So, it all comes down to, what's the most sustainable way to remove body hair? This question has been asked of me several times over the last year and is one which, amazingly, I haven't blogged about yet. Well, here's my take on it.
Of course, one could argue that leaving your body hair well enough alone is the best option, but I'm assuming that this is not an acceptable answer for most women in the U.S. and for women in some cultures where the removal of body hair has long been part of their traditional heritage.
Depilatories. Well, I'll tell you depilatories ain't the winner. Not only are they chock full of chemicals that do Lord knows what to the environment and your own skin (remember that your skin in your largest organ and absorbs this stuff), the packaging and propellants in them aren't environmentally friendly either. So, even if you find it effective, I suggest you try to switch to something a little less damaging all around.
Razors. You have a few options if you are shaving with a razor, some better than others. Clearly, disposable razors aren't the way to go. Even if you opt for a disposable head, the heads generally come full of plastic and packaging. If you want to go nuts and find yourself an old fashioned safety razor where all you supply are new razor blades, then by all means, hack yourself to pieces. Other shaving options include a straight razor, although it's difficulty and lack of convenience and acceptability make it less of a decent option for most.
Electric Shavers. Electric shavers are more sustainable than disposable razors in theory, but you are still taking a hit on the environmental impact of production, packaging, shipping and electricity to run or charge it (unless you have a solar charger). If you can get a used electric shaver, then you've eliminated at least the manufacturing element.
Laser Hair Removal. I don't consider this all that environmentally friendly given the incredible amount of manufacturing input involved to make the equipment. One could argue that once the device has been manufactured, then it's really only input it energy. But, until laser hair removal is actually something that lasts and isn't so expensive, I wouldn't even consider it. I added it here only because I figured someone would bitch, I mean ask, about it.
Waxing. Most waxes are petroleum based. If you use store-purchased waxing kits, then you again are dealing with production, packaging and shipping issues as well as the waste created with throwing out the used strips. Salon waxing may provide a better option than home purchased kits since you may be able to find a salon that uses natural waxes, but there is still an issue with disposal due to health concerns. And, primarily, the cost is an issue.
Sugaring. For those of you who are lucky enough to have tried sugaring or have a salon nearby that provides this service, you will know that sugaring is much more comfortable than waxing in that it adheres only to the hair rather than the skin (like waxing). There are kits you can buy for home use (like Moom), but there is still the issue of production, packaging, distribution and waste.
So, what the answer? What's the most environmentally friendly method of hair removal? Home sugaring.
Now, before you get all complainy and squeamish on me, well, you asked. There are only a few items that are needed and you most likely already have them on hand. All of these items are reusable so you just need to provide a few simple ingredients and a little know-how.
Home Sugaring Kit
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
Combine all the above ingredients in a saucepan. Heat on low (making sure it doesn't boil over). Put the candy thermometer into the saucepan and when the mixture reaches 250 F on the candy thermometer (hardball candy stage), take it off the heat and pour it into the glass container after it's cooled down a bit. You can reheat this mixture in the microwave later if you don't use it all after it is made or if it cools down too much and isn't as spreadable.
To use: Let the mixture cool down enough so you don't burn yourself. Test it on your wrist. Trust me, you will learn quickly to make sure the temperature is correct. Using your spreading device, spread it on your skin in the direction of the hair growth. Cover with the cloth strips and rip it off against the direction of the hair growth (kind of like pulling off a bandaid). You can also hold the skin taut with the non-ripping hand to aid in making sure all the hairs come out.
Feel free to swear like a sailor. "Mother-fucker" is a favorite expletive of mine particularly when doing this in the nether regions. To clean up, just wash the strips in soap and water. You can even throw the strips in the laundry for reuse again. I like to hand wash and air dry the strips.
I highly recommend showering after sugaring to make sure you remove all of the mixture since bacteria love to breed in sugar.
Voilà! Enjoy your silky smooth skin using only a little sugar and lemon!