Hair removal methods: how much does each one hurt?


A hair removal method which is bearable for one consumer may be unbearable for another. I make no guarantee how any method will feel for you or if it will feel better or worse for you than another method. For details, see my  Hair removal pain management intro page.


This can feel like getting a giant Band-Aid adhesive strip ripped off. Many prefer the quick “get it over with” part of waxing compared to the slower methods of rotary tweezing and plucking. Sometimes hot wax can be a little too hot and be mildly uncomfortable for a moment, like dripping candle wax on your skin. A very light dusting of talcum powder before applying wax will keep it from sticking to the skin. Trimming hairs down to half an inch (2 cm) can help, especially on bikini area.


Most people know what plucking a hair feels like. It’s not pleasant, but it’s usually bearable. Some people find the steady pluck, pluck, pluck to be like Chinese water torture, though. Stretch the skin tight and grasp the hair close to the skin to minimize pain. Also, use good tweezers, since bad ones don’t grip well and may not get the hair out the first time.

Rotary tweezers

Many people tried the EpiLady or Satinelle rotary tweezers when they first came out and found that the ads definitely downplayed the pain involved. Newer models like the Braun Silk-epil are much more tolerable. The trick is to stretch skin tight and use it only on short hair (trimmed or shaved a few days before). Make sure to hold the device at the proper angle according to instructions.


Shaving doesn’t hurt unless you cut yourself. Be sure to shave hairs that have soaked for several minutes in water to avoid razor burn.


Most people describe the light pulse as a snap, like getting snapped with a rubber band. Sensitive areas include upper lip, bony areas like jawline and knees, and armpits and bikini area. Most find it bearable, though some require pain relief as strong as topical anesthetics.


Generally considered the most painful method, it’s the trade-off for proven permanence. Clients variously describe the sensation as a “bee-sting,” a “twinge,” or a “zap.” I’ve also heard it feels like getting a shot, or a tattoo, or like someone touching you with a just-extinguished match. I found that after a session or two you kind of get used to it, and it doesn’t seem to hurt as much. Most people find along the lip line and under the nostrils to be especially difficult. People commonly report that their difficult areas are bony parts near the ears and along the chin, the lower neck and throat, the areas just below the corners of the mouth, armpit and bikini area.

With laser and electrolysis, you must work as close to your pain threshold as possible for the most effective treatment. If your settings are too low, treatment will be ineffective, thus prolonging your pain with additional sessions.

While electrolysis, laser, and waxing are sometimes uncomfortable, there are ways to deal with the pain. If it hurts, speak up. Communication between you and the practitioner is vital. If the pain-reducing suggestions below don’t work for you, consult a physician, who may have other suggestions. Pain or the fear of pain shouldn’t stop you from getting hair removed if you really want it.

  1. Have electrologist count down hairs
  2. If you are working in an especially difficult area, you may find it helps to have your electrologist count down the hairs left to do. By breaking up a session into a bunch of little goals like this, the whole thing can seem to go faster, and knowing you only have six to go in that area can help you mentally tolerate the tough parts.
  3. Pay the same amount but be done in about half the time by having two electrologists or waxers work at once. Nicki writes, “I get twice the hours of work for the same number of hours of my lying there being tortured so it’s much quicker to make progress.
  4. Sometimes the placement of the moistened pad or metal cylinder used in galvanic procedures can affect your comfort level, so try moving it.
  5. Drinking a lot of water has been claimed to improve galvanic efficacy, and some also claim it helps with pain. Plus, it can’t hurt!
  6. Some people like advanced warning just before the current is applied. Also, have your electrologist experiment with the duration and intensity of the current. In general, people find longer is worse than more intense. I read about one client who even presses the button to send the current once the electrologist has the probe in place. That’s way too much work for me, but if it helps, who am I to judge?
  7. A probe’s size, shape and/or material can affect sensation. If you are having excessive pain, some find that gold-plated probes seem to help.
  8. Some find Blend unbearable; others can’t stand thermolysis. Experiment and see what you prefer.
  9. Some electrologists are just better than others. However, don’t pick someone whose session hurts less just because they turned down the machine. The only thing you’re hurting then are your chances for getting done quickly and at the lowest cost.

Pages in this section:

What’s it feel like?

 Risks in hair removal pain management

Factors that affect pain

Over 30 pain reduction tips

EMLA application tips

Other topical anesthetics