Shaving vs. Waxing: What’s Better for Your Skin?

Two routes to smooth, hair-free skin
woman shaving her legs

It’s the eternal struggle of hair removal – the debate between shaving and waxing.

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Some people shave or wax to enjoy smooth, hair-free legs, armpits, faces and bikini lines, while others do it to sport smooth and hairless chests and backs.

But what’s easier and better for your skin (and wallet)? Dermatologist Sarah Young, MD, gives us the pros and cons of shaving and waxing.

Shaving pros

  • Quick and easy to do at home as part of a daily routine.
  • Razors and shaving cream cost very little compared to salon waxes.
  • Shaving is not painful as it’s only removing the hair follicle from the surface of the skin and leaves the root intact.
  • Your hair can be any length to shave.

Shaving cons

  • Shaving can cause inflamed hair follicles, itching, ingrown hairs and razor burn.
  • Results only last 1 to 3 days.
  • Dull blades can cause irritation and cuts.

Waxing pros

  • Skin may feel smoother and hair can start to come in thinner over time with waxing.
  • Waxing can serve as a form of exfoliation.  
  • Results for waxing last between 3 and 4 weeks.

Waxing cons

  • Waxing can be painful depending on who you ask and their pain tolerance. Because the hair is removed at the root, some people say waxing is more painful than shaving. The hot wax can also burn your skin if you’re not careful.  
  • Waxing can cause inflamed hair follicles, pain, redness, ingrown hairs and skin irritation.
  • Removing female facial hair while using retinoid anti-aging or acne products can lead to abrasions, infection and even scarring, so be sure to do your homework before trying a wax.  
  • Your hair must be ¼” to ½” to be waxed.

Shaving tips

Take your time with shaving and use moisturizing products if your skin is sensitive. Never shave dry and choose shaving cream over soap. Wait until the end of your shower or bath to shave, when pores are open and skin has softened. One of the top shaving mistakes is shaving “against the grain,” so instead, shave in the direction that your hair grows to avoid ingrown hairs.  

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Waxing tips

Waxing takes skill, so start at a salon or have someone more experienced teach you how to do it first. Keep an eye on temperatures when warming the wax to avoid burning your skin. For the best results, splurge on a trip to the salon with a professional.

The bottom line

Both techniques get rid of unnecessary hair and leave your skin feeling smooth. But both require extra care in sensitive areas – the bikini line for waxing and the joints, skin folds and bikini line for shaving.

It’s worth experimenting with both shaving and waxing to find out what method you prefer (and maybe even look into laser hair removal). Specific hair type, skin type and area that you’d like to remove hair from will all play a factor in your decision. The cost and ease of access is another important aspect to consider.

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In the end, it comes down to your own personal preference, but a board certified dermatologist can give you solid advice and discuss what option might be best for you, especially when it comes to your hair and skin.

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