There’s a whole arsenal of hair removal methods to choose from, whether it’s eyebrow threading, upper lip laser, bikini or Brazilian waxing, or home laser hair removal for a sustainable option. And tried-and-true methods like hair removal cream or shaving are two of our favorites, given how quick and easy they are to use, whatever pain points you’re targeting.
If you need an affordable and simple method to do at home, you can’t go wrong with hair removal cream or a razor used in the shower. But the trick is to use the right technique in the right place.
Below, we’ve detailed the pros and cons of hair removal cream versus shaving, as well as the best places to use them and why. In our guide, you’ll also find out how long each method takes and why you might choose to use hair removal creams over a razor, and vice versa.
How does hair removal cream work and how long does it last?
“Depilatory creams break down the structure of keratin; hair proteins”, explains Hasna Khabarate, graduate beautician Park Slope Laser (opens in a new tab). “This effectively thins and dissolves the base of the hairs to the point where they are weak enough to be broken off when the cream is wiped off.”
Essentially, hair removal creams melt away all your unwanted hair – all you have to do is rinse and go.
And if you’re wondering how long this method of hair removal lasts, the results are quite long-lasting, especially compared to shaving. Clinical dermatologist Dr Ailynne Marie Vergara-Wijangco, owner of VW Dermatology (opens in a new tab)“Depilatory creams penetrate under the skin to remove hair and leave you stubble-free for up to a week, unlike shaving, where regrowth occurs much faster, usually within days.”
The pros and cons of hair removal creams
“Depilatory creams are readily available, relatively inexpensive, and, as long as you don’t have sensitive skin, completely painless,” says Dr. Vergara-Wijangco. “This type of cream is also quite easy to use: just spread it on, wait a few minutes and wash it off.”
Hair removal creams are also quick to use and leave you with incredibly soft, stubble-free skin. Many products are also formulated with moisturizing ingredients to keep your skin silky soft. Needless to say, this hair removal method has many brilliant advantages. But you should always use hair removal creams with caution.
“The downside of creams is that they pose a potential risk of skin sensitivity, which can lead to redness, irritation and burning,” notes Dr. Vergara-Wijangco. “In order to make sure your skin won’t have a negative reaction to the hair removal cream, you’ll want to perform a patch test before application.”
It is also essential that you follow the timing instructions on the product packaging. Leaving fast-acting hair removal cream on your skin for even a minute or two longer than the recommended time limit can cause chemical burns and irritation. But, unlike shaving, you don’t have to worry about uncomfortable razor burns, unsightly bumps or ingrown hairs.
How does shaving work and how long does it take?
While hair removal creams dissolve hair proteins below the surface of your skin, razor blades work by cutting the ends of each hair, down to the surface of the skin.
Dr. Vergara-Wijangco explained: “When you shave, your razor cuts the hairs from the surface of the skin, while the strand and root remain unchanged. Then, once the root pushes a new strand to the surface, it creates thatch.
“Depending on your genetics, this hair regrowth can happen very quickly,” she says. For some, this may mean noticing prickly patches the same day or the next. But others can get away with not shaving for a few days before they start seeing regrowth.
The pros and cons of shaving
“Shaving is the most popular method of hair removal, and for good reason,” says Dr. Vergara-Wijangco, especially for active women who just want a quick touch-up without the effort of slathering on hair removal creams. “Shaving is cheap, easy and, unless you cut yourself, painless. Since all you need is a razor and shaving cream, it’s easy to see why those short on time would opt for this method of hair removal,” she adds.
However, it can leave your skin feeling dry and stingy, even at the end of the day. “Although the myth is that shaving makes hair thicker, the sharp angle at which the hair is cut during shaving will make it look thicker,” says Dr. Vergara-Wijangco.
Ingrown hairs are another common shaving drawback that many people struggle with. These can cause skin bumps, itchiness, and irritation. If you’re one of them, this hair removal method might actually create more problems for you than it solves.
Also, as mentioned, regrowth when it comes to shaving can be much faster – some even notice small bits of stubble appearing the very next day after shaving. For those who want a method that doesn’t require touch-ups, shaving isn’t the best option – something much more permanent, like laser hair removal, might be far better.
Where to use hair removal cream in relation to shaving
Shavers and hair removal creams are great options for quick and affordable at-home hair removal. “The cost between waxing and shaving is usually not too different,” says Khabarate.
And, as Dr. Vergara-Wijangco adds, “While there’s no right or wrong answer, creams win when it comes to long-lasting results, while shaving wins when it comes to convenience and ease.”
If you want the best of both worlds, here are our recommendations for when to use hair removal cream or shaving cream:
1. Opt for shaving for silky smooth legs
If you don’t have a lot of time (eg before a big event!), using hair removal cream in a hurry means you might end up with patchy patches on your legs. And if you miss a spot, you probably shouldn’t reapply the hair removal cream because they shouldn’t be used too often.
That’s why shaving can work better to keep your legs evenly stubble-free because you can easily deal with missed spots without the hassle.
“In order to get the closest shave possible, be sure to shave versus hair growth. This means starting near your ankle and working your way up to your knee. Follow up with a dab of alcohol-free lotion, which locks in moisture and gives your legs a smooth, bump-free shine,” suggests Dr. Vergara-Wijangco.
2. Use a hair removal cream specially formulated for the bikini area
To avoid annoying razor bumps and ingrown hairs around the bikini area, opt for a hair removal cream specifically designed for use around these intimate areas. This is one of the best ways to remove pubic hair without shaving.
A hair removal cream will remove unwanted hair in minutes and leave your skin softer and smoother than ever. Plus, the results will be more long-lasting, so you don’t have to worry about touch-ups in that sensitive spot for a while.
Just be sure to test the cream on a small patch of skin first (to see how you react to it), keep the product away from any internal areas of your genitals, and follow the timing instructions exactly.
3. Opt for a facial shaver for all smaller areas
For everywhere, from the upper lip and chin to the hairline and eyebrows, a small facial razor (opens in a new tab) can work wonders in areas where you need precision and control.
Keep in mind this is not the same tool as the razor you use on your legs – instead look for one that’s about the size of a toothbrush and designed specifically for use on the face. To avoid any irritation, apply a shaving gel and then apply a moisturizer. And, if you’re wondering how to permanently remove facial hair, look no further than our guide.
4. Both methods are great for your armpits
In the debate between hair removal cream and shaving, both options can be equally useful for your armpits, although depending on your hair type, you may prefer one over the other. Dr. Vergara-Wijangco notes, “If you have dark, coarse or fast-growing hair, you may want to turn to cream as your chosen hair removal method, as the results will be longer lasting.”
But, if you want a quick method of eliminating fuzz, you can use that before you run out, because who doesn’t forgot about armpit hair until it was time to put on a sleeveless top – stick with your trusty razor. Take it easy and be sure to use a shaving cream to avoid ingrown hairs or irritation.