Facial hair removal—9 effective methods reviewed by the professionals

All your options for hair removal from the face, rated on cost, longevity, and (dis)comfort level

Flatlay of a pink razor, a wax strip and an epilator
(Image credit: Getty Images )

Hair removal from your face can be a prickly subject among women. Whether you’re targeting stray brows, rambling hairlines, or unwanted fuzz around your upper lip and chin, you need to know: will it work? Will it hurt?

Unfortunately, when it comes to the removal of facial hair, the “most effective and painless may not go together,” says Erum N. Ilyas, M.D., M.B.E., F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group and CEO and founder of AmberNoon.

But don't be disheartened. Dr. Ilyas tells us that doesn’t mean you can’t find the right balance between pain and gain. We’ve laid out all the options in this facial hair removal roundup, to help you decide what’s right for you. 

Each method is rated for comfort—okay, pain—from lowest to highest, as well as effectiveness and cost. Plus, we’ll let you know which areas each type of treatment is  best for and whether it's a quick DIY solution or a more permanent option that you should leave to the professionals to do on your behalf. 

1. Shaving

Pain level: 1 out of 4

Effectiveness: Moderate but temporary, lasting about 2-4 days

Cost: $5 to $30 for a facial razor or disposable set

Best for: Fine hairs anywhere on the face

Worst for: Sensitive skin that’s prone to razor burn

“Shaving is effective and painless," says Dr. Ilyas. "However, relative to other options, the hair may return faster with this method.” This is because the razor cuts the hair strands halfway down, rather than removing them at the root like some other methods. 

For the best results, choose one of the best razors for women, specifically designed for hair removal from the face. When your skin is moist, apply a layer of shaving gel or cream and shave in the direction of your hair growth to avoid irritation.

2. Depilatory cream

Pain level: 1 out of 4

Effectiveness: High but temporary, lasting about 4-7 days

Cost: $4 to $25 for one container 

Best for: Patches of coarse and fine hair anywhere on or around the face

Worst for: Sensitive skin and precision brow shaping

“Depilatory creams may be both effective and painless but, with sensitive skin, there is a significant risk of skin irritation when left on too long,” Dr. Ilyas says. 

Depilatory creams break down hair proteins to dissolve undesirable fuzz, as well as coarser strands. Do a patch test to make sure your skin doesn’t react to the product, and never leave it on longer than the recommended duration. 

3. Topical prescription

Pain level: 1 out of 4

Effectiveness: High but temporary, lasting as long as it’s being used 

Cost: Around $200 for one container

Best for: Persistent hair growth around the upper lip, chin, cheeks, or hairline

Worst for: Precision brow shaping and quick fixes

Tired of dealing with the same annoying hairs that keep coming back? Speak with your dermatologist to see if a prescription cream, such as Vaniqa, could be the right solution. 

It’s definitely slow to start—you need to apply it daily and you’ll see results in about one to two month’s time—but that’s because it’s a treatment for slowing hair growth, not immediate hair removal. As long as you continue using it, this medication typically has a significant impact on keeping your face fuzz-free.

4. Tweezing

Woman tweezing eyebrow in handheld mirror

(Image credit: Getty Images )

Pain level: 2 out of 4

Effectiveness: High but temporary, lasting about 2-6 weeks

Cost: $2 to $30 for a set of tweezers

Best for: DIY removal of individual hairs around the face and precision eyebrow shaping

Worst for: Larger areas of hair growth and peach fuzz that’s too fine to pluck

“Waxing, plucking, and threading involve pulling the hair from the root,” Dr. Ilyas explains. Among other temporary facial hair removal methods, “these are likely the most effective but also the most painful!”

Plucking individual hairs with tweezers is ideal for stray hairs and precision jobs, such as shaping your eyebrows. It’s not the most comfortable option, but the pain is quick and entirely within your control if you tweeze at home. Plus, you can usually go for at least a month without needing to repeat the process. 

