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My Life as Told by Hair Removal Techniques

Here’s what works, what hurts, and what you should avoid altogether.

Photo: Juniorbeep/Getty Images

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Since the day I entered this world, I’ve been hairy. Even as a toddler I had long, bouncy ringlets and insanely expressive eyebrows. I looked like the world’s youngest Mary Pickford impersonator.

Once puberty set in, I only got hairier, with no fellow Mediterranean kids to relate to. My mother is American-Italian (with random sprinkles of other countries in Eastern Europe). My father is Jordanian and part Syrian. I’ve been traveling since I was 2 years old and I’ve been educated in four countries. However, most of that time was spent in the predominately white suburbia of Tampa, Florida, where I totally stood out.

At first, I didn’t realize I looked very different from the rest of the girls in youth soccer. But slowly, hints started to emerge that I did. I was always typecast as a Native American and not a pilgrim in the Thanksgiving plays (which was clearly problematic to begin with). I didn’t understand what people meant when they constantly asked me “Where are you from?” because I kept thinking “Here! Obviously!” And nearly all my friends had started shaving their leg and arm hair, which confused me because they were blonde.

At age 10, my parents told me that I was too young to shave. They’d always encouraged self-love and natural beauty, but I was becoming unhappier by the minute. Thankfully, my mother eventually took pity on her very hairy daughter, and thus began my 13-year exploration of various hair removal techniques. Here is what’s worth my (and your) time, money, and resilience, if it’s something you choose to do.


Waxing

Pain level: ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ (out of ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ )

Effectiveness: ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ (out of ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ )

Best for: Anything below the neck

Plenty of people wax; my father once told me that one of his earliest memories is of his aunts and cousins holding lemon-water-sugar waxing parties. And waxing was my first real brush with hair removal, besides the time I was 4 and found my mom’s razor and decided to basically shave my face off.

My mother first introduced 10-year-old me to Nads at-home waxing; she kept repeating “BEAUTY IS PAIN!” She wasn’t wrong. Still, I allowed her to keep waxing my arms and legs throughout my childhood. I finally felt at ease with myself and at peace with all the hairlessness of pop culture.

As I grew up, I visited waxing salons to tend to nearly every part of my body. It’s not a great time (and it takes way longer than I’d like). But I stopped waxing my eyebrows years ago because of a fear my skin will get saggy from the wax strips pulling at my skin. In college, I tried using pre-waxed strips at home, which worked, but mostly because I was too lazy and broke to go to an actual salon.

The summer of 2016 marked the dawn of a new waxing moment for me when a true angel, an aesthetician named Sarah, influenced me to try chocolate waxing, which consists of anti-inflammatory components, such as actual cocoa, making it less painful on sensitive skin. No, it doesn’t smell like any chocolate I’d like to eat, but it does feel smoother and thicker on initial application. This option is usually a little more expensive, but my skin isn’t aggravated and the process is bearable. I will never tell you where I go for this because I need Sarah all to myself, but trust me, it works.


Threading

Pain level: ✂️ ✂️ ✂️

Effectiveness: ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️

Best for: Anything on your face

I lived in Amman, Jordan, when I was 11, and my mother revealed to me how all the beautiful Jordanian women threaded their eyebrows, upper lips, and entire jawline. It takes time getting used to, pain-wise, but I’m pretty tolerant now, and my eyebrows always look great afterwards. I recommend it so loudly and often for any type of facial hair removal that my male cousins started doing it. (I’m a big proponent of all genders threading their brows.)

I got bullied in middle school for my thick eyebrows, but now they’re the first thing I get complimented on. Oh, how the tables have turned.


Laser Hair Removal

Pain level: ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️

Effectiveness: ✂️ ✂️

Best for: Torturing your enemies

When I was in college, I decided to try laser hair removal treatments, thinking it would forever solve my hair concerns. I have a pretty decent pain tolerance, but I have never bawled so hard in my life from physical pain than when I got my first Brazilian laser treatment... which ended up taking seven sessions. My mom had to eventually sit in the room with me, holding my hand as if I were in labor.

I never did that again. I was supposed to undergo even more sessions, but the pain was getting worse each time and I had to stop. It wasn’t worth that amount of agony — waxing is a cakewalk in comparison. To top it all off, the process cost around a whopping $1,200. The only upside was my hair did become finer (although kind of patchy?). Other than that, goodbye!


Home Laser Hair Removal

Pain level: ✂️

Effectiveness: ✂️

Best for: Those times you want to waste money

Yes, I did, in fact, buy the As Seen On TV NO!NO! Laser. It was pretty cool, but the appeal was lost since it couldn’t tackle my thick hair and barely worked at all.


Nair

Pain level: ✂️

Effectiveness: ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️

Best for: Arms + pits

I was very skeptical about Nair after reading horror stories of people accidentally using it as shampoo, but after college, I decided to step away from the pre-waxed strips. I did my research and found a version that would work best for my skin and effort level (a.k.a. the bare minimum). I was pleasantly surprised when I tried the Nair Cream with Argan Oil. Obviously, you should always be careful when using chemicals like Nair — an innocent scratching of your face can turn into the elimination of an eyebrow.

I don’t really use the cream for any other body part except my arms, and they are doing just fine. The regrowth process takes a long time, and I usually wait until it looks really hairy (or I notice I am subconsciously playing with my arm hair) to start the removal process again; say, every two months or so. The downside is that the products do smell strongly, but hey, I’m going from Chewbacca to Princess Leia — I can deal.


Tweezing

Pain level: ✂️✂️

Effectiveness: ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️

Best for: Any straggler hairs

Like I said, I’m a hair-removal veteran, therefore I own two pairs of tweezers.


Shaving

Pain level: ✂️

Effectiveness: ✂️ ✂️ ✂️ ✂️

Best for: Legs

Of course, there’s always tried-and-true shaving. When I lived in Florida, I felt like I was shaving all the time, since every season is shorts season. I do it, you do it, we’ve all done it. However, I’ve probably spent way more money on overpriced razors than a lot of people, because as I learned all those years ago, you can get away with not shaving blonde hair a lot longer.


Brow Razors

Pain level: ✂️

Effectiveness: ✂️ ✂️ ✂️

Best for: “Peach fuzz”

Little inside scoop: I don’t use these for my eyebrows, but for my upper lip. My mother hates that I shave it and always tells me that my hair will grow back thicker and I’ll have to shave it ever more often. I don’t care if it’s not condoned; it works, it’s fast, and I’m not in pain.


Now that I’ve progressed past my experimental hair removal phase and into a more consistent routine, I’m able to start the next chapter of my personal beauty book and focus my obsession on skincare. Rose water, sunblock, lavender cream, aloe oils; does the self-improvement ever end? But I’ve learned to love myself even at my hairiest, and there are long periods of time where I don’t rush to remove every hair the minute it appears. I’m comfortable enough in my body that I can decide when I want something removed. When I do want it gone, though, I know exactly what to do.