To Wax or Epilate: That's the Question!

Since writing my first article about hair removal I have done quite a bit of experimenting. (If you're new to hair removal, I recommend you read that article first.) Not every experiment worked out well for me, but they did lead me to my current method of hair removal, which works well and with minimal cost.

Home Waxing

I am a big fan of waxing and if money is no object, going to a professional at a waxing salon still gets my vote as the number one way to have your hair removed. And I still recommend Strip Ministry of Waxing. Not only are they one of the few waxing salons that accept men as clients, but they are also clean, friendly and professional.

But for most of us, money is an object and the $400 plus price tag for a full body waxing is daunting. Think how much makeup you could buy with $400? Or dresses? Or perfume? There's got to be a cheaper way and DIY'ing it at home seemed like a natural.

Wax Strips and Wax Pots

I have been using Nairs Wax Strips which work quite well, but do not deliver the "salon quality" results I craved. After much reading and not without considerable worry, I decided to upgrade to a more professional setup. I bought a waxing pot, some wooden spatulas and a large roll of waxing "paper." There's a long-raging debate about what type of wax is best. Some people are devoted to soft wax, some to hard wax, and some feel that both are appropriate, depending on what body part you are waxing. I bought both soft and hard wax so I could find out for myself. For comparison purposes, I planned to use hard wax on my left side and soft wax on the right.

Since I expected my first effort to take a while, I waited for a Saturday when I didn't have anything else to do but wax. When the day arrived, I assembled my materials, put a drop cloth on the floor to protect it, put the soft wax into the wax heater and turned it on. I was excited but a little nervous. My nervousness turned out to be justified. What followed wasn't my proudest moment.

As per instructions, I powdered my skin with baby powder then took a spatula and used it to apply the wax along my skin in the direction of hair growth. Then I cut off a length of waxing strip from my roll and applied it, smoothing it down, also along the hair growth. I pulled it taught, and yanked it off against the direction of hair growth as best as I could.

The results were not what I had hoped for. There were some hair free patches, but there were also areas where the hair remained covered with a now hardened and, ironically, a protective wax coating! It looked pretty bad, truthfully. And I had no idea what to do about the areas of hair now being protected by the wax that was supposed to remove them!

One of the most repeated warnings about waxing is not to let the wax get too hot. Perhaps I had taken that warning too much to heart? When applying the wax, I noticed that it was difficult to apply evenly and smoothly, and it seemed thick and gloppy, not like the stuff they use at the salon. But perhaps it wasn't the wax that was the problem, but the temperature? I increased the temperature of the wax and tried again. The increased temperature made things work significantly better. It was wax on, hair off and things were working better. Unfortunately, the results were still far from the silky smooth perfection I had come to expect from my waxing experiences with the Pros at the Strip Ministry of Waxing. My admiration for them, already high, was growing with every new attempt I made.

After a few more efforts, I could see that with a substantial amount of practice, I could get pretty good at doing this. Meanwhile, I looked awful but I was expecting to look awful, this being my first time. It was time to try the hard wax on my left side.

The hard wax came in bags filled with solid little pellets. I dumped a bunch into the pot and, thanks to my experience with the soft wax, brought it to a much higher and more proper temperature right away. You don't use waxing strips with hard wax. As with the soft wax, you smear it on with a spatula, in the direction of hair growth, but then just wait for it to harden, and pull it off in the opposite direction.

I found hard waxing to be quite a bit easier than the soft wax. Of course, I was able to apply the experience I had just gained from my soft waxing experience, but even so, it was easier to handle. I soon realized that the problem with hard wax is that, if you have a lot of real-estate to remove hair from, it's not really practical. You consume vast amounts of hard wax. So count me among those who feel that both waxes are good, depending on where you are doing the waxing. This goes along with my experience with the "pros," who use soft wax for torsos, arms, and legs, and hard wax for those delicate areas.

Clean up

At this point, while I was obviously much more educated about self-waxing, I was also a sticky, waxy, semi-hairless mess. Clean-up from my previous waxing experiences had been easy - just a quick shower. Unfortunately, a hot shower proved ineffective in removing the thick coats of wax I had managed to layer on myself in my first experiments. And that stuff is sticky! I wasn't prepared for this!

A bit of research told me that the best thing to remove this sort of wax was mineral oil. Naturally, I didn't have mineral oil around. I could have gone to the drug store, but any clothes I wore on the way there would probably be worn for the last time. The idea of trekking around town with clothing glued to my body wasn't exactly appealing either. In desperation, I tried some vegetable cooking oil. Fortunately, this worked, saving me a potentially unpleasant and embarrassing visit to the drug store.

Conclusion

My conclusions at this point were that home waxing was something I could do, and eventually even do well. But it was going to take a lot of practice, and that was going to take a while. It was also messy. These were not the results I was hoping for. SheDaddy had been following my efforts with amusement and interest. She suggested I try an epilator, which is her personal choice for home hair removal.

Epilators

I had avoided epilators because of my impression that their primary use is by sadistic third-world dictators to torture spies. But my experiences with home waxing, combined with my total trust of SheDaddy led me to my purchase of a Braun Silk-epil 9 9-579 Women's Epilator from Amazon. It takes a bit of practice, but once you have learned how to use it, I find it gives results which are very close to waxing.

How to Epilate

You want to read the instructions for your epilator carefully. Mine came with heads that are "more gentle" and heads that are "less gentle." It also has two speeds. I'm not going to lie: it hurts. But it's not that bad. And anyway, pain is just a feeling that you feel, like feeling hot or cold, sad or happy. As long as it is not chronic, it will pass and quickly too, so just deal with it.

Braun recommends that you use the "gentle head" and a "low speed" at the beginning, which I did. However, that takes a lot longer and is not as effective. By the second or third time I was using it, I kept it cranked up to the full speed and was using the most aggressive head. I found that unlike a razor, an epilator requires you to move fairly slowly, and often more than once over the same area. Once you figure out the right combination of speed and direction for your various skin areas, you will be quite happy with the results. I find taking a warm shower and ex-foliating before epilating also seems to help. You can use the Braun in the shower, but I haven't tried that.

Delicate Areas

I don't epilate my private parts. I tried this but did not find it worked very well. Also (and those of you with delicate sensibilities should now skip to the next paragraph), unless you are quite careful, your scrotal sack will get sucked inside the epilator. While this is alarming and, fucking scary, it didn't damage me. Still, it is not something I wish to repeat.

So for my private parts, I use hard wax. It takes only a few moments and works much better. You may have a different experience.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Professional waxing still wins in every category but expense. As far as home waxing versus epilating: Epilating hurts more but is less messy. It is also much easier to learn to do well. Waxing hurts less but is messier and much harder to learn. As far as results, I think they are all quite comparable when done well. Epilating doesn't seem to last quite as long as waxing, I find I need to epilate a bit more frequently than I needed to wax. On the plus side, recovery from epilation is quicker. After a waxing, my skin was red for several days. When I epilate the redness is typically gone by the next day. Here's a table that summarizes the results:

  Pro Waxing; Home Waxing Home Epilating
Cost $$$$$ $$ $
Recovery Time 4-5 days 4-5 days 1 day
Pain Ouch OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH
Ease of Cleanup Not Bad Pain in the butt. Nothing to it.
How long does it last? 3-4 weeks 3-4 weeks 3 weeks or less
How Hard to learn? NA VERY Hard Easy

Thanks for reading!

I hope this has been helpful. I'm always happy to get good suggestions and nice comments. If you have some, feel free to