The pros agree: Directions are important. So when it comes to home facial hair removal products and systems, follow the package directions. When it comes to depilatory creams, "body" does not mean "face." Wax doesn't work better if it's hotter. (In fact, you'll scald your skin!) Lasers are not more effective when left on for minutes rather than seconds. We talked to Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, director of Mariwalla Dermatology, and Dr. Christine Schaffner, naturopathic physician and owner of Bella Fiore Organic Med Spa, for their expert advice on facial hair removal.
There's a handful of options, including depilatory creams and lasers, available for at-home facial hair removal, but Dr. Mariwalla recommends wax. "People do better over the long run with waxing," she says. This is because routinely pulling hair out from the root induces alopecia, which limits hair growth and can even stop scruff from coming back completely in certain areas. When searching the shelves for wax, Mariwalla prefers pots to premade strips, as many get too hot.
For those who are looking for a more natural option Dr. Schaffner recommends a honey-based wax or waxes with organic ingredients, like products from MOOM. Since these are made without harsh chemicals, they are less likely to irritate sensitive face skin.
No matter your wax of choice, for pro results at home, make sure to pull in the direction your hair grows, as opposed to against the hair. Waxing against the hair will cause skin irritation. Red bumps aren't sexy.
If wax isn't your facial hair removal method of choice, Mariwalla says depilatory creams work, but be careful.
Pro: These creams chemically dissolve hair and dead skin cells without nicks or stubble. Con: chemicals. These creams—Dr. Mariwalla specifies Nair and Veet—often have a chemical scent, though scents in varieties including floral and tropical are now hitting the shelves. Chemicals also can cause a burning sensation and irritation. Since the chemicals in depilatory creams literally dissolve your hair, "you might want to be careful on the face because they are pretty harsh," Dr. Mariwalla explains. If you don't have sensitive skin or want to give one a try, check out Olay and Nair, both of which make face-specific options.
If all this sounds like a lot of work, Schaffner suggests an even lower maintenance method of hair removal—shaving.
"It's a practical hair removal technique that a lot of people use," Dr. Schaffner says. It's important not only to find a hydrating shaving cream but also to apply your favorite moisturizer after you shave.
While you should worry about moisturizing, there are some falsehoods you can forget. "It's a myth that if you shave your hair, it comes back more coarse," Dr. Mariwalla says. "Under normal circumstances our hair is tapered at the end, so when you shave it flat, it grows out head first. That's what makes it feel thicker, but it's not." However, she cautions that shaving your hair can change it from baby hair to more terminal, or "beard hair."
If you're one for gadgets, Dr. Mariwalla says at-home lasers can work, but the results are significantly better if you have light skin and dark hair. If you fit that description, she suggests the Tria (see our staff review of the laser). She says people have better results with laser treatments when they're done by a dermatologist.
Dr. Schaffner agrees, saying a medical-grade laser is "a sophisticated piece of equipment." There is a lot of training that goes into learning to correctly handle a medical-grade laser, so she is skeptical of the at-home results. She thinks it should be more of a hair reduction tool.