Which hair-removal tool is right for me?
A woman shaving her legs covers more surface area every day than a man shaving his face and head. That's why finding the most comfortable, effective hair-removal method is so important. Fortunately, women have many options for removing unwanted hair that take into account a woman's needs and unique body type.
Razors -- refillable or disposable -- are popular, effective and affordable. These work similarly to a man's razor, but are more likely to have handles and pivoting heads that are designed to make maneuvering around knees and ankles more manageable. Most have moisturizing strips built in; some are so emollient, you won't need any shaving cream or gel. You just toss disposable razors when you're done with them. With refillable razors, you have to factor in the cost of the cartridges, which can add up. However, many women say that, while pricier, refillable cartridges give a smoother, longer-lasting shave or feel more comfortable than disposables, so they spring for the extra cost. How long you can use a disposable razor or cartridge refill is highly variable. Some women need to replace them weekly, while others can use the same one for several weeks. You can find basic disposable razors for as little as $3 for a pack of 10, while the best refillable razors usually cost about $10 (plus about $4 each for cartridge refill).
Electric razors are great for women with sensitive skin. This can reduce your risk of nicks, cuts and razor burns. Women with bleeding disorders should always use an electric razor. They only remove surface hair and don't shave quite as closely as a razor, but some do a pretty good job. Many can even be used in water so you can still shave in the shower. Electric razors are also perfect for quick touchups in between showers. The best women's electric razor we found costs about $20.
Epilators use tiny, motorized tweezers to pluck hair out at the root. Epilating is slower than shaving, to the point that some women will only use epilators on small areas like the underarms and bikini line. As you might imagine, the plucking process can be painful as well, and not everybody chooses to endure it. Those who do, however, say the long-lasting results (two to three weeks) are worth it, and that it gets less painful as your skin adapts and hair grows back finer and more sparsely. Epilators can be expensive. The best-reviewed one costs around $125, although we did find one that does a very good job for only $30.
Bikini-line shavers and trimmers have a special place in your grooming. They are designed for the tricky angles and confined space of grooming -- or removing -- some or all of your pubic hair. They're smaller and have angled heads for working around confined, sensitive areas. These range from $1 each for inexpensive disposable bikini-line razors to around $10 for a refillable bikini shaver with a built-in electric trimmer.
Finding the best women's shavers
In this report, we focus on woman-specific shaving concerns: finding the razors, shavers and epilators that remove hair cleanly without cutting, pinching or irritating your skin, even when navigating the tricky curves around knees, ankles and underarms, or skirting your bikini line.
ConsumerSearch editors evaluated expert and owner reviews for every type of women's shaver and razor on the market. From there, we narrowed it down to the top-performing models -- the ones that reviewers say give the closest, longest-lasting, most comfortable shave, and that prove easiest to use. We considered price, too; you can easily find most of our top razors and shavers at drugstores and supermarkets.
Keep in mind that choosing the best razor or shaver comes down to your own individual preference. How a razor or shaver feels on your skin and how cleanly it removes your hair matters far more than any marketing gimmick. It may take a little experimentation to find the shaver that's perfect for you, but it's well worth the effort.
Best Electric Shavers for Women
If fast hair removal and avoiding razor burn are your top priorities, consider an electric shaver. The best women's electric razors can be used wet or dry, although that should be taken literally -- reviewers say you'll get the best results if you shave with your skin either totally wet or completely dry, not damp.
Electric shavers may not deliver as close a shave as manual blade razors, but they do offer some advantages. Because the vibrating blades are hidden behind a perforated screen and never actually touch the skin, electric shavers rarely cause nicks and work great for shaving sensitive underarms. Because they can be used dry, electric razors are convenient for quick touchups in between showers. We also found feedback from pregnant women and women with medical conditions who agree that using an electric shaver feels safer and more comfortable than wielding a manual razor.
We found lots of compliments from women with sensitive skin who say the Panasonic Close Curves ES2207P (Est. $20) is particularly good for avoiding razor bumps and burns. This relatively quiet shaver gets glowing reviews for its nick- and pinch-free performance on underarms and bikini lines and good reviews for removing hair on legs. Women taking blood thinners or undergoing chemotherapy treatments, who must avoid open wounds, love the safe shave the Panasonic ES2207P delivers.
The Panasonic ES2207P is completely submersible, so you can use it in the bath or shower (with or without a slick of soap or a lather of shaving cream). Some women say they get the best results this way, while others say they get a closer shave by using the Panasonic dry. Users say the Panasonic doesn't shave quite as close as a manual razor, but then again, no electric razor does. On the upside, because it doesn't shave right down to the skin, owners say they're less likely to get ingrown hairs with the Panasonic than with a regular razor.
Reviewers find the Panasonic easy to use, with a pop-up trimmer that works well for stray and longer hairs. It's easy to clean, too -- just rinse under water. The charger is a small cube that plugs into an outlet; the shaver sits on top of the cube to charge, so there are no cords.
The Panasonic ES2207P does draw criticism, however, from users who say the battery won't hold a charge well. This is a particular problem because you can't use the Panasonic while it's recharging. There's also no replacement battery available, so when the battery does finally conk out for good, you'll need to replace the shaver. Plenty of owners are perfectly satisfied with the Panasonic, though -- but some do recommend fully charging it between every shave for the best results.
Panasonic doesn't offer any specific guidelines for how often you should replace the foil-and-blade set (Est. $10) on this shaver. Assuming twice-yearly replacements -- more frequently than is typical for most men's shavers, since a woman shaves more surface area -- the ownership cost of the Panasonic ES2207P works out to $1.66 per month or $20 per year.
The Panasonic Close Curves ES2216PC (Est. $30) -- which adds a pivoting head and separate bikini-trimmer attachment, in addition to the pop-up trimmer -- draws similar comments about performance on legs, although it takes multiple passes to achieve its best possible result. At least the Close Curves ES2207P excels at getting where it's going in one fell swoop. Since the Panasonic ES2207P gives a closer shave than the ES2216PC without the razor bumps, seems to be particularly tough, and is significantly quieter than the ES2216PC, it is our top women's shaver pick.