing. Which also implies that the afterlife is a cultural universal, which could lead to a discussion. In most cultures, ghosts come about from improper funeral rites, and are rarely nice. Usually they’re out for vengeance or have other kind of unresolved issue. If you’ve seen Ghost Whisperer, you get the gist.

The gauziness traditionally associated with ghosts comes from the mist that forms when you exhale during the cold seasons. People thought the mist was your soul poking out a bit, so ghosts are given that misty quality. This also explains why ghosts are associated with the cold. And the really scary, devil-like ghost that many people claim to see at night is actually a symptom of sleep paralysis.

With sleep paralysis, you lay completely paralyzed while half-asleep, meanwhile you experience extreme panic, and often times see a little demon ghost-type devil either watching you from the corner of your room or sitting on your chest scaring the shit out of you. The creepiest part is that everyone sees the same ghouly-man. A friend of mine was describing his sleep paralysis to me once and it freaked me out because he was describing the exact thing that came after me once when I was little (though I was super-glad that it wasn’t actually the devil coming to get me).

There are many scientific explanations for ghost activity, but what’s caused by scientific phenomenon and what’s actually caused by ghosts is really up to you and what you choose to believe.

Bonus fact: Islam doesn’t believe in ghosts the way that other cultures do. What most people consider ghosts, Muslims classify as Djinns.

7. trolls/goblins

“Look at them, troll mother said. Look at my sons! You won’t find more beautiful trolls on this side of the moon.” – John Bauer

Most of what people traditionally think of as a troll is actually a goblin. Trolls come from Norse and Scandinavian mythology, as god-like giants that prefer to keep to themselves and like nature. It’s in Scandinavian mythology that trolls get mean and turn to stone in the light.

Goblins are the short, stumpy, ugly little faeries that people usually picture when they think of trolls. They come in varying levels of mischievousness, and they’re incredibly greedy. They love gold, which likely causes a cross-over with leprechauns, and if you make them mad enough, they can get quite mean.

8. ravens

“But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.” E.A. Poe

Raven’s, which are basically very large crows, are one of the most intelligent species of birds. They can be trained, they can learn to talk, and they’re often associated with the divine. In Greek mythology, ravens were good luck, and used as messengers of the gods. In Christianity, ravens protected St. Vincent’s body after he was executed so his body could be recovered and buried. In the book of Luke, Jesus tells people to look to the raven as a good example of how to be a Christian because ravens trusted in God to give them food, as opposed to hunting it themselves.

So why do ravens get such a bad rep? Well, their black plumage isn’t comforting, and as carrion birds, their eating habits make people nervous. In the days when people’s heads were put atop the tower of London, ravens would feast indiscriminately, and this made some people uneasy. In some European countries, raven were thought to be ghosts of the murdered or souls of the damned.

9. black cats

How could a face that cute be so unlucky?

How could a face that cute be so unlucky?

Countries and cultures that consider black cats lucky: Scotland, the Celts, Japan, Most of Asia, actually, Germany (only if the cat passed left to right), Egypt, and sailors

Countries and cultures that consider black cats unlucky: the rest of Europe. Why? I dunno. Supposedly they’re the preferred familiar of witches, but there’s not really any explanation as to why.

Poor black kitties are adopted less often because of their association with bad luck, and many shelters actually restrict adoption of them near Halloween because people will adopt the cat for…not nice things. Which is terrible. Next time you’re at the shelter for a pet, show the cuties with black fur some love too (dogs also face this discrimination), because there is NO correlation between fur color and luck, or the amount of love they’ll show you.

Bonus fact: August 17 is black cat appreciation day.

10. kelpie

Niiiice, horsey…

Kelpies are water creatures that typically live in Scottish rivers and lochs, though really any body of water will do. They appear as a white horse or beautiful man/woman, and lure people to the water where they proceed to drown and eat the victim, leaving the entrails (because entrails are gross). To defeat a kelpie, one needs to get a bridle over its mouth, or take off its bridle (depending on the myth).

There are a couple of possibilities for the origin of the kelpie. It could be used as an explanation for sacrifices to water gods, done to prevent flooding and drought. The kelpie was also a great scare tactic, used to keep small children away from the water, and hormonal teenagers away from pretty strangers.

11. banshee

Finding a picture of an overly-sexualized big-chested caricature of a banshee? Easy. Finding one that actually depicts the mythology? Not so much.

Banshees come from Ireland, and are a supernatural take on an actual person. At Irish funerals, a designated woman sang a lament for the deceased, much like Eowyn for Theodred.

For great or influential families, a faerie woman (banshee) came to be the “wailer,” and since they had the gift of foresight, they would start singing before the person actually died, scaring people. If the person who died was important, multiple banshees would come a-wailin’. Over time, however, banshees became a bad omen, their screams actually causing death (this was thought to just be the scream of a barn owl). And instead of faeries, they’re thought to be ghosts of murdered women or those who have died in childbirth.

12. bloody mary

Stop. Calling. Me.

Bloody Mary is a mirror-dwelling hag loosely based on Mary I of England. The myth is if a girl walked backwards up stairs with a candle in a dark house while looking into a mirror, she might fall and break her neck. If she avoids that, she would either see her future husband’s face in the mirror, or that of Bloody Mary, meaning she’ll die before marriage.

Not only is this silly, but it’s not even a little bit true. The dim light of this ritual combined with extended gazing into a mirror can cause delusions or self-hypnosis. The only face you see in the mirror is out of you imagination. Sorry, ladies.

13. headless horseman

Hi ho Silver, awaaaaaaaaaay.

The headless horseman, is, believe it or not, a faerie! He’s an Irish faerie that causes death by stopping and calling out a name (that person croaks). In Germany, he specifically targets those who have committed capital crimes or he uses fire-tongued hell-hounds to go hunting.

The headless horseman appears in literature in varying forms. He appears in the Arthurian legend Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as said Green Knight who tricks Sir Gawain to dishonor. Of course, the headless horseman appears in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, though he’s much less scary in the book than in the movie. Sleepy Hollow is the only work that gives an origin for the horseman, as a Hessian soldier whose head was blown off during the Revolutionary War.