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How to Get Smooth, Hairless Legs Without Waxing. Spoiler: It’s Painful.

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Full disclosure: a few years ago, I stopped shaving my legs. I’ve been happy ever since (and I have more free time in the mornings). But every now and again, I want to slide between the clean white sheets on my bed feeling smooth, fresh, and silky. So off I go to the waxer and $65 later, I’ve got violently red legs that are supposed to stay fuzz-free for up to a month. But I find that my leg hair starts to grow back within a week, and then I’m stuck grumpily shaving weird little patches in the shower and wishing I could get my money back. Besides waxing, I’ve tried shaving (too much upkeep), and Nair (does nothing for me and smells like a sixth-grade perm). What was left?

“Epilators,” my mom suggested over the phone. “A horrible little machine—it looks like an electric razor—that has all these little sets of tweezers inside. You turn it on and run it over your legs, and it tweezes all the hair out really fast. I had one in the ’90s, an Epilady. They must still make them.” She also, of course, warned me: it hurts.

After that sterling recommendation, you know I ordered a rechargeable Epilady Legend, with two operating speeds and 40 tweezer discs that would deliver “32,000 tweezes per minute.” The day my epilator arrived in the mail, I tore open the package, plugged it in, and charged it up. And when I brought it into the bathroom and turned it on, it made a very scary whirring noise, the opposite of a sound you’d like to have next to your bare skin. But yet, I gently placed the head of the epilator against my virgin forest of leg hair.

NOPE NOPE NOPE. Oh my god, so painful. I turned off the device and stared at it in shock, wondering how this type of pain was even possible. How was this legal to sell to consumers?! It’s like getting a tattoo colored in on the inside of your inner arm in slow motion. Remember those 32,000 tweezes per minute? You feel all of them.

However, if you’re like me, you get a little sadistic with yourself. You notice that yes, the hair is getting pulled out by the roots. There is a beautiful, cleared area on your leg that’s extremely smooth, and you start wanting to challenge yourself. Can I put the epilator on my knee? you wonder. Yes! You can withstand extreme pain! What about the top of my foot? Several shriek-filled moments later, you discover that you can. Suddenly you’re finishing your whole lower right leg, and moving onto your left. Your lower limbs are hairless, smooth, covered in red dots (which fade after a few hours) and you feel invincible. 

The second time I used my epilator, two weeks had gone by. I was a little nervous to try it again, since the white-hot painful memory of the first time was burned into my brain. It was still uncomfortable, but not as bad. I finished my legs in much less time, and went about my day. The third time, it just felt a little pinchy.

The secret, friends, is this: it hurts less every time you do it (really—kind of like tweezing your brows), and your legs stay smooth until your next growth cycle, at which point you simply buzz the epilator along your legs, pulling the new growth out at the roots. (And you don’t have to grow out Rapunzel-long leg hair; epilators can grab stubble and still get at the root.)

Epilator devotees say that you just have to get past the first few times, until you reach the not-at-all painful stage. And then you get to have smooth, fuzz-free legs for a long, long time. I’m starting to believe it might be true. I really like mine, and have zero plans to ever get my legs waxed again.