The temperatures are starting to drop (welcome, fall!) and even though you’re bearing less skin these days, you still want to be stubble-free—'cause ya never know when your bare skin will need to make a surprise debut. Choose your go-to hair removal method below, and then follow the expert tips for a smoother finish.
 
If you shave…

  • Lather, rinse, repeat…then shave: Shaving should be your final step before leaving the shower. The warm moisture of a shower makes hairs soft and plump and opens your pores, making for a smoother shave session says Lauren Zeifman, founder of Park Avenue Skin Solutions.
  • Use a shaving cream: Here’s where it pays to get the right products. Instead of using soap or conditioner, a shaving cream or gel pushes moisture into the hair and reduces the force required to cut through the hair, says Zeifman. Bonus: shaving creams contain a slippery polymer system that helps the razor glide over skin to prevent nicks.
  • Get a hold of sensitive areas: For your underarms and bikini (or any place where the hair grows in different directions), try pulling the skin slightly—making it more taut makes it easier to shave.
  • Minimize razor burn: Get warmed up! Shaving when you have goose bumps makes for a painful experience. Also, aim to make the fewest passes with your blade to ease razor burn.
 
If you wax…
  • Be healthy: “Avoid waxing when you’re hungover, overtired, stressed or over caffeinated,” says Lura Jones, lead esthetician at Stark Waxing Studio in New York City. Your body is more sensitive to pain during these times.
  • Go long: Don’t trim hair before a wax. “When you have short hair, it’s more difficult for the wax to grab the hair and the experience will be more painful,” says Wendy Allred, Bliss Spa Director of Training and Education.
  • Use meds to alleviate discomfort: Allred says some waxers swear by a pre-treatment Advil or two. “If you’re really bothered by the pain, your doctor can prescribe EMLA cream, which totally numbs the surface of the skin,” she says.
  • Ease off prescription exfoliating products: A week before waxing areas on your face, stop using Rx creams or retinoid products. Anti-aging and anti-acne creams can increase the risk of skin damage, says Jones.
 
If you use a depilatory…
  • Choose the right formula: Spray-on depilatories cover larger areas (like legs and arms) more quickly, while creams meant for the bikini or underarms are gentler and help soothe sensitive skin.
  • Say goodbye to ingrowns: A benefit of depilatory creams is that the tip of the hair is left smooth and rounded, so you’re less likely to get ingrown hairs, says Dr. Steve Hewitt, with Veet Research and Development.
  • Prep skin: Before using a depilatory, wash the area with soap and water and dry off. Why? “Dirt and oils can prevent the cream from coming into full contact with the base of the hair,” says Hewitt.
  • Pamper skin post-depilatory: For the next three days, avoid shaving, waxing or tanning—now is the time when your skin needs some TLC. If you’re not gentle on your skin, you may notice irritation or breakouts.
What is your preferred method of hair removal, and why do you love it?