5. Epilation

Pain level: 3 out of 4

Effectiveness: High but temporary, lasting about 2-6 weeks

Cost: $30 to $100 for an epilator

Best for: DIY removal of larger areas of coarser hair that take too long to tweeze

Worst for: Precision brow shaping and very fine hair

Like tweezers, epilators work by plucking out facial hairs from the root, except they grab multiple hairs at a time. It’s similar to waxing, although no skin cells will be removed in the process. Epilators come in different shapes and sizes, so a smaller device designed for removing facial hair will be your best bet. 

Epilation has an advantage when it comes to larger areas of hair that you want to eliminate in one fell swoop. However, the process can leave you with redness and swelling, so you might want to follow up with a cold compress.

6. Threading

Pain level: 3 out of 4

Effectiveness: High but temporary, lasting about 2-6 weeks

Cost: $15 to $60 for a threading appointment 

Best for: Professional precision brow shaping and smaller areas, eg the upper lip

Worst for: DIY hair removal and acne-prone skin

Threading is an age-old hair removal technique that involves pulling cotton threads taut against unwanted hairs to pull them out from the root. The process doesn’t require any topical chemicals, which can be a plus, but the tugging can be uncomfortable. Since the threads are pulled across your skin, it can also be problematic if you’re dealing with bumps and acne.

Threading is a popular pick for eyebrow shaping, and it’s more efficient than plucking individual hairs. However, it’s not a method you’ll easily master at home, so you’ll likely need to visit a skilled professional to enjoy the benefits.

7. Waxing

Gold wax being applied above eyebrow with beauty spatula

(Image credit: Getty Images )

Pain level: 4 out of 4

Effectiveness: High but temporary, lasting about 2-6 weeks

Cost: $10 to $50 for a waxing appointment or a DIY waxing kit

Best for: Professional or DIY facial hair removal that lifts every last strand

Worst for: Quick fixes and sensitive skin

Waxing can be an effective choice for larger areas, as well as those needing more precision, such as your brows. It involves applying warm wax that gets pulled off, taking your unwanted hairs with it. While it doesn't bother some people, the ripping sensation can be very uncomfortable for others. It's a process that can be harsh on delicate skin, too.

You can either book a professional waxing appointment or try it out at home—just be sure not to double-dip with used applicators and risk spreading bacteria. Hard wax is typically used for areas like the legs, so look for soft wax that’s formulated specifically for facial hair removal. 

8. Laser hair removal

Pain level: 4 out of 4

Effectiveness: Semi-permanent to permanent

Cost: $50 to $300 per session

Best for: Larger areas of coarse hairs you want a long-term solution for

Worst for: Precision or DIY hair removal, finer hairs, and darker complexions

Laser hair removal works by zapping areas of hair growth, killing the hair follicle and leaving you fuzz-free. It’s a pricier option and several sessions are required for the most permanent results. Some areas of hair may grow back after several months, and maintenance visits might be on the cards. Given the pain, skin-numbing products might be necessary.

At-home laser hair removal solutions aren’t recommended, and even professional treatments come with risks—including irritation and darkening or lightening of the skin, according to the Mayo Clinic—plus it’s not equally effective on all skin types. However, laser hair removal offers by far the longest-lasting results for removing stubborn facial hair.

9. Electrolysis

Pain level: 4 out of 4

Effectiveness: Permanent

Cost: $30 to $200 per session

Best for: Permanent removal of any facial hair with no maintenance

Worst for: Casual hair removal and anyone who hates needles 

Unlike laser hair removal, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers medical electrolysis a truly permanent solution for removing hair from the face. In this process, a tiny needle charged with an electric current is inserted at the hair follicle where it destroys the root and prevents any further growth. 

It’s a highly precise technique, making it a great choice for all types of facial hair. It’s effective on all skin types, but carries some risks—such as scarring—if not done properly. While follow-up appointments aren’t necessary, several weeks of sessions are usually required up-front to eliminate every follicle.

woman&home thanks Dr. Erum N. Ilyas of Schweiger Dermatology Group and AmberNoon for her time and expertise.