Best Option: Wax
"The hair in the bikini area tends to be coarse and thick, which is ideal for waxing. Plus, since the hair is pulled out from the root, it grows back thinner over time," says Katherine Goldman, owner of Strip Bar Wax in San Francisco.
Bikini Line: Expert Waxing Tips
Whether you have an appointment with a professional or you're going the DIY route, make sure that the hair is at least 1/4 inch long, says Goldman.
Avoid extreme heat or exercise for 24 hours postwax to prevent irritation. This includes sunbathing (a no-no regardless!), saunas, and hot tubs.
Do not shave between waxes, warns Goldman.
Bikini Line Runner-Up
Shaving the bikini area can be a bit tricky, but it's a cheap, quick, and, most of all, painless alternative to waxing. It's also more convenient during the summer since you don't have to let your hair grow out very much between sessions.
Bikini Line: Expert Shaving Tips
• Make sure you soften the hair with warm water before you shave and use a moisture-rich shave gel, according to the experts who make Venus razors.
• It helps to pull the skin taut to create a level surface that's easier to maneuver. You should also shave in the direction that the hair grows to minimize itchy, red bumps.
• If you're planning a day at the pool or beach, shave in the evening to avoid irritation from sun, salt, or chlorine.
Bikini Line Must-Have: Shaveworks The Cool Fix
Bikini Line Must-Have: Bliss Poetic Waxing Kit
Best Option: Shaving
When it comes to hair removal on your legs, shaving is a no-brainer, especially during the summer months, and not just for its convenience. "Unlike waxing, you don't have to wait for the hair to grow out before removing it," says NYC dermatologist Doris Day. Another bonus: You're less likely to suffer from ingrown hairs.
Legs: Expert Shaving Tips
• Hang out in the shower or bath for about 15 minutes before you start to shave to soften the hair. Any longer and your skin will wrinkle and swell slightly, making it harder to score a close shave, according to the experts who make Venus razors.
• Lube up your legs with a moisture-rich shave gel to ensure that the razor glides easily over your skin (read: no nicks!). If you run out, reach for hair conditioner over regular soap, which causes dryness.
• Change your blade at the first sign of dullness (usually after about 10 shaves). You should also invest in a 4- or 5-blade razor. These versions provide the smoothest results.
Chemical hair removers have a bad rep for being messy and stinky, but the latest versions are surprisingly simple to use, and some even smell good. Another benefit: Depilatories dissolve the hair right under the surface of the skin so the regrowth is finer than with shaving.
Legs: Expert Depilatory Tips
• Test it on a small patch of skin first to make sure you're not allergic to the solution. When in doubt look for the word "sensitive" on the label so you know it's a gentle formula.
• Don't use a depilatory product on skin that has been shaved in the last 72 hours or you'll risk irritation.
• Follow the directions. "I've seen chemical burns from people who left the product on for too long," says Day. It's better to repeat the treatment until you get your desired results.
Legs Must-Have: Venus Embrace
Legs Must-Have: Completely Bare Completely Smooth Hair Inhibitor
Apply this lotion twice a day to your legs and your hair will grow in finer and sparser.
Best Option: Shaving
Underarm hair grows almost 50 percent faster than the hair on your legs, according to the experts who make Venus razors. That's why shaving gets our vote for the ideal hair-removal method — it's quick and easy.
Underarms: Expert Shaving Tips
• Wash your underarms with soap and water to remove razor-clogging oil and antiperspirant/deodorant residue.
• To get those hard-to-reach hairs, lift your arm high and straight above your head while shaving. This pulls the skin taut, eliminating creases where hair may hide.
• Underarm hair grows in different directions, so use a 5-bladed razor to shave from all three angles — up, down, and sideways — for the smoothest results. Finish by rinsing with cool water to close your pores.
It's definitely not the cheapest (or most painless) alternative to shaving, but if you're constantly defuzzing your underarms, you might want to consider laser hair removal. Once an area is treated as little as three times, you'll see an average of 70 percent hair reduction. After eight treatments, most hair follicles should be gone.
Underarms: Expert Laser Tips
• It's not a good idea to start getting zapped right before summer since lasers make your skin more sensitive to the sun, putting you at risk for burns and pigmentation issues.
• For the best results, go to a spa that specializes in permanent hair removal to be sure that the technician has special training in the precise laser settings for your skin color, hair density, and the area of your body being treated, says Cindy Barshop, owner of Completely Bare spas.
•l The latest at-home laser devices, like the Tria ($795), the Silk'n Sensepil ($500), and the no!no! ($99) are actually worth investing in, but there is a downside: You won't be totally hair-free (i.e., you'll still be shaving) for a few months. It takes a full two weeks before you see any hair loss, and treatments are recommended every two to four weeks thereafter.
Underarms Must-Have: Satin Care Alluring Avocado Shave Gel
Underarms Must-Have: Secret Smooth Effects
Best Option: Wax Strips
Unlike traditional hot wax, which can be tricky to maneuver on your nondominant arm, these precoated strips work at room temperature and require minimal effort to use, says NYC dermatologist Doris Day. And, since the hair is ripped out from the root, it grows in finer and softer than with shaving so you don't have to worry about embarrassing stubble.
Forearms: Expert Wax Strip Tips
• Before you apply the strips, trim your arm hair to between 1/2" and 1/4". Then sprinkle on a bit of baby powder to prevent the wax from sticking to your skin.
• Hold your skin taut and rip off the strip horizontally (as opposed to pulling it upward) in the opposite direction of hair growth. Hint: The quicker you go, the less painful it'll be.
• Remove any remaining wax with a cotton ball dipped in baby oil. Avoid water, soap, or anything with alcohol.
The only thing worse than noticeable arm hair: dark stubble. That makes shaving your arms a major no-no. But if the thought of waxing makes you wince, and you don't want to splurge on laser treatments, consider using a depilatory. Unlike the stinky, messy versions in the past, the latest chemical hair removers are user-friendly and actually smell good.
Forearms: Expert Depilatory Tips
Test it on a small patch of skin first to make sure you're not allergic. When in doubt, look for the word "sensitive" on the label so you know it's a gentle formula.
Don't use a depilatory product on skin that has been shaved in the last 72 hours or you'll risk irritation, and stay out of the sun for 24 hours before and after you defuzz your arms to prevent a rash.
To prolong the smooth look, use a hair-inhibiting cream daily to turn thick arm hair into thinner, softer strands. This will also buy you more time between removal sessions.