Waxing is regarded as the Holy Grail in hair removal since it yanks each hair follicle straight by its root. But there could be something to the old standby that’s already in your shower: the razor.
Shaving cuts the hair at the surface, instead of pulling the entire strand, so it requires more frequent upkeep. But when you’re tackling smaller areas like the upper lip, chin, and sideburns, you may want to consider subbing in shaving for waxing, says Alicia Barba, a Miami dermatologist from Barba Skin Clinic. It’s quick, convenient, and reduces the risk of potential side effects like ingrown hairs or bad reactions to the hot wax, she says.
But why aren’t we all doing it?
“There’s definitely a stigma associated with shaving your upper lip,” says Rachel Pritzker, a dermatologist at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology. “There are a lot of myths associated with shaving.”
For one, contrary to what your mom told you to talk you out of starting to shave your legs in middle school, the hairs won’t grow back thicker, she says. They just appear that way. “A hair normally tapers at the end when it comes off the skin, and when you shave it, you cut it flat so it looks a little darker afterwards,” Pritzker says. “It is a myth that it comes back thicker and darker because you’re not getting deep enough to change the nature of your hair.”
And even given the blunt nature of the shaved hair, it’s unlikely that it will grow back to be coarse enough to rival your boyfriend’s beard stubble. We have our lack of testosterone to thank for that. “Women don’t have these same hormones and most of the time produce what we call vellus hairs—those fine, fluffy hairs that are on the face,” Pritzker says. If you’ve noticed more rigid, dark facial hair, it could indicate a hormonal imbalance worth getting checked out by a doctor, she says.
To get rid of the vellus hairs in a flash, grab your razor (we like the five-blade Gillette Venus Embrace Sensitive) right after the shower when your skin is warm and moist, Dr. Pritzker says. Apply a gentle cleanser to the facial area to act as a skin-protecting lubricant, Dr. Barba says. “Shaving is basically an intense exfoliation, so you do want a buffer between the skin and the blades,” she says. Try Aveeno Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser, which is loaded with chamomile to reduce the risk of potential redness.
Ready to say goodbye to waxing forever? Not so fast. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with shaving the lip,” Pritzker says. “But given the amount of times that you have to shave and the irritation that you might experience with the upper lip, I think waxing is sometimes a better option.”
Though waxing isn’t side effect-free, the very nature of pulling the hair by the root promises longer-lasting results and fewer upkeep sessions overall. Repeated irritation from shaving can build up to cast a shadow on the skin, just like some women experience in their armpits, Pritzker says. This could take years of regularly shaving the area to form, she says, adding that there’s no harm in adopting a multifaceted approach of shaving in between waxing appointments or opting for more permanent laser hair removal.