Ways to Remove Leg Hair

You see them on runways, commercials, at the pool, and at the beach: women with flawlessly smooth legs with no signs of irritation or redness. What’s their secret to removing leg hair?

There’s an entire array of leg hair removal options to choose from, including the tried and true shaving and the more involved leg waxing and laser hair removal, among others. Factors that will help you make a decision include cost and how long you want the results to last. Hint: You can expect to pay more for hair removal options that last the longest, such as laser hair removal.

“How to remove the hair is a completely individual preference, based on cost, pain tolerance, and your skin and hair type,” says dermatologist Jami Miller, MD, of the Vanderbilt University department of medicine in Nashville, Tenn.

Here’s a primer that will help you choose the best option for your leg hair removal.

DIY Choices for Hair Removal

Shaving leg hair, the most affordable choice, can be done easily at home. High-end razors and shaving creams may be tempting, but Dr. Miller says you really only need to make sure your razor is sharp and clean, and has at most two blades. Using a moisturizing gel or cream can also help achieve a smoother shave.

With a little practice you should be able to get a close shave and very little razor burn or bumping. But depending on how fast your hair grows, you may need to shave again within a day or two to keep the same look and feel. Exfoliate gently between shaving sessions and moisturize after you bathe to help keep your skin soft and smooth.

Depilatories are drugstore creams and lotions that help to remove hair shortly after they are slathered on. Newer scents have replaced the unpleasant odor of original formulas. “Depilatories are easily done, but hair removal is often uneven,” says Miller. Additionally, skin that is easily irritated is likely to develop a rash due to the depilatory ingredients. The results tend to last longer than shaving, but not as long as waxing.

The Lowdown on Leg Waxing

Leg waxing is a hair removal procedure you can do at home or at a spa or salon. Hot wax is applied to the leg in patches. A clean cloth or paper is pressed onto the wax and then ripped off the skin, taking the wax and hair with it.

Waxing lasts longer than shaving off leg hair, but to be effective you will have to let the hair grow long enough for the wax to be able to pull it. “Letting the hair grow out isn’t appealing to some women, especially in mid-summer,” says Miller. Leg waxing is one of the more painful options, but hair becomes finer and easier to pull out the more you do it, she adds.

A razor burn-type of reaction is unlikely, but you may get some bumps as the hair grows back in. Gentle exfoliation and moisturizing will help.

Almost Permanent: Laser Hair Removal

During laser treatment, a low-energy beam is directed at the skin, where it is absorbed by the dark pigment in the hair follicles. With repeated treatments — usually at least three — this stops most hair growth, though re-treatment may eventually be needed.

“Laser is best for people with light skin, no tan, and with dark hair,” says Miller. White and pale blonde hair does not respond to laser treatment. “You should also not have laser hair removal if you have a tan, as you risk developing light spots that may be permanent,” warns Miller.

Women with dark skin and dark hair can opt for laser hair removal, but will have to check that their doctor has the right equipment. “Be sure to see a physician who is an expert at laser hair removal of darker skin types to minimize the risk of light spots,” says Miller. “Most people find it painful, but bearable.”

There is a slight risk of infection after laser hair removal, but the damage to your wallet may be what’s most painful. Insurance likely won’t cover the multiple sessions needed to remove all leg hair, so you will be paying out-of- pocket. Costs vary, so make sure to get an estimate from your doctor before you proceed. On the positive side, the results of laser hair removal last a long time, although after several years you will probably need to have stray re- growth treated again, says Miller.

Understanding Electrolysis

Electrolysis is a process in which a small needle is inserted into a hair follicle. The needle generates a spark of electricity that burns out the hair. As a result, it is not a good option for full leg treatments, although electrolysis is a good way to handle troubling hairs or patches. This is a better option for people who have light or white hair and it does not result in the white spots that plague some women after laser hair removal.

“Electrolysis is also expensive, requires several sessions, and can only treat a relatively small area at a time,” says Miller.

In your pursuit of smooth legs, it may be best to begin with the most affordable options. However, the choice will ultimately depend on your personal preferences regarding convenience, cost, and pain.

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