It seems that hair-free is the way to be when of the female persuasion. After consulting beauty magazines and user review sites, ConsumerSearch editors have chosen the following electric shavers to help you remove unwanted hair on legs, face and underarms, as well as those private areas. If you are looking for manual razor suggestions, see our report on razors.
Women's electric shavers are not nearly as popular as disposable and refillable razors (we have a separate report on razors) or even waxing, but some women with sensitive skin prefer them for hair removal because they are gentler; they cause less irritation and are less likely to cause nicks and cuts. Although most experts will tell you that men's electric shavers perform much better than their feminine counterparts, women's shavers tend to have more ergonomic handles and pivoting heads to make maneuvering around knees and ankles a bit more manageable.
Panasonic shavers came out on top in the most comprehensive tests of women's shavers, including the Panasonic Close Curves ES2216PC (*Est. $40). The Close Curves ES2216PC uses pivoting blades the company says are the sharpest available on women's electric shavers. It can be immersed in water for easy cleaning and has a trimmer for detail work. In one test, a predecessor of the Close Curves ES2216PC (the discontinued ES2206AC) is a top pick based on its scores for easy cleanup, noise and features.
Users at Amazon.com and other retail websites praise the Close Curves shaver for not irritating the skin or causing ingrown hairs. Overall, it earns an average score of 4 out of 5 stars from hundreds of reviewers at Amazon.com. Those who give it lower scores say it doesn't shave closely, but others counter that notion. One user says she likes the fact that it can be plugged directly into the wall for recharging, saving counter space. The shaver comes with a bikini trimmer attachment and a pop-up trimmer for longer hair.
Keep in mind that there's no particular reason women can't consider a men's electric shaver, especially a wet/dry shaver that can be used in the shower. See our report on men's electric shavers for info on those. One potential downside is that female buyers may end up paying for features they don't need on men's models, such as a pop-up beard trimmer.
While electric shavers are gentle, epilators are anything but. Instead of using blades to cut the hair off, epilators pull hair out of the skin. Still, some women prefer them because they offer long-lasting results without the ongoing expense of repeated salon visits. Epilators can leave legs smooth for up to three weeks as opposed to just a few days with shavers and razors.
The Braun Silk-Epil 5 (*Est. $80), previously called the Silk-Epil Xelle, is an option that offers several useful features, including a light to guide epilation and massaging- and shaving-head attachments. Braun says it will keep you hair-free for up to a month. The company's claim seems to be borne out by reviews of this product. A tester for Choice magazine raves that it "was by far the best epilator," noting it is the most expensive of five epilators tested. The Silk-Epil 5 receives the most positive reviews of all epilators on Amazon.com -- more than 1,000 to date -- and manages to keep a 4.5-star average rating (out of 5 stars). (Note that most user reviews are for the Silk-Epil Xelle, this product's former name.) Some say it's noisy, and just about all say it's painful to some degree, but the consensus among users is very good. Overall, this epilator seems to be the best performer but is more painful than others.
Another option, the Emjoi Optima AP99 (*Est. $100), also gets good reviews from users at Amazon.com and Drugstore.com. It has 36 tweezers on opposing heads that rotate in opposite directions in order to grab hair. Reviewers say that it gets the job done faster than other epilators, but is a bit more painful as well. Some complain that the Emjoi is small but bulky, making it difficult to hold comfortably in the hand.
We found two excellent professional reviews of epilators at Choice and Which? magazines (the Australian and British equivalents of ConsumerReports.org). They each test a handful of models and rank them for performance and ease of use. Unfortunately, neither source tests women's electric shavers. About.com's Hair Removal guide tests one electric shaver but she doesn't compare it to other models and she's not impressed with its performance. She does rate and review several epilators, however. TheBestElectricShavers.com recommends and opposes several electric shavers based on analysis of user reviews. ConsumerReports.org hasn't reviewed women's shavers since 2007 and most of the models tested are no longer available. Still, editors offer useful information in ConsumerReports.org's buyer's guide. Consumers at Amazon.com and Drugstore.com comment on the ease of use, durability and comfort levels of several models.